September 7, 2021

Building a commitment to kindness

by Ben Thurman, Carnegie UK

In October 2019, when Carnegie UK first convened a Kindness Leadership Network (KiLN), things felt very different. People had begun to talk about the role of kindness in organisational policy, but what that looked like in practice felt untested: values were often lost amidst competing organisational systems, structures and cultures.

KiLN aimed to change this. By bringing together leaders from different sectors and jurisdictions who were already on this journey, we hoped to create an environment that supported and challenged its members to take practical action to embed kindness into their workplaces and services. In addition, by sharing this learning more widely, we hoped that this coalition of organisations visibly experimenting with kindness would inspire others to do the same.

Since then, COVID-19 has shifted perspectives about what we value as a society and forced communities and organisations to change and adapt at pace. Despite its profound and wide-ranging negative impacts on people’s work and lives, the pandemic also made things possible. Within KiLN, we noticed that conversations had shifted in focus, from describing the change that was needed, to discussing how to sustain what was already happening. How can we hold onto the positives that have emerged in response to COVID-19? How can we evidence the difference that this is making to people’s lives?

In this way, despite the unforeseen changes to the nature and timelines of the project, KiLN was still able to provide a valuable space to share experiences and challenges with peers who shared a similar commitment to exploring kindness. Now, as we come to the end of the project, we are sharing these experiences more widely through four publications that aim to communicate different elements of KiLN’s collective learning.

  1. Our main report, Leading with kindness, narrates the journey we’ve been on since 2019: how KiLN members adapted to COVID-19, and what we learnt about what is possible when kindness becomes an operating principle.
  2. The report culminates with a Commitment to Kindness, which distils the collective experience of KiLN members into six goals designed to enable organisations of all kinds and in all places to sustain and deepen their focus on kindness.
  3. Alongside this, we worked with Simon Anderson and Julie Brownlie to produce Getting the measure of kindness – a guide that seeks to support organisations to develop their approach to the intractable challenge of measurement.
  4. Finally, over the next week we’ll be releasing a set of digital stories that aim to communicate the value and importance of kindness – for people within organisations and people interacting with organisations – in a new way.

In sharing this learning, our hope is to achieve KiLN’s second aim: that of inspiring others to take action. The Commitment to Kindness brings together everything that we have learnt about what is needed to embed kindness in organisations of different types and in different places. And it contains an invitation to any organisation that believes in the power of kindness to improve outcomes for people and communities: an invitation to endorse this set of actions, to use it as a framework to enhance and deepen your organisation’s approach, and to join a growing movement of ‘kind organisations’.