KIN #2 – creating the conditions for kindness

July 3, 2018

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Ben Thurman, Policy and Development Officer, Carnegie UK Trust

The second meeting of the Kindness Innovation Network (KIN) was held on Thursday 28th June at the Lighthouse in Glasgow, where over 50 people came together on the hottest day of the year to continue a conversation about kindness and, more importantly, to develop ideas and tests of change to embed kindness in communities, workplaces and services across Scotland.

Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy at the Carnegie UK Trust, started the day by revisiting ‘who we are’. KIN is a diverse network of people from the NHS, prison services, education, community organisations and the voluntary sector. There is also a blurring of personal and professional boundaries, with people equally driven to address a kindness deficit in their workplace as in their communities.

Although everyone has different motivations, the network is brought together by ‘a general understanding that something is missing’ and that we need to find ways to encourage kindness in our workplaces, services and communities. This sounds easy, but the things that stop us being kind – regulatory frameworks, professional codes, targets and outcomes – are complex.

There is growing recognition that enabling human relationships is a key part of tackling loneliness and social isolation, as shown by the recent inclusion of kindness as a value in the Scottish Government’s revised National Performance Framework. KIN, then, is about translating values into practice. And with a mix of people from different personal and professional backgrounds, the network has the capacity to generate ideas and change across a wide range of settings.

This strength in diversity is demonstrated by the scope of the network’s eight thematic working groups, or ‘mini-KINs’. Some of these are focused on organisational and structural change, aiming to influence policy and resource allocation to create kinder procurement procedures, management principles and justice systems.

Other mini-KINs are about initiating more immediate and local change. ‘Kindness on a Plate’ is exploring the power of food sharing for bringing people together by (re)introducing initiatives like pot-luck lunches and coffee roulette to workplaces and community settings. Similarly, ‘Sharing our Space’ will test out simple but creative ways of transforming community spaces, recognising that it is often the informal opportunities that enable interaction, connection and relationships.

There is, then, a lot of diversity across the network’s mini-KINs, which are looking both to instigate long-term action and also to inspire changes that we can all make now. What ties them together is that sense that something has been lost and, as one person put it, there is a need to ‘create places where people have permission to be kind’.

This is a simple but powerful thing, especially in the wider policy context of loneliness and isolation. As the recent Samaritans campaign has highlighted, ‘small talk saves lives’.

Over the next few months, these mini-KINs will be putting ideas into practice. Each mini-KIN has created a set of actions to test their ideas, with the ambition that the network can make the case for embedding kindness to strengthen communities and improve outcomes for public services.

You can keep up to date on the progress of these tests of change by subscribing to our newsletter, or following us on Twitter @CarnegieUKTrust #KIN #kindness.