Much of what we know about the effects and benefits of kindness comes from our subjective experience. Feelings of well-being, altruism, community values are tied to ideals like empathy and kindness. The scientific and business research is beginning to show the power of kindness in promoting productivity in the workplace.
Speaking of “kindness” is not always a typical part of business parlance outside of the holiday season. In the workplace, we may be apt to use words like “emotional intelligence” , “cultural-sensitivity” , maybe even finding such behaviors coded into mission statements that live on a paper like “corporate responsibility” or “good citizenship”.
Is there a quantifiable Return on Investment?
Does it lie within the individual or is it cultivated in the culture?
However it manifests, kindness, sharing, and providing support are core values of the Impact Hub Community, I’d like to share what kindness can look like in our little coworking world.
A Hosting Shift Anecdote of (Post-Election ) Kindness
On November 8th, 2016, people throughout the nation felt the shakes of change with the outcome of the presidential election. At Impact Hub Boston, many of our members felt deeply affected through the intersections of their work in the social impact sector. I’d like to show what kindness can look like in a snapshot of one day.
As a Latin-American and LGBTQA advocate, myself and many people close to me had expressed various levels of anxiety about the future. On the day I came into my hosting shift, I had come from a week of cocooning from the social fallout of Graduate School, the election, and an admittedly confused sense of faith in my fellow-humans. Unsure of what my Impact Hub Host shift would bring, I had never been more glad to walk into a welcoming environment with a sign that said “Free Hugs”.
My first conversation of the day was an informed discussion with several fellow Hub members about the use of the Brexit safety pins as a symbol of solidarity. Impact Hub Boston Founder, Geoff Mamlet took steps to make sure they were available for members should it help them.
Later in the morning, a fellow Hubber, who was political refugee from their country, had spoken about the amount of concern and anxiety that the election had caused for themselves and their family around Xenophobia. I had an opportunity to hear their amazing story while offering support to this person. We exchanged ideas for advocacy and ways that we could promote tolerance with our shared experiences.
A chain of kindness through conversation happened starting at the host desk!
Another Hub Member had come to the host-desk visibly concerned about the status of an executive transition and engagement within their non-profit board. After a conversation, we were able to come-up with some free toolkits and peer support as well as actions the person could take since they didn’t feel authorized to make a major move.
After the shift, I attended the weekly meditation brain-break in the 18th floor “Zen Room” that is led by Dhanasharee Ramachandran, who has done work with The Art of Living Foundation around promoting meditation. In this space, she volunteers her time to both CIC and Impact Hub Members to lead meditations to empower people with the ability to focus on the moment. Overwhelmed from stress, I found myself upset and close to tears after the session. Compassionately, she turned the meditation space into a place of healing as she directed me to resources, sage advice inspired by Transcendental Meditation, and offered an empathic listening ear.
After speaking with Dhanasharee and sharing a big hug, I noticed another Hub member noticeably upset and stressed. Considering the grounding interaction I just had – I wanted to share my ear and pay the kindness that was just afforded to me forward. We were able to talk and during the conversation, we were able to process ideas and fears that this person had about their leadership capability and an upcoming board meeting. Like myself moments before, the very real experience of holding too much is a feeling that many social entrepreneurs share. Rather than being a “top-down” interaction, I was really able to get a stronger connection to the level of passion and commitment that went into this person’s organization, letting them know how they in-fact inspired me! This ended in more hugs and power-talks!
From that series of kindness acts and conversation, over free pizza, our neighbors at the Startup Institute invited me to a kick-off session hosted by Impact Hub Alumni, David Del Mar of Resilient Coders. He facilitated a conversation forum and launch for his response to the rash of post-election violence called #CommitResilience at http://www.commitresilience.org
Both a website and a hashtag campaign, he called on community members to take a stand against hate and intolerance by committing to “one action” and publicly commit to it with a pledge on the website. The conversation was generative and full of people from ages 16 – early 70’s that cared about how they could foster tolerance and change within this context.
The aftermath of this day of events was a complete turn-around of any negativity I was feeling. After days of being cocooned, drained, and unsure about the future, I found myself voluntarily staying at Impact Hub Boston from 8:30AM to 8:30PM inspired by one act after another. It was a beautiful opportunity to be a part of and informed by the vulnerability and connective kindness that can happen between strangers and work acquaintances.
Kindness in Our Everyday
Outside of national events, kindness , sharing, and empathy are simply part of the informal culture at Impact Hub Boston. While we are very serious about our ventures and work that we do, the physical and social set-up of our space allows for multiple ways for members to be empowered to connect and socialize.
There is an implicit social contract of support that permeates our space that didn’t require hours of sensitivity training or multiple office memos to implement.
The hard work is really carried by our members as ethical and passion-driven professionals that want to make some impact in the world that were in search of something more from a coworking space. This energy is brought into our space everyday in the smallest of interactions. The result of this is that most members have a story about a time that a fellow rubber helped them problem-solve, shared a useful resource, or even became an activity partner or collaborator.
This extension of kindness even extends to tummies!
It would be an understatement to say that nobody will ever stay hungry for long at Impact Hub. It isn’t unusual to find diets and work-fasts busted by the occasional extra pizza, a member bringing some baked goods, the “no-waste” practices of meeting catering, and leftover food from the myriad events in our space that members graciously open to fellow-members. I’ve also heard plenty of stories of how that erroneous apple or bag of chips from our kitchens will end-up with a person in-need outside of our building.
The acknowledgement of every milestone from a send-off party for a well-loved member, birthdays, professional achievements, or even the retirement of a member of the security team is a cause for celebration and community.
Kindness As A Motivation (or Model) for Change
Pet’s Empower – created by Impact Hub Alumni Jordan Ross, works to support short-term fostering for the pets of victims of Domestic Violence. This was a project inspired by his own experience detailed in a recent interview with Cornell University.
Level Ground MMA – Another Social Service organization working out of our space, they are working to cultivate resilience in urban youth by teaching them mixed martial arts to build confidence and community. In this article, a student shares the impact this group had on his life.
Matahari Women Worker’s Justice Center – This is a Boston-Based organization that actively works for advocating for women’s rights, immigrant communities, and justice of domestic workers and function as a “supportive network that women could continue to turn to during their life-long processes of healing and empowering themselves through individual growth and social action.” They recently worked with Smith College to document the history of Domestic Worker Organizing
As both a member and a Fall 2016 Host Team Cohort participant, I can say that a huge part of my 2016 gratitude goes to the multiple acts of kindness, support, and camaraderie that I’ve been privileged to experience in just the last six months at Impact Hub Boston. For a busy Graduate School student whisking from one deadline to the next (with very stretched resources for self-care), the centering energy of the people involved with this space has done everything to open my eyes to what an active change community can accomplish through positive connection and kindness.