Global Compassion Initiative


An overview of the Global Compassion Initiative at the University of Edinburgh.

An initiative for students, staff, the city and the world.

As a University, we recognise that HOW we work is as important as WHAT we know. As such, the Global Compassion Initiative is concerned with all spheres of University life.

Purpose and vision of the Global Compassion Initiative

To catalyse, enable and embed the evidence and practice of compassion within the University and across our relationships in the city and the world.

We want the world to be a better place for everyone because compassion is woven into all our choices.

The University of Edinburgh is committed to delivering impact for society – through our knowledge and how we lead. Without a compassionate framework underpinning our choices, we will not be able to deliver the advancements needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on a local or global level.

As a University – in our learning, teaching, research and in how we relate to each other – we have an opportunity to strengthen our compassionate practice.

The University should be an agency of transformation, with each person an agent of transformation. We want students and staff to have the most sustained and transformational impact in the world.

This is WHY we do what we do.

Compassion is a defining human characteristic

Mounting evidence from a wide range of disciplines – neuroscience, economics, psychology, artificial intelligence (AI) and beyond – demonstrates that compassion is key to:

  • improving personal and organisational performance (in cooperation and productivity, resilience, employee commitment and retention),
  • enhancing effectiveness (creativity and innovation, navigating change, collaboration, addressing conflict);
  • supporting well-being (physical and mental health, engagement at work, and welfare); and
  • building reputation (credibility).

Relational and emotional intelligence is increasingly recognised as the sine qua non of leadership, underpinning IQ, analytical and technical skills.

People and partners

The Global Health Academy established a Global Compassion Initiative at the University in 2016 in partnership with the Centre for Compassion and Altruism (CCARE) at Stanford University.

It is led by a small group of Directors – a member of the Univeristy's General Council Business Committee (Kirsty MacGregor), three academic staff (Liz Grant, Paul Brennan, Harriet Harris), and an Honorary staff member (John Gillies).

We are partnered with Stanford University, the University of Helsinki,  NHS Lothian, the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh and the International charity SayitForward.

We are currently exploring ways to profile and expand the work we are doing – to enable more staff, students and partners to be agents of sustainable transformation.  Our objectives are set by students and staff and will be delivered through collective work between students and staff.

To learn more about our objectives and direction of travel, visit our 'Ambitions' page.