Global Health Academy

Global Compassion Initiative

A new Initiative between the Global Health Academy, and the Stanford Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

The increasing recognition that many global and national challenges cannot be solved by expert intervention, but instead require different relational ways of working, has contributed to a renewed interest in some of the fundamental aspects of human existence, the way that people relate to each other and the glue that holds these relationships together. At the core of this is compassion. As a result, a discussion of compassion is permeating many domains of society, including academic disciplines, as a construct that is central to good relationships and as a tool that appears to improve well-being, partnership, safety and security. Lack of compassion in systems and in relationships has been identified as the cause of burn-out, distress, and dysfunctional services.

Lack of compassion has significant personal and societal impacts, and has become a frontline argument in a number of enquiries into the failings of the NHS; failures to treat patients in a dignified holistic manner has been attributed to an uncompassionate culture, and a lack of compassion within staff, patient and management relations and indeed for staff.

Compassion can be misunderstood as being solely about warmth and kindness. But it is more than softness, it is a complex and creative system that appears to be the glue that holds people together, it is the ethos that facilitates honourable practice, it underpins the relationships which allow us to build together.

It is the scientific aspects to understanding compassion and integrating it into the various domains of society that will be at the core of an innovative new project between the University of Edinburgh and Stanford University.

Across our university a large number of schools and research centres have an interest in the way that compassion shapes and builds relations, determines interactions, improves resilience and strengthens healthcare and health outputs. This work is also finding resonance outside the academic walls and hard evidence of the instrumental value of compassion is growing in many fields, particularly that of healthcare and business.