|Learn about what makes a compassionate community as well discovering a practical framework for creating one.
What difference can compassion make?
What is a Compassionate Community?
What are the steps for creating a Compassionate Community?
“A compassionate city is an uncomfortable city! A city that is uncomfortable when anyone is homeless or hungry. Uncomfortable if every child isn’t loved and given rich opportunities to grow and thrive. Uncomfortable when as a community we don’t treat our neighbors as we would wish to be treated.”
― Karen Armstrong, Founder of the global movement, The Charter for Compassion
A GLOBAL MOVEMENT FOR COMPASSION
What Difference Can Compassion Make?
Motivated by the ancient and universal “golden rule” to treat others as you would like to be treated, communities of people across the globe have recently committed to making compassion a driving force with a measurable impact on community life and on the well-being of all members of a community. The concern of people in these communities is driven by the idea that beneath the conflict, inequity, and indifference of our world societies, there runs a deep river of compassion, a vast aquifer of loving kindness waiting to be tapped, yearning to be released into action that will alleviate suffering wherever it exists. In addition, scientific evidence has mounted in the 21st century indicating that compassion is an essential ingredient in building and maintaining thriving, healthy, resilient, and innovative enterprises, institutions, and communities.
Since Karen Armstrong received the TED prize in 2008 and worked with other influential scholars and leaders to develop the Charter for Compassion, the document has become central to a global movement and an organization, The Charter for Compassion. Since the launch, the Charter has been building a worldwide network of individuals, partners, and communities of every size who share a kinship inspired by the idea that compassionate actions—the actions that are the result of our deep concern for our world and all its inhabitants—are not only possible but crucial to the well-being of our species, our environment, and the planet.
The Charter for Compassion envisions a richly diverse “network of networks,” with people from every sector—business, healthcare, education, government, faith and interfaith, peace and non-violence, the arts, and those working to preserve the environment—who will bring compassion to everything they do, and who will take responsibility for igniting the compassion of the general community to care for each other and for the well-being of all members of the community from birth through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood to old age and death.
What Is a Compassionate Community?
Human beings are social animals. We live and work and socialize together in communities that exist in diverse cultures and climates throughout the Earth. Within each of these communities, from Mongolia to Mogadishu to Managua to Minnesota, human beings experience compassion for others, relieving pain and suffering for their families, for their neighbors, for their communities. But the structure of modern society—of nation states and mega-cities and a world population that has grown to over seven billion—often thwarts and distorts this natural desire to be compassionate. The sense of disconnection is so pervasive that unkindness, indifference, and selfishness may appear as the norm; compassion, kindness, and caring are the outliers.
In a Compassionate Community, the needs of all the inhabitants of that community are recognized and met, the well-being of the entire community is a priority, and all people and living things are treated with respect. More simply, in a Compassionate Community, people are motivated by compassion to take responsibility for and care for each other. A community where compassion is fully alive is a thriving, resilient community whose members are moved by empathy to take compassionate action, are able to confront crises with innovative solutions, are confident in navigating changes in the economy and the environment, and are resilient enough to bounce back readily from natural and man-made disasters.
Although the early work of the Charter was focused on building a network of cities, it soon became evident that communities both larger and smaller than cities wanted to join the global movement in which compassion is at the heart of a community’s activities. The Charter’s growing network of Compassionate Communities now includes cities, towns, townships, shires, hamlets, villages, neighborhoods, islands, states, provinces, counties, republics, and countries.
No single community in the world is a Compassionate Community in any abstract or formal sense, just as no community is devoid of compassion. Each community will find its own path to establishing compassion as a driving and motivating force, and each will conduct its own evaluation of what is “uncomfortable” in that community’s unique culture—that is, those issues that cause pain and suffering to members of the community. For one community that discomfort may be youth violence or an epidemic of teen suicide. Another community may discover that a portion of their community—perhaps immigrants, the homeless, or an LGBTQ group--has been marginalized, harassed, or even physically threatened. Yet another community, as in Botswana for example, the major discomforts may have to do with the needs of large numbers of street children orphaned by the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic.
