When we published our first report on kindness in October 2016, it felt tentative. We were unsure how the ideas we were exploring would be received, and we felt under pressure to explain why kindness is important and to justify its place in policy discussions. We are in a very different place now.
In Scotland, kindness is recognised as a key element in tackling social isolation and loneliness (Scottish Government, 2018), is discussed widely in varied professional debates, and sits alongside values of dignity and compassion at the heart of the new National Performance Framework (Scottish Government, 2018).
The acceptance of kindness in public policy owes much to the work undertaken by Julia Unwin as a Carnegie Fellow over the last two years. It also sits alongside a wider, developing narrative around the place of values. The response to New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, described as ‘a leader with love on full display’ (Nagesh, 2019), feels like a gut reaction to a growing politics of fear and division. We no longer feel the need to justify the importance of kindness at the outset of every discussion, it can be taken as given.
However, we have found that while the notion of kindness is becoming accepted, there is still much to do to understand what needs to be done to make kindness more commonly part of people’s experiences in communities and in their relationships with organisations and institutions. This report explores learning from the Kindness Innovation Network (KIN) and our partnership with North Ayrshire Council. It brings together thinking from our work on what it takes to build kinder communities and the role of kindness at a public policy level.