Report on Compassionate Cities Call, June 8, 2016

Report on Compassionate Cities Call, June 8, 2016

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Edited recording of the call. Click here.

Marilyn Turkovich, director of the Charter for Compassion: Muhammad Ali was a person from Louisville, KY, and his funeral is on Friday and we are inviting participants in the Charter to sign on to the following statement that will be presented to Ali’s family on that date:

Mayors and civic leaders in Compassionate Cities across the world join Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville in giving thanks for the sacrificial life and tireless commitment of Muhammad Ali.

With Charter for Compassion Founder Karen Armstrong and President Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, the undersigned celebrate Muhammad Ali’s steadfast commitment to the principles of Compassion. Ali’s fight for justice, equity and respect for all challenges us to live into a legacy of hope and peace in a war weary world.

Jack Youngkin from Compassionate DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth)

Jo Ann Gaines from Compassionate California

Brian Drygas San Jose, Calif.

David H. Breaux, Compassion Initiative

Rev. Peggy Price, Compassionate Huntington Beach, Calif.

Kathy Panning, Columbus, Ind. Considering becoming a Compassionate City. I learned about this group from wintering in St. Augustine, FL: Interfaith Forum of Columbus

Carolyn Keys, Sacramento, Calif. – new to this also

Joan Marie, Compassionate Capital Region as part of Compassionate California.

Sande Hart, Compassionate California

Eric Cornish

Bill Hilton Sunnyvale, Calif.

Linda Anello, Dayton, Ohio

Ken Beysee, Dayton, Ohio

You can send a message if you are on the webinar.

Glad to have you all on the call. A bit of an overview and an update on where we are and then hear from people who are on the call. We have about 351 cities in 47 countries (147 cities in the US) that are part of the Charter movement. Our goal is that by the end of 2017 we will have 510 cities. There a number of compassionate initiatives around the world that are reaching beyond their city or community boundaries and inviting others in their locale to become part of the compassionate movement. This has been true of Toledo, Ohio—now known as Greater Toledo and Northwest Ohio after bringing in a number of smaller municipalities. And Seattle has become Call of Compassion NW. The effort is to spread our wings and our experience with one another.

I wanted to say something about our need to have partners. As you build your compassionate communities, I believe that the cities that have been most successful are cities that have worked to get partners involved in their effort. For example, a small country like Botswana has over 50 partners that are involved in the initiative; Louisville has about 102 partners. The partners reflect the work we do in various sectors. On our website, check out the partner menu and you’ll see we have ten sectors: arts, business, education, environment, health care, peace, religion/spirituality/interfaith, science and research, restorative justice, social services. And now we are trying to build a youth sector. All of these are extremely important and involve many different constituents I your community. I also want to encourage you as much you possibly can to increase the number of compassionate schools. It’s hard for us to judge exactly how many schools we have in the network because we’ll have a place like Louisville who will sign on as having a compassionate schools network but we know that contained inside that school district there are hundreds of schools. In Pakistan we know that their effort is around 500 schools. Right now there are thousands of schools that are compassionate schools and we have a Charter for Compassionate Schools and if you to the partner sector on our website and pull down education the first thing you are going to see is that Charter for Compassionate Schools. And it is primarily for, I would say, from about middle school up through high school. There’s a separate Charter for younger children called The Children’s Charter. And there’s information about initiatives for colleges and universities and other educational institutions. All of that within a city really helps to strengthen the core of a compassionate city.

We have just, as of this morning, after some initial conversation, with Colombo, in Sri Lanka received a registration from them. Colombo is our newest compassionate initiative and the hope is that Colombo will start out first, as the capital of Sri Lanka, and then eventually again, like so many of the other initiatives, embrace other communities in the country.

Yesterday we had a wonderful conversation with Pawtucket, RI, and hopefully they will be considering joining us as part of an initiative. That’s just a bit of an introduction. There are many people on this call that have gone through all the various steps to becoming a compassionate community. And we do, on the website, have a suggested list of criteria. And, if again, you go to that navigation bar and you go to “Communities” / “Overview” and you’ll see “Steps to Take.” And if you click on that “Steps to Take” you will find that there are suggested steps. Read through those steps and consider: How many of these steps apply to us? Do we want to change them a little? All of that is really very, very possible.