The Charter’s Compassionate Communities program is not a certificate program that offers a seal of approval, nor does it subscribe to a single definition of a Compassionate Community. Instead, the Charter invites communities of all sizes to bring compassion to life in practical, specific ways through compassion-driven actions—in neighborhoods, businesses, schools and colleges, healthcare, the arts, local government, peace groups, environmental advocacy groups, and faith congregations.
What Are the Steps for Creating a Compassionate Community?
Any individual, group, or organization that recognizes the need for greater compassion in a community is encouraged to begin the process for creating a Compassionate Community. While the Charter does not prescribe any one path, it does recommend that the process be designed and carried out by a diverse and inclusive coalition of people so that all voices within the community are heard, and the significant issues are addressed.
The cities and communities that sign on to become Compassionate Cities and Communities have often begun their work by identifying the issues that are troubling the community and need to be addressed through compassionate action. For example, a community may discover a significant issue related to social justice-- for women, for immigrants, or for some other marginalized group. Other communities may want to address issues of drug use, gang violence, the lack of equitable healthcare, or the effects of environmental racism. Others may decide to work to provide empowerment to youth or to educate their communities about the need for compassion in addressing environmental issues.
A FRAMEWORK FOR GETTING STARTED
The Charter for Compassion has developed a four-part model or framework for building a Compassionate Community. In many ways, the model is similar to other models for organizing a community-building effort. The objectives of various efforts are usually related to the well-being of the community, e.g., improved healthcare, decreased crime, increased assets for youth, economic improvement, and increased resilience. The Charter, too, is interested in the well-being of communities and applauds all of these efforts since many of them do indeed address pain and suffering within the community. The difference in the Charter’s model may be understood as a difference in breadth of perspective and intention. Those working to create Compassionate Communities are moved through empathy to compassionate action—a desire to address pain and suffering wherever it occurs--not only in their own communities but in all communities and for all living beings everywhere. That perspective is perhaps best articulated by his Holiness, The Dalai Lama:
“When we are motivated by compassion and wisdom, the results of our actions benefit everyone, not just our individual selves or some immediate convenience. When we are able to recognize and forgive ignorant actions of the past, we gain strength to constructively solve the problems of the present.”
Grounded in the concepts of the Charter for Compassion, this model is intended to guide your process, and to provide a place to begin. It can and should be adapted to the unique circumstances of any community that seeks to become a Compassionate Community. Each of the four broad phases (noted below) includes more specific steps along with stories and examples that you may find helpful and even inspiring. Depending on the community, its particular issues, and available resources, this process may take from one or more years from “discover” to “launch.”
The four phases are:
PHASE 1: DISCOVER and ASSESS
The first phase involves discovery and assessment. What is the current situation related to compassion, and what assets can we draw on as we work toward a more compassionate community?
Step 1: Identify “discomforts” in your community—those issues that are causing pain and suffering to individuals or groups or the entire community—which can be addressed and relieved through compassionate action.
Perhaps you are part of your community’s local government, or you may work in social services or healthcare, and you have wished that something more could be done to resolve the difficulties facing people in your community—for example, the homeless, the isolated and depressed elderly, an immigrant population, or youth who are pressured to be part of a gang culture.
Maybe you work with the community’s youth as an educator, a counselor, or in recreational services, and you have recognized both the promise of youth as well as the difficulties they face in our rapidly changing world. Or, you may be a citizen who has deep concerns about the safety, the health, or the emotional well-being of other groups of community members—the disabled, orphaned or abandoned children, the mentally ill, or racial or ethnic groups who are confronted by discrimination.
You may be concerned about the transport of hazardous materials through your area, or about the increasing air pollution or the lack of clean water in your community. Or you may be an observer who has recognized other issues that cause suffering in your community. Perhaps you have been motivated by your concern to identify possible ways to relieve suffering—quality, affordable childcare; anti-bullying programs in schools; or compassionate care for veterans in your city or town or neighborhood.
All of these issues are what author Karen Armstrong means when she talks about those issues that are “uncomfortable” for a community and therefore in need of compassionate action in order to provide for the well-being of all community members.
Some Examples of Issues in Compassionate Communities
When Rev. Shayna Lester, a volunteer chaplain at the CA Institution for Women, women’s prison heard about the Compassion Games, she knew she had to bring it to the inmates. Immediately the women responded and self-organized. They appointed leadership, created “games,” and agreed on how they would account for their points. They agreed to play in housing units and identified their teams by color. They coined the term “Compassionistas” and came up with games like: walk away from gossip; do a kind deed for another; let another go ahead of you in line; share magazines, food, personal items.
