The Kindness Innovation Network is a group of people from all across Scotland who have
been coming together over the past year to explore concepts of kindness and how they
can apply them in policy and practice and in their communities.
Over the course the year they have been thinking about this in very diverse places so there
are groups of people who have been looking at kindness in procurement and kindness in
management, groups who have been looking at kindness in food and kindness in spaces and
how we can use our public spaces better. They have come together today to explore what they
have learned and what they have shared as their experiences working with concepts of kindness
I think what is important is having the places and spaces for people to have conversations
and making those spaces appropriate to encourage conversations. There is opportunities to have
conversations when you are eating together and that sort of thing so taking the time is important too.
I think the fact that food is something which
brings people together is not new. It's something that on an instinctive level we
all understand but what we've been able to do in the mini-KIN food sharing group over
the past 12 months is really examine some aspects of what makes that work. One of the
things that we've looked at is the fact that the food itself is actually a way of
bringing people together.
We wanted to make the library a more welcoming and inclusive space for all and we decided
to trial ideas like the family room, the community fridge, the kindness wall and the feedback
has been absolutely fantastic.
We've never had an issue with our staff not wanting to make things better for users,
it's just that we've been to some extent bound by the rules and regulations of the
university so what I think it's done is not necessarily changed peoples attitude,
just made it easier for staff to do the things that they really like to do which is to help other people
In our group we were speaking quite a lot about established working norms that are sometimes
unhelpful that have evolved over time, maybe for good reasons initially but they have become
ways in which people can sometimes get a little bit excluded. I think data is really important
because we probably can't capture the fullness of peoples lives and their realities for
the purposes that we use data, we have to simplify and reduce things in certain ways
but I suppose that becomes a problem when you start to exclude peoples experiences or
when you start to define people in certain ways that doesn't reflect that.
I think risk aversion brings in another area as well.
People worried about, perhaps people beginning with what might go wrong and therefore
having reasons for not doing something even though the benefits of doing something are
quite self-evident actually. They can be quite self-evident, you can say that would be lovely
to have that but what if it goes wrong? And then the questions of what if it goes wrong
seems to loom so large that you might not be able to get off the starting blocks with something.
It raises the question of whether you do or don't build policy around that
and does policy somehow inhibit kindness or is it needed in order to embed kindness as a value.
This is important to North Ayrshire Council because in common with other public sector
organisations, we are working very hard to reduce the impact of inequalities. We have
been exploring the importance of kindness to individuals, communities and to organisations
and that has taking us to some really interesting territory. Possibly the biggest learning for
us over the past year has been the importance of making significant organisational change,
in order to reduce the barriers to kindness, mainly in terms of how our staff are allowed
and permitted to behave and the consequent impact that then has on the people we serve.
The other thing I think was that it's actually
something that's probably furthest from the language of procurement and commissioning.
It's never mentioned, humanity is never mentioned, communities and people are not
even mentioned. Where it's just about systems and processes. Then we had varying views about
whether it fitted with procurement and commissioning, one of the things, I wasn't at the procurement
conference but one of my colleagues was saying the biggest barrier was actually coming from
younger people who said we've not been trained on this, we don't understand what this means,
where would this fit on the system and it was really that we were not connecting it
with themselves as people as opposed to employees and actually people with a purpose in a role.
There has been a huge appetite for this discussing
this in the room, enthusiasm and attendance has remained high, and people are so passionate
about it. I think that people really believe in the power of these relationships and what
we need to do to maintain them and some of the things that you would hope or imagine
would be simple and straightforward and natural actually are massively affected by this world
that we have created and the systems and the processes that we use.
What I've noticed today is extraordinary
diversity of people coming from all sorts of different backgrounds working in different
professions who are all really hungry and excited to embrace the concept of kindness
and explore how it applies to their work, to their day jobs and how they interact with each other.
There are so many people who are interested in kindness that this is a word which connects
people. This is something that really brings people together from so many different walks
of life from so many different areas of work and I think it's really exciting to see
that kindness actually is a glue that connects people.
There was one area where I think we found
that public bodies are weakest in their thinking in Wales, it is their take on the future and
having to think very very long term. And I just wonder if part of that is just public
bodies struggling to get their heads around what that means and if they were bring in the
notion of kindness to that discussion I think we might have more fruitful conversations around that.
What it does is it seeds a new conversation. A conversation that actually invites people
to show up in kind of a wholesome way that says all the things we said about connection
and discovery, strength matter. I think it resets the conversation, it reboots the conversation.
It's more of an opportunity than a risk
I think, the opportunity is to be had around what it means to be a professional and what
it means to use your skills to increase the capacity and stretch and reach of communities
to do more for themselves and what the relationships needs to be between professionals and communities.
I think the other things about it is that
it levels out power, If we can be really attentive to the fact that kindness is not sympathy,
it's deep empathy and it's about liberation, it's about figuring out how we can be in
a relationship with each other in a truly reciprocal way.
I think it is too risky for us to approach
kindness as being something you have to be brave to do. I think that is partly the problem,
we are in a situation where we are thinking about kindness as if it's something that is above and beyond.
We need to get to a position where kindness is the normal.
Kindness is a word that could be easily dismissed
by people who pride themselves on being hard-nosed and being efficient and thinking about what
is sensible and what's realistic. The challenge is that same conversation has boxed us in
to an economy that doesn't align which what people and planet really need.
When we started the Kindness Innovation Network
over a year ago now, we didn't know how many people would be interested in joining
us on this story or where it was going to go. What we found over the past year is that
there are a lot of people in Scotland and wider through the UK and in our international
connections are interested in a conversation about values and see kindness as a way in
to that conversation and an easier more human way in than talking about concepts of integrity
or justice. We are grateful for all of the time that people have given to the network
and to those wider conversations. People have invested a huge amount of themselves in the
process and taken us to places that we did not expect to be able to go as an organisation
or as a group of individuals. We are committed at the Carnegie UK Trust to working on this
strand for at least another 18 months and to embedding the values of kindness in our
own organisation and encouraging other organisations to do the same. If this is the first time
that you have come across our work, please do visit our website for more information
and some background on what we have been doing and why. If you would like to carry on the
journey or the conversation with us, please do contact the staff team. Thank you again
to all the members of KIN and those involved in North Ayrshire for all of the time, effort
and energy they put in to the process.