But the most important thing, I believe, in looking at a Compassionate Community, is sitting back and taking a look at what is working. What organizations are doing wonderful things in this community and coming up with some incredible accomplishments. Those are people to invite into a conversation and then to ask those individuals and those organizations to make suggestions. And then, another step would be to say, “who is not here? Who are we not talking to? Do we have youth? Do we have people who are representative of different ethnic and racial groups in our community? Do we have as many people to initiate this conversation as we should?” And that’s the first step. And then to celebrate who you are as a community. And then to really begin the hard work. And the hard work is to say, “how do we want to address some of the issues that are of grave concern to us.” And as many cities as we have within the Charter for Compassion there are a number of different initiatives. Those initiatives range from ending hunger in your community by making certain the pantries are filled, finding shelter for those who are sleeping on the street, enriching education and making certain that it’s a good education throughout the community, and ending environmental racism, dealing with climate control. If you go to the Charter’s website, under the Communities menu you’re going to find the Charter Tool Box and you’re going to find something called the expandable menu, extendable menu. There, when you click on it you’re going to find 21 issues so far that various communities around the world have been working on.

I said I was going to end with some of the values that I think are part of the Compassionate Community. We might find we can add to these, but among them: unity (really trying to help people come together, dialog together, not be afraid to confront one another when they think differently and still know they are going to be respected for their opinion); optimism (a compassionate city has to be optimistic... if we don’t have optimism and if we don’t have hope then we really probably don’t have a very compassionate community); passion (the people I know on this call do have that kind of incredible passion); resilience (constantly reminding us we have to renew what we are doing... we might have to change course because of something that has occurred). One example from Botswana: They had a very good action plan, but did not anticipate a commercial product for feeding children—infant formula—that would have inadequate instructions. As a result, in January children started to die in the bush. By April, over 500 children had died. And so it was necessary for Compassionate Botswana to change its direction and make some decisions. Was it going to confront the company that was selling the infant formula? Or was it going to create an education program and put all of their energy into that program, which is what they did. In our network, we found partners for them. The La Leche League came in and for the first time in the League’s existence they put together an education program that the La Leche League is very proud of now and is going to duplicate in other communities.

You are going to find that leadership is perhaps what the Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu said it was: a good leader is one who at the end of a project has stepped back and the people say ‘we did this ourselves.’

To be a part of a compassionate community is to be courageous, to have a vision, and certainly not to be a bystander, but to be so incredibly involved—to be an “upstander.”

Those are some of the values. I’m going to stop there and recognize people.

Jack Youngkin/DFW: Marilyn you were giving the number of cities globally as 351. How many of those are in the US?

Marilyn: 147

Jack: I was in a meeting the other day where I was asked that question and didn’t know the answer.

FCE2Marilyn: It’s changing almost daily! I’d love for you to talk about the project that you have of packaging meals, because I think it’s such an outstanding project that other cities might really be interested in.

Jack: Unfortunately, Charlie’s not on the call today because he’s working. He knows more about it than I do that but I’ll tell you a bit. There’s an organization called Feeding Children Everywhere that we partner with and we partner with some other organization or group. We’ve done it with Compassionate Fort Worth, we did one in Richardson, Texas last September. We have another one this September. Feeding Children Everywhere supply all the supplies and come up with a formula—dry food, you package the food in assembly lines. It’s a great, team-oriented concept that you can have multiple groups. In the Richardson case we had different faith organizations and churches. Each brought their team and we’ve have a bit of a competition in various time slots during the day. It was really a lot of fun. And the group can designate anywhere globally you would like to send the food or you can send it to some local food bank. It’s a really great way to build community, to have a lot of fun, and reach out to groups that have not heard about the Charter for Compassion and expose them to a hands-on activity.

Marilyn: That’s wonderful. Feeding Children Everywhere is a Charter partner:

Reed (Charter assistant): I was going to note, Jack, that if you are interested in what cities have affirmed or are working on joining the Charter for Compassion or affirming the Charter, under Communities you can look under Participating Communities and there is an expandable menu there that shows all the counties that are active, all the cities that have affirmed, and all the cities where there are charter initiatives. It is not broken out by geography, by continent or nation, but that might be helpful for you when you are looking to try to identify people you might want to call out in your organization. I think your point about how many are in the US is a good one for us to consider.