The Forgiveness Project (a Partner of the Charter for Compassion) is a UK-based charity that uses storytelling “to explore how ideas around forgiveness, reconciliation, and conflict resolution can be used to impact positively on people’s lives, through the personal testimonies of both victims and perpetrators of crime and violence. Our aim is to provide tools that facilitate conflict resolution and promote behavioural change. Central to the work is our commitment to work with ex-offenders and victims of crime as a way of modeling a restorative process.”
One useful tool for beginning an evaluation in your community is the Compassionate Community Assessment. Other helpful resources from the Community Tool Box are listed below, at the end of Phase One.
Step 2: Find out what is already being done, or has been done, to address issues in your community, learn what has worked and not worked, and, recognize and acknowledge those successes.
Even if you, as an individual, have already identified the major challenges and “discomforts” of your community, your initiative will benefit from some investigative work alongside others who care about the community. Discover who else is working to improve your community, and working to provide a place of well-being. Recognize and acknowledge that work, and invite those people to join you in creating a Compassionate Community.
The Dutch Compassion Movement in The Netherlands provides a wonderful example and model related to this step:
In the Dutch Compassion Movement, city and community initiatives and partners are all organized under one charity trust, Handvest voor Compassie. In 2013, the organization decided to design a project to find out how various groups in the greater Amsterdam area were going about handling complex social issues. They wanted to produce a book to showcase how local problems were continually being handled and could result in providing the impetus for other groups to follow suit, locally and throughout the country. A similar project had been done the preceding year in another Dutch town, Gorinchem. They believed that this initial step would help identify issues that would eventually be part of a compassionate city campaign.
In early 2014, The Amsterdam project resulted in the publication of De Ander (meaning "The Other"), a book that recorded over 50 stories about how several social services organizations were dealing with complex issues, many of them arising from misunderstandings between Amsterdam natives and newly arrived immigrants. Like many European countries, the Dutch have received large influxes of refugees from Eastern Europe and war-torn countries in Africa. In addition, in the 1960s, large numbers of Turks made The Netherlands their new home.
Today a myriad of organizations and committees have sprung up to deal with problems that were not previously found in the country.
De Ander presents heart-warming stories of resolved conflict between families, neighbors and among ethnic groups. For example, it showcases the story of a group of medical students who are working to reform healthcare delivery processes, an education organization working to teach mediation skills to young people, ethnic groups dedicated to teaching children of immigrants the customs and language of their ethnic group and helping them function as being "in between" cultures.
Step 3: Invite people to join you in assessing your community. Include community leaders as well as those informal leaders of other community constituencies that can give voice to the needs of the community.
During Phase One of creating a Compassionate Community, it may be helpful to bring together community leaders and influencers to discover, assess, and evaluate the community’s existing strengths as well as those challenges that need to be addressed. You may find people in formal leadership positions—for example, in local government or healthcare or education—who can make valuable contributions to your initiative or may already be addressing the issues you have identified. You may also invite more informal leaders, for example--those people who have influence in their neighborhoods, faith groups, or ethnic groups.
Together, you can discuss what it means for a community to take care of all community members—and to relieve pain and suffering wherever it exists in your community. You may find it useful to provide presentations that inform people about the community’s current opportunities and challenges. In a collaborative and inclusive discussion, you will gain a clearer picture of what is good about your community and where compassionate action is working—those will be strengths to build on and together you can discover the issues that are causing pain and suffering to some individuals or groups—those are the places where the community is vulnerable and in need of compassionate action.
Each community will find its own way to explore how compassion can bring well-being to all community members. As one example, in 2008, a young Pakistani journalist, Naween Mangi, started the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust in memory of her grandfather, whom she describes as “compulsively compassionate.” She explains:
The aim was to create a model village in his ancestral hometown of Khairo Dero, a village in southern Pakistan. A model that could be replicated elsewhere in turning poverty-stricken and forgotten rural hamlets into habitable places; complete with access to clean water, a sanitation network, housing for all, education, income-generating opportunities, and health-care services.
