WHAT MAKES A COMPASSIONATE CITY?
by Tam Martin Fowles
I believe an effective compassionate city/community is one in which those dedicated to compassionate action come together to pool resources (including time, energy, vision and commitment) and create a visible core of practical positivity that others feel drawn to emulate; an alternative to the status quo, which people of all kinds want, and are supported, to be a part of.
This cannot happen overnight, but it is heartening how quickly compassion can beget compassion when awareness is raised and hearts and minds touched. Many people are depressed and distressed by the negativity with which we are bombarded on a daily basis, in the media and increasingly in our lives. It has been my experience that such people, unaware of the surge of positive action that is sweeping our world unacknowledged by the selective radar of our governments and media, can be radically affected by the awareness that this exists, and that they can be a part of it.
A compassionate community is one in which there is a place for everyone who wants to experience, learn about and practice compassion. A fertile ground for growth and change, overseen by a diverse team including leaders, professionals and community members whose vision and determination serve to inspire and empower others to contribute their own experience and ideas for the development of an environment that values the input and serves the needs of all.
For me, compassion is the capacity to respond to another/others with an open heart; the willingness to risk profound empathic communication and take action for the benefit of others, without judgement or further agenda, with self-compassion a vital component. Compassion is just one of a range of virtues (positive qualities) accessible to every human being, which overlap and enrich each other, building a strong foundation from which positive transformation can take place. These include kindness, caring, love, acceptance, responsibility, and many more. Compassion is often not easy. It is important to value individual progress rather than try to measure it generically.
I have a deep hunger to live in a more compassionate community, from the local to the global level. Therefore I am not happy unless I am actively working on inspiring compassion, empathy, and unity wherever possible.
I founded Hope in the Heart, a social enterprise dedicated to just that, in 2012, and registered as a partner of Charter for Compassion soon after. Since then, I have been privileged to connect with many organisations and individuals globally, all working for a more compassionate world. The workshops and courses I design and run are compassion-themed, using The Virtues Project to create a rich, multi-faceted picture of what compassion is and how it can be practically applied.
I have also developed a six-stage model for transformation and resilience, steeped in the ethos of compassion (The AccepTTranscend Model). This is now the subject of a research project shared by Nelson Mandela University and Plymouth Marjon University, and has proved successful in raising awareness of the benefits to individual and collective of living compassionately, changing lives accordingly.
Wherever I go, locally or globally, I seek to connect with people over the subject of compassion. I generally find a warm welcome, and remarkable, inspiring people. I have been able to introduce the Charter to potential partners in several different countries, as well as being involved in the development of three compassionate communities in the UK (progressing gradually). All of this feeds my personal need for a better world!
Hope in the Heart was recently commissioned by Plymouth City Council to design and run an Empathy in Schools pilot project which is just reaching its conclusion after a very successful run. The four schools we have worked with have become Charter Partners, and we are hoping to extend the project to many more schools locally and farther afield. As part of the pilot we trained approximately 150 teaching staff who will practice the principles of compassion and virtues throughout their schools.
I am fortunate to live in a city in which compassion is widespread. Plymouth is officially a dementia-friendly city, a welcoming city, a compassionate city in the area of end-of-life care, and a social enterprise city, among its many accolades. It is full of wonderful people carrying out amazing, compassionate projects. It also has many challenges that require compassion, including greater than average poverty, which can lead to a variety of social problems.
An associate and I founded the Compassionate Plymouth city initiative in January 2017, and a small steering group has been meeting regularly since then, with the local council and education community engaging well and organisations registering as charter partners. After submitting several bids, we have just been awarded funding to develop the initiative. This will enable us to progress our ideal of a city in which compassion is an over-riding concept. We will do this through consultation, awareness-raising workshops and events for community members, organisations, businesses and local government, providing opportunities for all to unite in the expression of their vision for and manifestation of a city of compassion – this unity being the vital first step on an exciting journey…
~Tam Martin Fowles is a writer, workshop designer and facilitator, wife, mother and grandmother living in Plymouth, UK. She is founder of Hope in the Heart cic, Woman Undiluted and The AccepTTranscend Model for Transformation.