"Man Reaching for a Star" by Richard Stine
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.
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.
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 Amsterdammers 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 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.”
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:
Assist in understanding the big picture in your community so your initiative can focus on the most significant issues for compassionate action
A Collective Impact Approach
(The following is an excerpt from The Community Tool Box, at the University of Kansas in a section on a “Collective Impact” approach to organizing various groups who are working to achieve similar results. See complete article.
Many funders and health and human service organizations aim to make progress on large and complex social problems – such as improving educational outcomes for all children, reducing homeless, or improving community health outcomes. This has proved challenging for all of us.
This community-level work goes by different names and associated models—including collaborative action, community mobilization, and comprehensive initiatives. One version of this approach is known as “collective impact.” Collective impact refers to the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem at scale.
Organizations have been implementing collective impact for a long time. These successful collective impact initiatives often assure five conditions that are associated with their relative success:
Mutually Reinforcing Activities
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. See more
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. See more
Sowing Empathy and Justice in Schools Through Restorative Practices. The kid wants to serve the volleyball, but his high school classmates ignore him. “Shut up!” he pleads, but they carry on—laughing as if he said nothing. He loses it, hurls the ball, storms out of the gym, and shouts, “I said, Shut your #&$% mouths!”
Suspending or expelling a student, especially one who is angry or disruptive, is like ordering a triple Big Mac. It’s a devilishly quick and easy answer—and popular, too—but it’s an unhealthy choice for the long-term well-being of students who, after just one suspension, are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out, and enter the criminal justice system.
“Far too many of our most vulnerable students are excluded from class for minor, non-violent behavior. Too often this sends them along an unnecessary journey down the school-to-prison pipeline,” says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. With that in mind, an increasing number of NEA members are turning to an alternative on the menu of school discipline: Restorative practices, including restorative justice.
The Integral Approach
(The following is an excerpt from Salt Lake Civil Network. Read the entire piece here)
What is Integral?
Integral refers to a stage of human development and related capacities.
Integral capacities enable people to address issues effectively and efficiently with multi-systemic, complex adaptive capacities. They are able to re-integrate that which postmodernism has deconstructed, but in much more encompassing ways than modernism has in the past. People with integral capacities tend to re-institutes hierarchies of competence and values that have been torn asunder by postmodernism, again in dramatically superior ways to modernism. Integral orientation is toward wholeness and integration. Integral capacities include an ability for the first time for people to integrate the key perspectives of the “I” the “We” and the “It”, that is 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person perspectives. One of the most important integral capacities which has never existed before is the ability to be able to connect with people from all backgrounds and stages of development and points of view and weave them together for much more comprehensive solutions to the world’s challenges.
It is critical to model and promote integral approaches and to be an attractor to growth of more people into integral capacities before postmodernism – even with all of its gifts – leads to instability and possibly even the undermining of the foundations of society. Research suggests that any new stage of human development will become dominant and begin to transform the world when 10-20% of adults reach that capacity. This is why the Civil Network is doing everything it can to model integrally informed approaches and is dedicated to networking globally with those who have similar concerns and capacities in order to make a positive difference. Research shows that human evolution has been moving quickly enough that an integral critical mass may be accomplished within the next few decades, especially as global and local initiatives are actively pursued and interconnected by as many people, groups, and communities as possible.
Human Development through Time: Modernism to Integral
The Enlightenment arose because a critical mass of people achieved a new and higher stage of human development than had existed before, which introduced formal operational thinking. This gave rise to modernism, which includes the gifts of modern science, together with the separate domains of ethics and art–the pursuit of the good, true, and beautiful.
In the second half of the twentieth century, a critical mass of people achieved a higher stage of human development referred to in developmental psychology as context awareness. This initial context aware capacity gave rise to what has been called postmodernism, and people with these early context aware capacities are often referred to as individualists or pluralists. A hallmark of what might be called negative postmodernism is to deconstruct assumptions, texts, value systems, etc. The result is deeper insights, but often fragmentation and sometimes even a shift toward nihilism. Early context aware development leads to seeing that everyone has a legitimate point to make from their unique perspective, but lacks the ability to discern which perspectives might be more mature than others.
The gift of postmodern pluralism is people become much more honoring of diversity and more inclusive, but because of a relative inability to discern greater or lesser quality or maturity, this pluralism often ends up in endless discussions without making adequate decisions, and further tends to equally disregard all values and principles. This can lead to instability and even nihilism.
Even with all of its spirit of inclusiveness, postmodernism tends to attack modern and traditional values and institutions. In other words, it often undercuts the very stages of human development and civilization which made post modernism possible in the first place, and which support and give stability and productivity to most societies in the world today. Many disciplines and institutions throughout the world are in the process of being transformed by postmodernism, with all the gifts and dangers that accompany it.
In the meantime, at the beginning of the 21st century, another new and higher stage of human development is arising, which is a more mature stage of context awareness that is clearly discernible from postmodernism. It has been called post-postmodernism, but the dominant term for it has become integral.
Currently there are only a few percent of adults in the developed world (and fewer elsewhere) who have the capacity to function fully with integral capacities. This does not yet comprise a critical mass of people who may transform thought and action in the world. Yet much of the cutting edge work being done in many disciplines in the world today is beginning to reflect integral methods and capacities.