As we began the process of engaging the community of 3,700 people in their own development, something felt sorely amiss. While projects were doing well and impact was visible, the work seemed somehow to be standing in isolation. Then, I came across the Charter for Compassion, became a signatory, and started thinking about how we could bring compassion into village life, creating a binding force that would weave our work and our community together.
When we opened a community center and park in 2011, we documented our symbolic commitment to practicing compassion by displaying the Charter in our Community Hall. We then started by teaching our trust’s employees and volunteers about compassion and seeking their views on how we can implement this approach in our daily lives.
Since we wanted to make compassion real, a part of village life, and a practice rather than a notion, we began holding regular activities exploring how to live compassionately. Some of the events we routinely host are:
- Readings from the Charter for Compassion and group discussions.
- Readings from Karen Armstrong’s Letter to Pakistan and Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.
- Short plays developed and performed by village children on the theme of compassion.
- Drawing competitions about compassion.
- Compassion Counter: We maintain a journal at the Community Center where adults and children can come and record their acts of compassion. We’ve crossed 700 acts and are aiming to hit 1,000 by the summer. Two examples: a schoolboy took a few extra moments to clear away stones from the road so passengers wouldn’t be hurt and on a chilly January morning, and a teacher brought in one of her favorite sweaters for a maid who didn’t have any warm clothes.
- Compassionate Living Day: We celebrate this without schedule and as often as our community feels we need to center ourselves and come back to the mindful practice of compassion. The day is marked by cultural performances, plays and speeches on how we can treat fellow villagers as we would ourselves would like to be treated.”
- Khairo Dero Compassion Revolution.
Compassionate Communities Assessment
Many of the partners and members of the Charter for Compassion have worked together to develop this assessment tool. The Compassionate Communities Assessment includes 18 topics with related questions that any community may use to reflect on and discuss. The questions will be helpful in making an initial evaluation and identifying issues that may be addressed through compassionate action. The list and the questions may not be exhaustive, but we hope that they will give you a good place to begin. The Compassionate Communities Assessment will help you:
- Discover the community’s strengths—which can be celebrated and serve as a foundation for further building a Compassionate Community
- Discover the “discomforts and fears”--those challenges and issues that bring pain and suffering to individuals or groups in the community
- Assist in understanding the big picture in your community so your initiative can focus on the most significant issues for compassionate action
Community Tool Box Resources -- for Discover and Assess
- Section 1. Developing a Plan for Assessing Local Needs and Resources
- Section 2. Understanding and Describing the Community
- Section 3. Conducting Public Forums and Listening Sessions
- Section 4. Collecting Information About the Problem
- Section 6: Conducting Focus Groups
- Section 8: Identifying Community Assets and Resources
- Section 10: Conducting Concerns Surveys
- Section 12: Conducting Interviews
- Section 20: Implementing Photovoice In Your Community
Community Tool Box Coalition-Building Resources
- Toolkit: Creating and Maintaining Partnerships
- Chapter 7, Section 2: Promoting Participation Among Diverse Groups
- Chapter 7, Section 6: Involving Key Influentials in the Initiative
- Chapter 7, Section 8: Identifying and Analyzing Stakeholders and Their Interests
- Chapter 18, Section 3: Identifying Targets and Agents of Change: Who Can Benefit and Who Can Help
- Chapter 7, Section 7: Involving People Most Affected by the Problem
PHASE 2: FOCUS and COMMIT
After a period of discovery and assessment, it is necessary to focus efforts and ensure commitment.
Step 4: Analyze challenges and opportunities from information gathered during “Discover and Assess” phase. Then choose an initial focus, perhaps one to four of the most significant areas that are of importance to the community and that could benefit by being addressed through compassionate action.
Your group may easily agree on the significant challenges facing your community. But just as likely, you may find some disagreement about what issues you should focus on first. If you have an inclusive group, and if you’ve done your homework in Phase One – perhaps using the Compassionate Community Assessment – your group will have a pretty clear picture of what is going on in your community. You should know not only what the problems are but also what is currently being done to address those problems. Take the time to consider and evaluate the impact of each challenge on the community and to develop information that will help you to prioritize action plans.
