Plymouth is the national flagship city for compassion but what does this mean for our social enterprises. Tam Fowles, Director of Hope in the Heart CIC explains about how compassion can help your business thrive and more…

We need to talk about compassion. This is a conversation that needs to take place in many contexts. We also need to talk about why people in business don’t talk more about compassion. Too often I have heard “there’s no place for compassion in business”, and this belief is reflected in the practices and policies of many corporations. But social enterprises are often born of compassion and there is much to be learned from this source of inspiration that could positively affect all businesses, and significantly increase their productivity.

What is compassion? Neuroscientist Dr James Doty, of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), describes it as “the recognition of the suffering of another with a motivational desire to alleviate that suffering”. Global character education programme, the Virtues Project, says “Compassion is deep empathy for another who is suffering or living with misfortune…and a strong desire to ease their distress.” Many social enterprises are founded with the express purpose of alleviating suffering and easing distress. An article from the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Marketing states that “a commitment to helping others … encourages individual entrepreneurs to devote more time and energy to creative and flexible thinking than if they were making decisions to benefit only themselves” and that “compassion…acts as a prosocial motivator of cognitive and emotional processes that are preconditions for undertaking social entrepreneurship”

There is a link between the business world and the research world, suggests Emma Sappala, Associate Director at CCARE, as “research on compassion is setting a new tone for the workplace and management culture.”

Having worked with numerous groups on the subject of compassion, I have seen first-hand the change that can take place when individuals are encouraged to focus on compassion. Noticing incidents of compassionate action taking place in their various environments, and looking for opportunities to make the compassionate choice in every situation can change a person’s perspective on the world, replacing the cynicism born of negative media bombardment and general daily stress with a sense of hope, potential and achievement. When this happens throughout an organisation, the positive change is magnified and the culture can be transformed.

When compassion is a conscious aim, with appropriate boundaries and policies in place, leaders, employees and service-users find a shared focus which can provide a sense of unity, purpose and belonging. Respect and mutual consideration are high, and a general feeling of wellbeing is likely to permeate the business. Modelling compassion within the local community can create a ripple-effect, as others are attracted by the positive feelings and outcomes generated by the compassionate business. Employee health is increased and staff are likely to stay in their role longer. Customer service is improved with a corresponding positive effect on production.

Since its inception in 2008, Charter for Compassion International has engaged hundreds of businesses on many continents, in its business sector and across 11 other sectors.

There are opportunities for businesses in Plymouth to join the global compassion movement, increasing their focus on compassionate action and reaping the considerable benefits while helping to build a critical mass of compassionate businesses intent on changing the culture of business in their communities. Plymouth was registered as a Compassionate City with Charter for Compassion International in January 2017, and has become the flagship city for compassion in the UK, with several projects being piloted that will contribute towards a “Plymouth Compassionate City Model” for other UK communities to follow. Hope in the Heart CIC is currently leading the Compassionate Plymouth City Initiative, whose steering group includes representatives from The Zebra Collective, Lifeplay Learning and St Luke’s Hospice (the latter has also introduced a separate end-of-life focused Compassionate City Charter to Plymouth).

Any business, organisation, school, group or institution can become a partner of CCI and Compassionate Plymouth, at no cost and with many benefits. These include visibility on the CCI website and the opportunity to network and share resources with other compassionate businesses in many locations, as well as a chance to play an active role in the development of Compassionate Plymouth as a model community for the UK. Several local social enterprises and others have already registered. Hope in the Heart has funding from the Esme Fairbairn Foundation, via POP+, to deliver a number of half-day workshops introducing CCI and CP to representatives of organisations interested in knowing more or becoming partners, with free or subsidised consultation also available if required. Please contact tam@hopeintheheart.org if you would like to know more, or attend or host a workshop

We need to talk about how compassion in Plymouth businesses can contribute to radical social change and model a more proactive way of working for the benefit of all. If you would like to be part of that conversation, please get in touch!

Tam Martin Fowles
Founding Director Hope in the Heart CIC
www.hopeintheheart.org
UK Ambassador Charter for Compassion International