Annual Games Tile 350x350Sande Hart (California): Jack, you reminded me of a great way of getting involved in your community. Compassionate Huntington Beach did this to great success: participating in the Compassion Games. The global games come up Sept. 11-Sept. 21, eleven days of global unity. It’s a great way of convening your community in what’s called a “co-opetition” – a friendly challenge to rouse up as much compassion in your community as possible and it’s really a great way to get folks to learn about your initiative. People may not necessarily be interested in showing up to talk about the safety net issues but they sure want to be able to lend their hand –being out in community together, actually getting their hands dirty and hearts warm you get to know more about your organization. And it really is living your values as a city, too. Jack reminded me because the Feeding America program ( has participated in the Compassion Games before. You can learn more about it at

Marilyn: Kathy [Panning], this might be a wonderful way for Columbus, Ind., to get involved and start an initiative. It’s always good to think about something that will launch an initiative and this is a really good effort. Sande’s right: There’s even another way, too, and David Breaux is on this call. David is the “Compassion Man.” I’m going to let him tell you about who he is and also to talk about his new tour that he is putting together.

David: Thank you for this opportunity, Marilyn. I am eternally grateful for it. My name is David Breaux. From September 2014 to September 2015 I did a Compassion Tour: I traveled to 13 different communities around the United States primarily with a pen and a notepad, asking people to write their concept of compassion. It stems from what I began June 3, 2009, in Davis, California, as a lifelong endeavor, to bring awareness to compassion. To spend the rest of this gift of life that has been granted to me to bring awareness to compassion by simply asking people to write their concept of it in a notebook. I’ve asked over 20,000 people and received over 10,000 responses. I just celebrated seven years last Friday by doing what I call a “Compassion Marathon.” The last five years I’ve spent the duration of June 3—the entire 24 hours—present at the corner of 3rd and C in Davis. Before I forget, I do want to mention that since this is near Sacramento—I am starting to put together is the next phase of the tour. Which means traveling again. I am hoping to go anywhere that would like to have me present. In the first part of the tour I found that fact of me being present brought together partners in compassion—something Marilyn was just talking about the importance of. For example, in Austin—Compassionate Austin was able to partner with IACT (Interfaith Action of Central Texas). This also happened when I was in Tulsa. I was able to sit down with some of the representatives from Tulsa and help them initiate their compassionate cities program. Through the evolution of the tour that was something I was able to help out with the Charter. The tour also has allowed me to give talks about compassion, which I am leaning toward doing more of. Overall, my effort is simply to be a presence for compassion wherever it is needed. I’m able to cover business, education, youth—all the different things that Marilyn has mentioned. I put that out there as an invitation to those that would like for me to come to visit.

boom.2013.3.2.17 f01Marilyn: David has just been invited by the organizers in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to consider coming that way. So that might be the first leg of a longer, international tour. So we’ll see.

Kathy: It sounds like that would be very good... a community considering to have David come and meet with organizations, so we will need to look into that and figure out the logistics thereof. A couple of questions: (1) do you need to have a separate organization—for example, we are Interfaith Forum—could we have [Compassionate Columbus] under our umbrella or do we need a separate organization and (2) does there need to be an initial project kind of thing that needs to happen? Or could we go along with ... we have a dialog process that’s been going on for some time here in Columbus where we bring together stakeholders from all sectors of the community to dialog about the issues of homelessness and other poverty issues and then to get groups to address them. For example, we worked to get bus transportation to places that were not handy to get to for work.

Marilyn: Anyone on the call care to answer Kathy’s question based on work you’ve done in your community?

