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Versus Arthritis 

Cultural alignment across values, leadership and performance

The Challenge

There are 10 million people in the UK living with arthritis, over 50% of whom live in pain everyday. It is a condition that impacts people’s ability to work, care for their families and live fully. It is often dismissed as a natural part of ageing, but Versus Arthritis is working hard to change this narrative.

They were faced with a challenge to unify and galvanise the organisation behind its purpose to ‘provide better outcomes for people with arthritis’. 

Following a merger and cultural challenges, dragonfish was brought in to support Versus Arthritis to feel like ‘one’ organisation, working together to support the lives of people with arthritis.

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Our Solution

Utilising a co-creation approach to culture assessment, design and development we were able to connect with employees, volunteers, leaders and people with arthritis to determine current behaviour strengths and aspirations for the future.


The resulting values and behaviours framework was a true co-creation, aligned to the developing vision and strategy that enabled all employees and volunteers to connect with their impact on people with arthritis.

One key area for development within the organisation was leadership capability, confidence and cohesion and so we designed and delivered a series of interactive workshops with leaders to define and shape what ‘Great Leadership’ means at the charity. This resulted in a set of leadership commitments which encompassed principles from change leadership, authentic leadership and compassionate leadership.

They, along with a leadership development programme covering; leading values with impact, driving strategy through our leadership commitments and enabling constructive conversations, increased alignment and connection across the leadership community. 

Key to supporting the values and behaviours to become a part of the everyday was for the organisation to reform its performance management system which was seen to be confusing and unhelpful. Therefore, we provided support in the form of a creative working session and additional consultancy to develop and embed a new annual performance review programme.

The Impact

Since completing the project with Versus Arthritis in February 2023, the organisation has fully embraced its new culture.


The values and behaviours were officially launched, and have now, one year on been embedded into learning and development, planning and appraisals. 


They are also now fully evident in the form of posters, pull-up banners, screensavers, electronic boards and more, enabling everyone at Versus Arthritis to feel connected to and confident in referencing them in everyday conversations.


The values are being observed in action everyday, enabling collaboration across multiple teams. For instance, in the preparation of the values physical asset installation throughout the Versus Arthritis offices, they enabled the people team and facilities team to work together in harmony, collaborating over a shared goal.


This role modelling has also been strongly exhibited by the Leadership Team of the organisation, using the values to reward and recognise one another as well as utilising their leadership commitments to enhance the way they demonstrate the organisation’s behaviours everyday.

These displays of the values in action have lead to some tangible changes across the whole organisation.


For example, the most recent staff survey demonstrated that:

  • Trust and respect for leaders had increased by 22%

  • Experiencing fair and equal treatment had increased by 23%

  • Decision and action alignment to values had increased by 21%

  • Confidence in Senior Leaders commitment to D&I had increased by 14%

  • Overall employee engagement had increased by 7%

  • Appraisal completion rate had soared to 96%

  • Belief that performance is assessed fairly had risen by 17%


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"When I joined [Versus Arthritis] there were lots of brilliant people but not a strong leadership team...Together we've created a new strategy and values and behaviours for the charity. We've also built our vision for the leadership team we need to be to ensure Versus Arthritis is the charity it must be for people with arthritis. We are building something strong and collegiate and ensuring we take value driven decisions that move us towards our mission" 


Deborah Alsina, CEO

 Versus Arthritis

If you'd like to understand this project or our approach in more detail,

email or call 023 8082 8505

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