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As a result of attending the 2014 BALLE Conference this past year, the Local First team decided it was time to change the world, one act at a time.
Birju Pandu of Service Space, an internet platform encouraging people to integrate generosity-driven projects into their lives, spoke about new paradigms of leadership and kindness in the workplace. Service Space members can subscribe to inspiring content, do small acts of service, create their own local service event, or help their favorite cause. It is designed to encourage individuals to "be the change that they wish to see in the world."
Motivated to bring that generosity into our workplace and community, the Local First team decided to do our own 21-day Kindness Challenge.
We created our own Local First Kindness Challenge on KindSpring.org, a platform dedicated to fostering and celebrating small acts of kindness around the world. Our staff could sign in to post stories about their own uplifting acts and read about what others have done.
The idea behind the challenge was that small consistent actions performed over 21 days can create a significant impact in our personal lives. When these actions are done by groups of people, the impact has the potential to ripple out even further.
The challenge involved a daily commitment to an act of kindness, a daily prompt or idea delivered to our inbox, and a weekly process for co-reflection and story-sharing on and offline.
Why take this on as a team when there so much else calls for our attention? I admit, some of us were skeptical of fitting in one more thing on our daily to-do lists.
Because, the science is there: kindness has real-world benefits.
In a Harvard Business Review article, it was suggested that turnover rates are linked to more than just job satisfaction. In The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Anchor makes the case that the single greatest advantage in the modern economy is a happy and engaged workforce. A decade of research proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome; raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements.
In the NYT Sunday Review, an article on the science of the “pay-it-forward movement” stated that in recent years, social scientists have demonstrated that the effect of a single act of kindness can ripple through a social network, setting off chains of generosity that reach far beyond the original act.
For these reasons, we all completed the challenge.
During reflection, we shared stories and the feelings that resulted from paying more attention to our surrounding world. The word “conscious” came up a lot. The intention to reach out every day shifted our experience in our own lives to something more positive and affirming. I believe that the group challenge raised morale, fostered teamwork, and increased empathy. Personally, paying attention to my values and cultivating them daily deepened my connection to the world and my fellow co-workers.
I want to share a story posted by one of our Local First team members. She wrote:
“Yesterday I was taking out the garbage when I saw a woman with a walker getting off of the bus in my neighborhood. I stopped for a second and noticed that she had several shopping bags to carry as well. Normally I would have been shy about offering a hand, but with my new kindness confidence I went up to her and asked if I could carry them home for her. We walked and chatted for about three blocks to her apartment building. When I dropped her off I offered her my phone number if she ever needed a ride to the store or help from the bus stop. It felt really nice to meet someone new and hear stories about the neighborhood. It didn't feel like 'work'. I hope Carol calls."
Being able to completely tune into the present moment is the ongoing work of a lifetime, but as we become more aware of each moment, we hope to tap into a stream of gifts that we are usually too preoccupied to notice.
At this time of year when people are mindful of 2014 and resolve to make changes in 2015, I hope you find inspiration in the small acts that can have a ripple effect into big change and impact - and maybe create your own challenge along the way.