Reed: I am working to try to get an organization going on Bainbridge Island outside of Seattle. I tried a couple things. We participated in the Compassion Games for a couple of years. I was also active in the Interfaith group here and I started by inviting both my own church and the interfaith group to be signed-on partners of the Charter. And the started to investigate what sorts of things we might start to do—the initial action plan that Marilyn outlined in regard to the Tool Box. It took us a little while to come up with a suggestion about what might be a good umbrella concept. So, my answer to you is I think your interfaith group is probably a great way to start the conversation to sign on as a partner. But I think one of the things the Charter is looking for is to embrace the entire community—find ways of people to partner that are outside of a faith community or might be part of the healthcare industry or might be part of the civic organization. So that larger initiative that is outside of your interfaith group might come under a larger umbrella of Compassionate Columbus.

Sande: Compassionate California started out of a women’s interfaith organization called S.A.R.A.H. It was actually in an advisory council meeting that we got together and decided we wanted to do this but couldn’t decide whose city to do. So we decided to all go back to our respective cities. It was actually Rev. Peggy Price in Huntington Beach has been the most successful and it’s been a great model for the whole movement, I think. It got to a point beyond where we thought it was appropriate for our organization to be at the center. Because I talk so much about this around California and actually other states, too, I’m now asked this question – and I appreciate you bringing it up. I think it has to be organic. Like Marilyn said early on, look around at where the needs are in your community and how you can best serve those needs. Do you need to be an official 501(c)3? Not really. But does it help to have that status so you can donations? Yes. But you could also get a fiscal sponsor or agent. My personal, humble recommendation is whatever you do has to be authentic and work for the group. And it has to be in that manner of collective impact—that everybody knows that they are engaged. In Compassionate California we are all in shared leadership, we all call ourselves “chief compassion officers,” there’s no head of the table. I hope that helps a little bit.

Marilyn: Kathy, if we look at all these city initiatives, many have been started by interfaith groups. There have been some that are sponsored by universities, especially in the Connecticut area, when Western Connecticut State University became a compassionate university. Then they started to embrace the local towns and cities around them. Some have been started by a concerned individual. Others have been started by schools. Compassionate Jordan was started by the International School in Amman. So it varies. I think what both Reed and Sande have said is that it is extremely flexible and its organic and it continues to grow. As you meet and invite new voices in you are offered new perspectives and new challenges. One of the things that we always say with the Charter for Compassion is that compassion is a verb and it means that we do something. As the Charter itself says we “dethrone ourselves” and really act on behalf of others.

David: I wanted leave a bit of information for those interested in contacting me. Go to And you can find out a little bit more and there’s also a contact link and I will get any requests directly and we can talk about what it means to be part of the tour.
Kathy: That all was very helpful. We are interested in being a compassionate city. We have already talked to the city administration and I think they would be interested. Is there a cost to that?

Marilyn: We don’t have any cost associated with a city becoming a compassionate community. We’ve just started to do this, because we find that we need to. If a city is open to doing an event for us or providing a donation throughout the year that would be wonderful, but there’s absolutely no requirement. One of the things that you might want to do, as Reed indicated, is to visit the Participating Communities. Once a city signs on to be a compassionate community we ask that they consider an action plan and that that action plan is sustainable. I think it’s important that you have a group that is willing to say “this isn’t a one-time deal.” That [your project] is really something that is living and breathing and changing. Most cities will come up with a resolution of affirming the Charter. They write their own resolution, but you can “cheat” by borrowing a resolution from another city. Most of the cities that have passed resolution send us the document and we post it on their page, so you can take a look at what that is.

Jack: You mentioned earlier some of the organizations become a 501 (c )3. And what we formed in Dallas – rather Compassionate DFW initially. And then we did some fundraising and what we found out is that granting institutions usually require that you be a 501 (c )3 in order to receive funds from them. So we did apply and have now received our 501( c)3 status and so that is going to allow us to receive funds. It does make any donations that you receive tax deductible. For some people, especially if they are making a large donation, is important. That kind of evolved for us as we started pursuing getting funds for getting programs we wanted to have.

Marilyn: Out of all the various groups that are part of the Charter, Dallas-Fort Worth is certainly one that has its own 501 (c )3 as well as Atlanta. Waves of Halifax has a charity status in Canada. And the Charter itself can work with you as a fiscal agent. We do have legal documents for that to occur if there are some cities that are interested in that.

Kathy: Beyond our Interfaith Forum we sponsored this dialog and that includes people from all the city organizations. We’ve had people from the hospital, from the schools, from everywhere that come to it. So I’m thinking that that could be the umbrella organization. We could bring David to it to talk to us about it.

