We use cookies to help us provide you with the best experience, improve and tailor our services, and carry out our marketing activities. For more information, including how to manage your cookie settings, see our privacy notice.


Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

Developing staff proposals to improve client services

This page is free to all
Implementing lightbulb moments of staff to develop services is what human resources manager Cara Cooper most enjoys.


Mind in Croydon promotes mental health and supports people to lead full lives as part of their community. To achieve this:

  • it educates and provides services
  • campaigns and raises funds
  • works with other organisations
  • values diversity and focuses on quality
  • includes service users and other volunteers in its work.

The issues we faced

I'm the human resources manager and when I’m not recruiting, I have an opportunity to ask what I’d really like to do to support staff. 

And so when people come to me and say, “I’ve always wanted to do X or Y” I like to help them to develop their idea.

This is where fundraising comes in. I write fundraising bids to help staff to develop new projects. The idea is to support staff to implement ideas that benefit the organisation’s service users.

The actions we took

  • A welfare benefits advisor set up a regular sailing project and clients, staff and volunteers worked together to crew 15 berth yachts. 
  • Another set up a boxercise project for clients. This project won a Third Sector award. 

In bloom

  • An administrator approached allotment owners and said, “Give us your most neglected plot and we’ll turn it around”. So we got an allotment with overgrown fruit trees which we pulled up and within a year it was lovely. It has a summer house and is managed by the service users themselves.
  • The director of client services managed the redevelopment of Mind in Croydon’s club. Now we have a lovely garden, and a building with meeting space which is very accessible. It’s helped us to run different sorts of groups such as salsa dancing. We have our annual barbecue which is great for public relations. We invite all of the people who have helped us.


  • Staff saw a need to work with parents with mental health problems. Out of this work came a unique parenting advocacy service which won £142,000 funding for three years from the Kings. A mother had been criticised about the clothes her children were wearing. But no one had looked at her case holistically. We referred her for a benefits check and she had actually been managing surprisingly well given she was substantially under-claiming what she was entitled to. As well as successfully advocating for this parent, our advocate managed to get free driving lessons for another mum who was having transport difficulties.
  • A coordinator of the furniture service set up soft furnishing courses for clients which the public could access. The courses are open to everyone and so local people meet people with mental health issues. It’s an opportunity to break down the barriers 
  • A project worker began making short films for Mind in Croydon. We bought equipment and the clients completely embraced it to make wonderful documentaries, uploading them to YouTube and showing them at the David Lean Cinema in Croydon.

Positive outcomes

The key to success was:

  • a non-blame culture. The non-blame culture comes from the top and from the bottom. Staff are encouraged to look for solutions rather than find fault 
  • a flat organisation. It’s a great help working in an organisation which has very little hierarchy
  • an already well-performing organisation. We’re well respected and we fulfil our obligations. We have a solid foundation which allows us to take some risks
  • inspiring leadership. The chief executive, Paul Farmer, challenged us with the question, “Why do we say no when we could be saying yes?” He understands the importance of having staff with personal interests that have a potential to benefit our charitable objectives 
  • an entrepreneurial spirit. You’ve got to be business minded. To get big things done you have to play with other players. It’s about looking at opportunities and going for it. A problem cropping up might also be an opportunity
  • a secure environment. The current CEO and board have created a safeness that enables us
  • flexible job descriptions and schedules. Our jobs are flexible. We don’t let people become too entrenched in a role
  • gradual development. You may fail if you go too fast. You have to take people with you
  • the ability to manage expectations. Staff and managers have to be grown up in managing themselves. We must not forget that we have to do the bread and butter tasks for which we are contracted before we can take time out to work on the more unusual projects.

Negative outcomes

When you’ve been awarded funding it can be a real challenge to manage a large project. You have to be realistic about what you can achieve. Everyone involved has to put in equal effort, especially the staff member with the idea for the project. They need to be the driving force to persuade us that their idea can work.

Lessons learnt

Staff members can increase their confidence and skill-sets.

As a human resources staff we become enablers. Our jobs become more about how to develop projects.

Hidden benefits

Why do staff join a charity? It’s often because they have a social conscience. You have to be more creative in the benefits you give staff, such as the opportunity to start services for clients. Being a charity, we do not have incentives such as company cars or discounts on products.
Excellent staff retention. Some staff have been with the charity for over fifteen years.

Workforce diversity. Staff and volunteers come from a broad range of backgrounds, such as Citizen’s Advice, public sector, and the law. And we have a wide range of age groups. A 95-year-old trustee is our honorary president. We have a varied trustee board of service users, accountants, lawyers. It’s democracy in action.

Positive press for the charity. It’s circular. Interesting projects get press, kudos and awards.
Unexpected benefits. There is an unforeseen upside to doing good work. For example, we won a Third Sector award and with this we were assigned an advisor from the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants who we asked to our strategy day. In this way, everybody benefited and it was heartening to hear positive feedback about our work from a professional working in the private sector. A win-win situation.


Page last edited Sep 10, 2015

Help us to improve this page – give us feedback.