Group discussion may include questions about where and how your group can make the most positive impact (alleviating pain and suffering) given your current resources. For example, once the group has a list of what it believes to be significant issues, it might ask the following questions about each of the issues, to help the group decide on what is most important now, and in order to plan and prioritize next steps.
- What is the most significant challenge facing our community?
- How do we know this is a significant challenge?
- Who is suffering as long as this issue is not resolved?
- Who is currently helping to alleviate this issue?
- What do we know about the causes of this issue?
- What can we learn from other communities who have faced this challenge?
- How might we engage others who have been working with this issue to help inform our own work?
- What resources—time, people, funding, partnerships--would we need to address this challenge?
- How can we ensure that our intentions and actions are driven by compassion?
- What difference can we make?
- What impact will our actions have on our broader community?
Step 5: Based upon prioritized choices, create a plan to move forward including specific short-term and long-term objectives, action plans, and anticipated outcomes. Plan purposeful, measurable actions toward fulfilling your objectives with designated responsibilities and appropriate time frames.
Below, in the Resources section, you will find some useful ideas and guidelines for planning and for deciding on what to do next. These guidelines will help you decide, for example, whether to work through existing channels to affect policy, work to gain wide community awareness and support, focus on funding to enhance current programs, and/or create and launch a new initiative on your own.
Your group may decide to lend its support to an existing group that is addressing some aspect of a particular problem instead of creating a new program. For example, if homelessness is viewed as a significant challenge and an interfaith group or an NGO currently provides meals to this population on a regular basis, your group may want to help enlist volunteers, increase food donations, or begin a community garden to assist this group in their efforts. Or you may choose to work with the existing group by providing some related benefit—job counseling, clothing, day care, mental health counseling, or shelter for the homeless population.
Step 6: Register your campaign with The Charter for Compassion. Participate in the global movement by making use of the Charter’s resources: conference calls, newsletters, other website resources such as toolboxes, stories, readings, and bibliographies.
When you are motivated by compassion—a heartfelt empathy for those who are suffering that moves you to care about and take action for the well-being of all members of your community--you become part of the growing global compassion movement. As an individual, you can sign the Charter to add your support to this movement. As a group of individuals concerned for your community, you are encouraged to register your campaign with the Charter for Compassion (link). Whether as an individual or a group organized to create a Compassionate Community, you will become part of a complex “network of networks” that includes like-minded individuals, partner organizations, and cities and communities all over the world. In addition, you can choose to become a supporting Member of the Charter—lending either just your moral support or contributing on an annual basis if that is something you want to do.
Step 7: Encourage Partners in your community to sign on to the Charter and to join in the community efforts by sharing information resources, funding support, and in-kind services.
As your compassionate action group grows, you may want to seek the support of organizations in your community who also care about the well-being of the community. By encouraging groups and organizations to become Partners of the Charter, you will expand and strengthen your initiative, extend ownership, increase perspective, and gain support for your work to bring an attitude of compassion to all community activities. The Charter for Compassion encourages groups and organizations to become Partners by identifying with one or more of the following sectors:
- Peace and Non-Violence
- Restorative Justice
- Science and Research
- Social Services
The Charter for Compassion provides extensive information, resources, and opportunities to connect and learn from others. All Members and Partners become part of the “network of networks” through:
- Web announcements and news about events and efforts in compassionate communities around the world
- Social media postings that provide connection, inspiration, and information
- Regular telephone conferences and webinars that help us connect and educate those interested in bringing compassionate action to all they do
Step 8: Make a formal and public commitment to the concepts contained in the Charter for Compassion by proclamation, resolution, or a completed action plan.
The Charter for Compassion does not prescribe what your group should do and how to do it. It does not provide any oversight, seal of approval, or certification. Instead, it serves to provide encouragement, information, and resources that will help you connect to the global movement for compassion. When your group has completed an assessment and created an action plan, it is time to make a more formal commitment. For example, your community may make a proclamation or a resolution within your local government. Then share your commitment with The Charter for Compassion so that other communities around the globe can learn from and share with you.
