ACT 2020 Featured Capstone:

COMPASSION BREAK 

Alena Skrbkova

International Public Service/Organizational Psychologist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Describe Your Capstone Project.

My Capstone Project is for people working in a cluster of inter-linked public service organizations that in total employ over 40,000 people. It is important for its potential to go beyond individuals and impact on organizational cultures. The project comprises action at two levels: individual and organizational. The individual work involved the design and delivery of COMPASSION BREAKs (one-hour online sessions) to help staff cope with COVID-19 measures using core teachings from cultivating mindfulness and compassion. Fifteen of these sessions were delivered to over 500 individuals in the period April to June 2020. The organizational work has developed rapidly from the positive reception of the online sessions and from compassion training which I was delivering before the pandemic. Now it involves helping integrate compassion into the learning offer of a central supplier of staff well-being and management development to the organizations concerned.

Describe Its Impact.

Individual-level: Participants provided quantitative and qualitative feedback on the sessions. These are some of the quantitative indicators (“agree” or “strongly agree”): What I learned in this session will be useful for me: 85%; This session was a good use of my time: 86%. Overall, 84% of participants said that they were satisfied with the session they joined. In a follow-up survey (3-5 months after the session), 71% said they were using the learning already and seeing benefits. 89% of participants said they would be interested in more compassion training, especially short regular practices (65%) and thematic workshops (50%). The qualitative feedback from both surveys provides strong evidence for how small compassion-based learning interventions can lead to a significant impact on people’s lives.

 

Given the short duration of each session, the participant feedback also suggests that the learning was not primarily the acquisition of new skills but rather a discovery and activation of capacities that were already present in participants done by creating conditions that allowed this to happen.

 

Organizational-level: There is a greater awareness, including among managers and leaders who were well represented among the participants, of the value of compassion-based approaches in the workplace. This provides a solid base for developing future well-being programs incorporating compassion.

How has your ACA Capstone Project helped you become an Ambassador of Compassion?

My Capstone Project has brought me immense personal and professional satisfaction from seeing a small seed grow and even bear fruit in a truly short time. I am aware that the achievement was possible in large part because of the exceptional time we are living in. The pandemic brought suffering just as my ambassador project was ready to take shape. I was supported and, especially, empowered by the ACA to seize this troubled opportunity fully. The result is that my work as an ambassador of applied compassion has reached further and deeper than anything I could have imagined when I first enrolled in the ACT program.

How have you been transformed by Applied Compassion Training?

The greatest effect for me has been in the area of trust. I learned to trust myself as I was feeling trusted by my teachers and mentor in ACA. I was not only inspired by their work and the work of others on the program but also liberated by the sense of permission I received to be myself while working for our common cause. This sense of safety allowed me to go into my client organizations and meet the people there on their terms, feeling both my vulnerability and the protection of my mentor and others in ACA who believed in me. I found this quality of relationship spilled over into my dealings with key people in my client organizations, with whom I continue to work in a spirit of friendship, openness, and trust.

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