Kindness is at the very heart of our wellbeing. The relationships that we have with those around us, and the quality of our interactions with organisations and services, are fundamental to improving wellbeing outcomes across society. Since 2016, we have led a programme of work to explore what can be done to encourage kindness in our communities, in our organisations and services, and in public policy.
We began, with the support of JRF, by working with seven organisations to test what could be done to encourage kinder communities. Stories of how everyday relationships support the wellbeing of individuals and communities – as well as some of the barriers that can inhibit kindness – are captured in our report, The Place of Kindness, and short film.
We then worked with Carnegie Fellow, Julia Unwin DBE, to examine the role of kindness in public policy. Her report, Kindness, emotions and human relationships: The blind spot in public policy, argues that, while there have been very good reasons for keeping kindness separate from public policy, the major challenges of our time demand an approach that is more centred on relationships; and with technology and artificial intelligence transforming the way we do things, it is imperative that public policy places equal weight on emotional intelligence. The theme of kindness and public policy is further developed in a supported publication, written by Simon Anderson and Julie Brownlie, Public policy and the infrastructure of kindness in Scotland.
In 2018, we published findings from the first ever quantitative survey on experiences of kindness in communities and public services. The data series, Quantifying kindness, public engagement and place, presents a reassuring and yet complex picture across the UK and Ireland, with generally high levels of kindness but at the same time variations in experiences between jurisdictions and different social groups.
Alongside this, we have undertaken a range of projects to explore what it takes to put kindness into practice. The Kindness Innovation Network brought together over hundred practitioners from across Scotland to develop and test ideas to embed kindness in a range of different settings. Our report, The Practice of Kindness, and accompanying short film bring together learning on the practical implementation of kindness, and also highlight challenges relating to our attitudes towards risk, professionalism and performance management.
For two and half years we worked in partnership with North Ayrshire Council to support their work in embedding kindness as an organisational value. The learning from this shared journey, which included the response to COVID-19, is captured in North Ayrshire: A case study on kindness.
Building on this knowledge and experience, our current activities fall into two main areas:
- We are working with Carnegie Associate, Dr Elizabeth Kelly, to explore the role of kindness in health and social care in Scotland. Through this project we have worked with a small group of medics to reflect on learning from the healthcare response to COVID-19, findings which are discussed in our report, The courage to be kind.
- We are coordinating a Kindness Leadership Network, made up of leaders in different sectors across England, Scotland and Wales, to co-create a vision and set of practical tools to unlock kindness within organisations.
In addition, our understanding about the importance of kindness has influenced other areas of the Trust’s work, particularly in our work with a small cohort of public libraries to ‘create space for kindness’, and in our work on Covid and Communities.