Community Tool Box Resources -- for Focus and Commit
- Toolkit 3: Analyzing Problems and Goals
- Toolkit 5: Developing Strategic and Action Plans
- Chapter 8: Developing a Strategic Plan
- Toolkit 7: Developing an Intervention
- Toolkit 8: Increasing Participation and Membership
PHASE 3: BUILD and LAUNCH
After establishing a focus and commitment, the next phase involves building and launching a series of compassionate action steps to create a more compassionate community.
Step 9: Build momentum by involving other community members, linking to community events, and inviting nearby communities to participate. Educate the broader community about what it means to become a Compassionate Community, and acknowledge the acts of compassion that are already working within your community.
By now, you have established a core leadership team that is diverse and inclusive. You have assessed your community’s strengths and vulnerabilities in order to determine what challenges need to be addressed first. You have made a plan for putting compassion into action, focusing on one or more issues that are causing pain or suffering to some group of people within your community. Now it’s time to bring in as many community members as possible—let them know your plan, gain their support, and build momentum toward the well-being of the entire community. Celebrate and communicate the compassion that is the wellspring of your plans!
Step 10: Plan and launch a kickoff event to widely publicize your plans.
Depending on the size and resources of your community, you will discover various channels for communicating your plan and enthusiasm to the community. For example, you might use social media and/or local print publications to announce a kickoff event—which might be combined with some other community activity such as a festival or concert or some other celebration.
You could contact leaders in various sectors of your community, or those in nearby communities to build a base of support. Offer to provide presentations for community organizations and groups who may be interested in joining in to address the issue that you have identified. If your plan includes the need for funds, this is the time to gain the support of local businesses, community organizations, faith groups, and fund-granting foundations as well as individuals who recognize the need for action.
Step 11: Begin implementation of action plans around focus areas.
And then it’s time to get to work, to put your plans into action. It will be helpful at times to “pilot” a particular activity on a small scale to understand if you are meeting your objectives. Setting both short-term and long-term objectives—and constantly monitoring to evaluate them—will also be helpful, as that will allow you to make adjustments, remain flexible, and create new strategies when necessary.
Examples from Charter of launches or kickoff events can be found on the Compassionate Community Highlights page of the Charter. From Appleton, WI and Atlanta, GA to the Australian Parliament and from Seattle, WA and St. Augustine, FL to Winston-Salem, NC, information about initiatives, media stories, proclamations and links to the community websites are available.
Community Tool Box Resources -- for Build and Launch
- Toolkit 8: Increasing Participation and Membership
- Chapter 4: Getting Issues on the Public Agenda
- Chapter 6: Promoting Interest in Community Issues
- Chapter 42, Section 1: Developing a Plan for Financial Sustainability
- Chapter 42, Section 3: Developing a Committee to Help with Financial Sustainability
- Chapter 46: Planning for Long-Term Institutionalization
PHASE 4: EVALUATE and SUSTAIN
As the movement unfolds, it will be important to evaluate what is happening in the community as a result and to plan for adjustments. It is also critical to plan for sustainability—a compassionate community is not built in a day.
Step 12: Monitor and measure your progress, and continue planning. Celebrate successes; learn from unsuccessful efforts and adjust subsequent actions accordingly. Then share your experiences and your stories with the Charter community – for example, by posting on the Charter’s website.
Remember that the Charter website includes many valuable resources to assist you—stories of other communities efforts and successes, toolkits to suggest resolutions to obstacles, readings about compassionate action that can inspire and motivate, and connections to other communities and agencies that will lend support to your efforts. It also provides tools to help you measure and evaluate your progress—an essential and ongoing aspect of your work.
In addition, in the Resources section below, you will find several ideas for developing an evaluation tool and for evaluating your initiative, which can be found in the Community Tool Box.
Step 13: Communicate within the community on a regular basis—via meetings, emails, articles, social media, and whatever other means—to keep people informed and energized.
Maintaining enthusiasm and energy is also important to the success and sustainability of your project. Regular meetings, emails, articles in local media, postings on social media, and whatever other means you have to communicate your actions to the community will help you sustain the work and also bring further support to your compassionate actions. Be sure to report your activities to the Charter so that other communities can learn from what you have accomplished.
Step 14: Reach out to share globally—for example, by partnering with a community in another country.
Karen Armstrong—who is the founder of the Charter for Compassion and a world-renowned author—has spoken of her vision for the next steps toward a truly compassionate world.
