ACT 2021 Featured Capstone:
Embedding Compassion, Habits and Culture
Ph.D., Managing Director, Loom Foundation — Seattle, Washington, USA
Who did your Capstone Project serve?
I crafted practices for a philanthropy's day-to-day operations to remind members of their interconnection in meetings, of their responsibilities to one another, and of the asymmetrical power that often exists between philanthropists and community members. I also worked with the organization’s leadership on a skill-building retreat designed to increase trust and fulfill the organization's objectives for culture change.
What was the suffering that your project addressed?
The suffering I addressed was unhappiness about how the organization and its members turn toward each other and how these missed relationships interfere with the organization's day-to-day work. It also addressed unease over how to move social justice work toward power-sharing through greater engagement with the community.
How did this project address that suffering?
It used three methods: 1) conversations to understand the complexity and latent issues involved, 2) exercises to recraft day-to-day operations to build trust among members and 3) a retreat to build trust, clarify intentions and crystalize the actions necessary to enact those intentions.
Who was your audience and how many people participated?
The project focused on the Executive Director, Board of Directors and staff, with hopes that the outcomes will ripple through the organization and into the community.
How was the project delivered (the format)?
I delivered the project in stages and the process was reiterative, but it included three fundamental modes: 1) listening/exploration to understand more deeply, 2) written responses to the conversations to synthesize learning and provide a foundation for the next round of conversations and 3) convenings to focus on specific skills or questions that need to be explored as a group.
What was the reported impact on or feedback from participants? On yourself?
We surfaced issues that had been obscured, and through intention, organizational practices and establishing new roles within the organization, we started to lay a new foundation for relationships capable of the difficult work of making a more just world.
How has the ACT Program helped you become an Ambassador of Compassion?
The skills I learned — of defining suffering capaciously, of understanding my own triggers and of deploying techniques to effectively turn toward suffering — all helped me to be more open-eyed and thoughtful in the world. My hope is that I adeptly draw on these newfound skills and that I use them to deepen my connection with others.
What advice would you give to someone who's considering participating in the ACT Program?
Sometimes I felt that becoming an "Ambassador of Compassion" sounded grandiose. But ACT helped me realize that every day, with every meeting or conversation, we already are "ambassadors" of some kind. The question, then, is this: what kind of ambassadors do we want to be? In this humane, skillful community committed to compassion, you can learn to deepen your connection with yourself, amplify your connection with others and strengthen your service.