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Community spirit

Where does kindness fit at Big Local?

Andy Curtis, Senior Researcher for Local Trust, asks whether it is the simple act of being kind which inspires and drives Big Local communities.

In an ever complicated, and often challenging world, kindness is something that is instantly recognisable and appreciated. It’s also something that is easy to do. A small act of kindness can be giving up your seat on the train, or directing someone who is lost, despite the fact you are running late. It needn’t cost anything but can be extremely valuable. For people experiencing loneliness or a difficult time, kindness may provide a lifeline.

The realisation that World Kindness Day was approaching stimulated some discussion among Big Locals and at Local Trust about kindness within the context of Big Local.

People United, an arts charity and one of our partners, describe kindness as ‘both the intention and the action to help and benefit others.’ Is there a better way to describe the voluntary actions and intentions which drive Big Local communities?

Big Local has never been just about the money or projects. It’s about improving where you live. Small acts of kindness can help people feel more invested in their area and help a community flourish.

I have no doubt the following examples of kindness, spontaneously shared by Big Local communities on social media, are just a drop in the ocean:

  • Arches Local offered tea and biscuits to council work men digging up planters, in the rain, outside their community space. This work, itself the result of an act of kindness by a council representative, who sent his team to dig up the planters on top of their daily work load, as a result of a casual conversation with this Big Local about improving their outdoor space.

Stephen Perez, Arches Local worker, explains the Big Local partnership’s approach:

‘I focus on being nice to everyone I meet and it is the cornerstone of our Big Local approach to each other and our interactions with stakeholders.’

  • Following a recent, devastating fire on a Grange Big Local housing estate, Farley Big Local publicly posted an offer of support to their fellow Big Local on social media, simply saying:

‘We are here if you need a helping hand.’

  • Newington Big Local have chosen to actively promote kindness as a key component of their plan. With People United, they run a participatory, interactive community arts project all about kindness. Newington has since been identified as the kindest community in the UK ‘because of the ‘high levels of community connection and support networks in the area’.
  • Sacha, Dyke House Big Local, describes an ‘abundance’ of examples of kindness in his community:

There’s a woman who cooks for 20 people every Sunday, and anybody else who turns up. They’ve crowd funded medical treatment for an 18-year-old girl and a funeral for a 53-year-old man. They share what they have and look out for each other. It’s part of being a community.’

And for me this is where kindness fits at Big Local. It’s an essential part of a strong, connected community and I believe acts of kindness are the driving force behind Big Local. Without them, I’m not sure Big Local could exist.

World Kindness Day on 13 November is a brilliant opportunity to share your stories of kindness and, more importantly, another chance to be kind.

You can read more about Newington’s work to promote kindness in this great blog by People United and by watching this short film A light in the darkness