“I think the [Compassionate Cities and Communities] program could help us to break down the divisions in our polarized world. I hope that we can "twin" the Compassionate Cities, so that a city in the Middle East could link up with a city in the USA, so that people can form electronic friendships, universities and colleges link up together across the divide, and the twinned cities share news and problems.”
At some point, your community will be ready to reach out its hands with compassion to another community—perhaps a city or town or neighborhood that is not far from you that has similar challenges and could benefit from a partnership with you. Or you may be inspired to reach across the planet to the people living in a city or town or neighborhood in another country on a distant continent to find a mutually beneficial partnership founded on the concept of compassion for everyone, everywhere in the world.
For example, Compassionate St. Augustine (in Florida, USA) has reached out to the city government of Cartagena, Colombia, requesting that they work simultaneously to be compassionate sister cities along with Aviles, Spain. These three geographically distant communities will work together to confront difficult issues, and share partner resources that will eventually result in good works, problem solving, and a deeper, more meaningful exchange of resources and cooperation.
Step 15: Sustain efforts to build a Compassionate Community.
At this point, you and those who have collaborated with you have made a positive difference in your community. You have worked hard to develop a spirit of compassion within the community, and you have established processes or programs to relieve the suffering of some group or groups within your population. You have done an evaluation to learn how effective your work has been, and you have adjusted and expanded your plans to keep working toward your vision of a Compassionate Community. Perhaps you have even reached out to share your experiences with other communities who want to become Compassionate Communities. Congratulations!
Now you will need to take some time to think about how to sustain the spirit of compassion that has stirred your community to take action, as well as many of the actions themselves. Your aim here should be to ensure that your work will continue to be helpful to other individuals and groups. You may decide that a pilot program that was so successful should be expanded and carried forward. And often, you may wish to find or create a local structure – a more permanent group or organization – so that the substance of your work can continue.
For example, you may have established a program to provide quality, affordable childcare for families who would not otherwise have access to such care. Your evaluation and analysis have shown that both children and their families have benefited. You develop a plan to expand the program. So that may mean that you have to seek greater funding—from individuals, government, foundations, or other organizations. It may happen that your childcare program becomes a program of an existing funding source—such as the educational system.
In addition to financial stability, you may also want to consider how to best communicate the outcomes of your work—providing data and statistics but also giving voice to gratitude and the sense of “elevation” that is felt by both those who are the recipients of compassionate action and those who have been moved to perform compassionate acts. And finally, you will know that the work you have done and that you continue to do is not an isolated act, but rather a flowing stream which flows into the ever increasing rivers of compassion, which in turn become a sea of compassion—for all living things and for our planet.
Community Tool Box Resources -- for Evaluation
- Choosing Questions and Planning the Evaluation
- Developing a Framework or Model of Change
- Developing an Evaluation Plan
- Evaluating the Initiative
- Some Methods for Evaluating Comprehensive Community Initiatives
Community Tool Box Resources -- for Communication
- Developing a Plan for Communication
- Promoting Interest in Community Issues
- Preparing Press Releases
- Preparing Guest Columns and Editorials
Community Tool Box Resources -- for Sustainability
Berger, Rony. Building a Resilient and Compassionate Community.
Chapter 13: Stress and Coping in the "Introduction to Community Psychology" details stress, its different forms, coping, coping strategies and styles, and how individuals and communities become resilient.
Doty, James R. Science and Compassion.
Barber, B. R., (2014). If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.
Bullard, R. D., (2007). Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice and Regional Equity (The MIT Press).
Glaeser, E., ( 2012). Triumph of the City.
Gyatso, T., (2003). His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Compassionate Life. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.
Hanleybrown, Fy, John K., & Mark K., (January 26 2012) .Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work, Stanford Social Innovation, #20.
Keltner, D., Jason M., & Jeremy A.,S. (2010). The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness (W.W. Norton and Company).
Minkler, M. (1997). Community Organizing (Rutgers University Press, 1 edition).
Staples, L. (2004). Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing (Praeger, 2 edition).
Szakos, K. L., (2007). We Make Change: Community Organizers Talk About What They Do and Why (Vanderbilt University Press).
TED Books. (2013). City 2.1: The Habitat of the Future and How to Get There.