If you are reading this, there is a good chance you have dedicated your life and career to bettering the world around you – from the street you live on, to the community you live in, and even the policies that change the lives of Americans across the country. You strive to be the change-agent, in your professional and personal life, and are likely driven by compassion for a cause or purpose. Compassion is good, but it is important to identify how you can effectively yield that attribute to benefit the greater good. I try to keep this front of mind and encourage my teammates at The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement to do the same.
We often limit our compassion to certain people within a cause, those who are like-minded, or our peers. In a world that is increasingly defined by “them” versus “us”, we are doing our compassionate nature a disservice. In order to effect change, we must shift from “I” or “Us” to “We”. Research suggests that to change the social architecture of an environment (e.g., the “I” versus “Us” mentality) is to act as a “compassion architect” or a person that can activate and spread compassion. This approach is integral to our Institute’s mission. We believe it’s not good enough to focus our work on doing good things (the output), but also how are we are improving the lives of the people we are working with (the input). One way we practice what we preach is by modeling these behaviors in our own office.
In our organization, we have the unique privilege of working with a large number of students. The students, full-time Drake University undergraduate students, are a not just “student staff” but an essential part of our team, part of the greater “we.” The compassion we have for our students matches the compassion we have for our mission. Better yet, the compassion we show for our students furthers our mission.
Our students are treated as equals, with the same responsibility as full-time team members. It is our goal to provide an environment where they can learn and understand how a professional office functions, including the actions of those working in the professional office. Showing kindness and respect motivates them to reach their full potential. By empowering our students to take control of their vision and direction, they continuously exceed our expectations.
Investing in others should not be quantified by the amount of time we spend with them, instead it is measured by the examples we set. We believe the lessons we impart will inspire the students to work as compassionate change-agents, now and in the future.
Our model should not and does not stop when we leave our office, a lesson we learned from Senator Harkin, a true “compassion architect.” Please take a moment today and reflect on how you can be a “compassion architect” in your workplace and community.