Developing organisational cultures to enable kindness

July 10, 2019

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by Audrey Sutton, Interim Director of Communities, North Ayrshire Council

In common with other public sector organisations, North Ayrshire Council is working hard to reduce the impact of social inequalities, such as isolation and mental health. We have realised, as we progress, that we need to start thinking less about what we do, and more about how we do it. Kindness is important to us because it opens up a different type of conversation within the Council and with our partners.

We’ve been on an exciting journey with the Carnegie UK Trust over the last year, which has allowed us to explore the importance of kindness to individuals, to communities and to organisations. This has taken us into some challenging territory exploring the relationships between these sectors.

The biggest surprise has been the difficulty of the conversations around kindness. For something that’s such a popular and easily understood word, the range of understanding and the level of complexity have perhaps been greater than we expected. Yet at the same time, the real richness of this work has been achieved by allowing people to bring their own understanding and their own potential solutions to the discussion.

Over the last 12 months, we have increased our understanding of the importance and necessity of making significant organisational change, in order to reduce the barriers to kindness. This has led us to reflect on how our staff are permitted and encouraged to behave, and the consequent impact that this then has on the people we serve. As part of this, we have been exploring how the risks associated with kindness and relationships can be absorbed into our organisational culture, and how we can facilitate a better and more human way of working.

One of the ways that we envisage doing this is by striving towards the values and behaviours set out in the North Ayrshire Kindness Promise. Throughout the rest of 2019 we will continue our partnership with the Carnegie UK Trust, actively working across existing public, private and third sector collaborations, to embed these principles into organisational cultures and ways of working.

North Ayrshire Council’s focus on kindness is about recognising that relationships between people in communities and between citizens and service providers are just as important as transactions. It is about recognising that success is not measured by what we do, but how we do it.


To find out more about the Trust’s partnership with North Ayrshire Council, and the challenges and complexities of embedding kindness into organisational cultures, read our new report, The Practice of Kindness: Learning from the Kindness Innovation Network and North Ayrshire, or watch this short film