September 23, 2019

Executive Director of Compassionate Atlanta, Leanne Rubenstein, joins Alberto Lidji to talk about the Charter for Compassion and what it means to be a compassionate city, business and individual

Executive Director of Compassionate Atlanta, Leanne Rubenstein, joins Alberto Lidji to talk about the Charter for Compassion and what it means to be a compassionate city, business and individual.  

 

Leanne’s professional experience has a strong footing in the refugee resettlement space and she notes that she’s in her comfort zone when working with people who came from all over the word.

 

The Charter was the wish of Karen Armstrong – winner of the 2008 TED Prize – and aims to bring people to the centre of morality; to treat others as you would like to be treated. It has been endorsed all over the world, including by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.

 

Leanne notes that the Charter encourages people to ‘teach your children about other religions, traditions and cultures’. Because once we know each other it’s much harder to dislike one another – it’s about finding a common humanity.

 

Globally, there is an international charter office and approximately 500+ different chapters across the world; 197 of these chapters are located in the USA.  It’s a grassroots movement and every chapter looks different and is independent.

 

What is compassion? Well, for some it might be compassion for the Earth, or compassion for children and youth, or compassion for people who are incarcerated. Leanne notes that compassion has many faces.

 

Part of her job and that of Compassionate Atlanta is to listen to the community and look to them for guidance. There’s one program they’re running with the Sierra Club looking at compassion and climate.

 

When asked what it takes to start a local chapter in one’s own community, Leanne points listeners to the Charter for Compassion website, where one can sign up and find out more – there are ways of engaging for cities, businesses and individuals. Indeed, some cities can twin with each other and mentor one another.

 

Compassion is overarching and it’s for everybody. Yes, there is a strong interfaith component but, also, there’s an appreciation that faith itself can be divisive. Compassion is for people of all faiths as well as for those with none. Representing people of different faiths is just as important as representing the secular community.  It’s about everyone coming together.

 

Leanne likes to focus on similarities rather than differences. This is particularly important in today’s politically divided and polarised environment.  Her advice: start by tackling the conversations that are easy and make progress from there. There’s no need to start by talking about people’s voting intentions. Why not start by exchanging preferences and experiences about food, film, the arts? Build a rapport and take it from there.

 

Being compassionate isn’t just good for individuals and cities in communities across the world. It is also important for businesses and, as Leanne points out, can have a positive effect on customer service and employee retention; it can lead to happier and more productive employees. She specifically references the CEO of LinkedIn, who has spoken about compassion in a corporate setting.

 

Leanne recognises that sometimes businesses don’t like the word compassion because it may feel ‘soft’ but, actually, she remarks that compassion is really ‘strong’.

 

In a business setting, compassion takes many forms and can be facilitated by getting employees around the table, being inclusive, having fluid communications and simply asking employees what makes them happy in their job. It’s about small incremental changes and can have a positive influence across the whole organisation. 

 

Leanne’s Key takeaway: Treat others as you wish to be treated; and treat others as they wish to be treated. Know that you can make an incredible difference and that one person can really shift the world for another.

 

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