Marilyn: One of the first things I would invite you to do to is to have the interfaith group sign up Columbus, Ind., as a compassionate initiative so we get you on the books. Next, it would be great if we could have a conference call with you and your interfaith group and do some serious brainstorming about questions you might have and hone the direction you are taking. And then discuss these partners you are naming: how might you invite them not only into the conversation but to sign as partners to your organization and, whenever that happens, they also become partners to the Charter. Those are the kinds of things that we do. I normally have two to three of these calls a week, where I’m working with communities around the world. So I would really welcome doing that with you.

Peggy Price: Huntington Beach has been stalled this year on our projects for a number of reasons. Although, we did have our April Day of Service and it was hugely successful. And we do that really as partners with the interfaith council and the LDS church here locally. We mobilized, we’re pretty sure, over 1,500 people to participate in service projects not only in our city but all across our neighboring cities. And I also just read, and I think it’s worthy of mention, that the city of Garden Grove has just signed the Charter and has become the second Compassionate City in Orange County. I’m hoping that will light a fire under our city council which right now seems to be a majority of people who “drink a lot of tea” and somehow feel that compassion and politics are not compatible. So, that’s part of why we’re a little stalled right now. We’re still here! We’re sort of percolating waiting for the moment to arrive where we can emerge. I think the Ali letter is perfect. I just sent a letter to the mayor while we were on the call saying “I think we should be signing this.”

Reed: Speaking of the Ali letter, who have joined us since we started. Cynthia Young .. I’m calling from Sonoma. We have an initiative, Compassionate Sonoma and I’d very much like to sign that letter. Marsha Hannah. I’m not with any group. I’ll be glad to sign it. Charlotte, NC. Jim Lowney, I’m with Kathy Panning in Columbus, Ind.

The other thing that we heard was a question about helping to support the work of the Charter globally and as we heard from Jack, many organizations as you get involved working on projects in your own community are interested in making sure you have enough funding to do what you need to do. I wanted to let you know that the organization at a global level is a very thin layer of support. There’s a lot of volunteerism that Marilyn Turkovich, as the director, has been able to organize. But there is a small staff and there are requirements around hosting the website and paying for things like the Maestro Conference calls – and any efforts that you make to help support the larger organization or the global organization are very much appreciated. There are some communities that have, as part of their ongoing budget, have thought about giving some part of their collected funds to the Charter for Compassion International and that is very gratefully received. In fact, on the website we have posted some of the communities that have made that commitment and we love to, as you’re planning to go forward, do that with you. We have also put together something we call Charter Salons, which allow you to have an initial conversation with some of the folks in your community that describes the work that the Charter is doing across the world—the kind of things that we are supporting as a network of networks—and part of that program (which includes either a video or a PowerPoint and some documents that you can print out) is a specific ask for people who attend to give some amount on a one-time or ongoing basis to support the ongoing global efforts. I just wanted to make sure that you knew that kind of material is available and if you reach out to Marilyn (marilyn at or me (reed at, we’re happy to talk to you about holding a salon.

Marilyn: I’d like to encourage people to be aware of their page on Charter website for your individual city or community so we can keep that page updated. If there are news articles or anything in your area, we’ll put that up. We can feature your group on the roller, or ticker, on the home page of the Charter website. One of the things coming up from Reed is a request for you to share information about your local media so that we can build a combined media PR outreach database.
I want to invite you all to the first Global Read – a book club – featuring Marc Barasch, from his book Compassionate Life. Marc’s event is coming up June 18. We also have one in September and, I think, in October. Watch the weekly newsletters so you can sign up. Let your local libraries about this possibility and maybe they’ll chose the book as a local reading and then they can join the author in the global read conference.

If you have any question about any aspect of what you’re doing, and would like to do some brainstorming, please let us know and we will certainly set something up for you. Thank you for being her with us.

About Us

  • charter brand transp blue mediumCharter for Compassion provides an umbrella for people to engage in collaborative partnerships worldwide. Our mission is to bring to life the principles articulated in the Charter for Compassion through concrete, practical action in a myriad of sectors.


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