Making a project contagious

Published on 3 Jul 2014

One of my projects is really struggling to get going…

It is called Stories Aloud and is based on the model promoted by The Reader Organisation.

I was training staff and volunteers to read story aloud as a social activity. Then setting up placements for them in wards and day centres where they could read stories and facilitate groups or one to one interaction. The outcomes of increased social connection and some personal reflection related to the story were very beneficial.

However we had trained around 30 people and only three groups had got established.

The stumbling blocks were: the time taken to set up placements including getting DBS clearance, the changing nature of volunteer's lives, the work needed to choose and prepare a story and the busyness of many wards with changing staff which meant that when the volunteer walked onto the ward they were not always welcome.

I have been reading Jonah Berger's book Contagious – how to build word of mouth in a digital age. Having read the book and reflected on why the project was not taking off, these are my new tactics:

  • I am recording a disc of the stories to make choosing a story easier for the readers and to model good reading
  • I am focusing on training staff rather than volunteers
  • I am concentrating on one large nursing home to embed the practice there first before spreading the word
  • I am looking for the right triggers…

Triggers remind you of something and the key is to have triggers in the right places at the right time. Jonah Berger has a chapter on triggers – they can help make your project contagious!

So I might put a picture of someone soaking in the bath alongside a poem and post it on the walls of the bathrooms in the nursing home to encourage staff to read to people in the bath. Or I might make a story book small enough to fit in a pocket so that staff have it to hand when chatting with patients. Or poetry cards the shape of teacups that staff pick up when they sign in and see how many people they can share the poem with during their shift.