Kindness Is the New Black
This month, the innovative new summit Human Kind puts benevolence and optimism centre stage. By Helen Hawkes
In a world where old-fashioned virtues are often undervalued — few still believe in modesty, for example — kindness is taking on rock star status.
Maybe it couldn’t have happened in the ’80s, when greed was good. But now, fuelled by the increasing volume of natural disasters and global unrest, and given oxygen by millennials and gen Zers who grew up in a world that encouraged recycling and social good, the qualities of compassion, goodwill and unselfishness are definitely back in style.
“The 2010s were kinda me-me-me and focused on bling … until the woke wave made everybody good, like it or not,” says Kirsha Kaechele, an artist and curator at Mona (Museum of Old and New Art), and founder of the Material Institute in the United States and Australia, a charity where problems are a medium for art. “There are so many people who want to help transform the world, there is no shortage of volunteers,” she says.
According to a survey by Gartner, more than 50 per cent of people want to make a greater contribution to society following the pandemic. Reflecting on their purpose and considering the future, organisations are forming board-level strategies that incorporate the “voice of society” along with those of customers, shareholders and employees, says the consulting firm.
It is a mindset shift, it says, from “doing less harm” to “doing more good”. In fact, a study by the employer-review platform Glassdoor found that nearly 75 per cent of people now place importance on buying from a company that walks the talk when it comes to sustainability, community-mindedness and charitable initiatives.
The career specialist and TED talker Edwin Trevor-Roberts, who helps build organisations where people can thrive, says, “My feeling is that many companies don’t know how strong a movement this is. In essence, social enterprise, not capitalism, now needs to be the default position. Social good is a trend that people want to know is embedded in an organisation.”
Says the CEO of Winning Group, John Winning, “Kindness, in all its aspects, is good for humanity. But it’s also good for business, which is not just about profits anymore — although people need to pay the rent. It’s about how much good we did in a year, with greater good equalling greater performance.”
At Winning Group, doing social good comes in the form of support for homeless shelters through donations and labour to set up furniture, make beds and fill pantries for those escaping domestic violence; donations to cancer research; and nationwide events that align with R U OK? Day. Most recently, the business donated appliances and household goods to flood victims.
“We also proudly support the global imagination lab AIME and their annual Hoodie Day, as well as the new Gadigal Room at St Vincent’s Hospital [in Sydney], where First Nations families can take some respite while a loved one is in hospital,” says Winning. “Our business gives back to build happy and resilient communities and contribute to improved housing, health, youth, reconciliation and the environment.”
In an extension of that philosophy, Winning Group’s HUMAN KIND 2023 summit (at Luna Park, Sydney, March 16–18; humankind.sydney), will bring together industry leaders and changemakers with one idea in mind: to reshape the collective future.
“We want to turn pessimism into optimism; to inspire people to be curious and bold,” says Winning. “We think if we bring together people who are collectively visionary, whatever their passions, we can help them make these unlikely connections, for one collective good.”
The CEO and founder of AIME, Jack Manning Bancroft, who will speak at HUMAN KIND, created a global network powered by unlikely connections, born out of Australia. With early achievements of immense impact, AIME’s work for the next 10 years is centred on bringing intelligence from outside the margins into the front of the design queue to solve the challenges of our time.
It’s a rethink of system patterning and networks, says Manning Bancroft. “If we value kindness, why not build a network that creates that? There are only so many transactional experiences you can go through without getting to feeling incomplete.” AIME will soon launch Imagi-Nation, an online platform based on age-old Indigenous systems and philosophies of being in healthy relation with one another and the earth.
Harnessing technology, entrepreneurship and inclusivity to create a better future for all is a trend that Jonathan Teo, whose early investment in key social giants earned him a spot in Forbes Magazine’s Midas List, hopes will become more prevalent as we move into a more positive future. “Social media originally allowed people to express themselves in ways they couldn’t before and to connect on new avenues,” he says. “Unfortunately, it has been hijacked by the advertising industry with addiction mechanisms being created and scale and globalisation creating a monster we cannot control.
“Kindness is about being able to recognise that anything or everything we do has an impact on the world around us,” he continues. “We need to at least attempt to create tools that allow people to be completely centred and act from the heart.”
While business initiatives for a kinder world, such as sponsorship, fundraising and volunteering, are already being recognised by Good Company in its Australia’s Top 40 Best Workplaces to Give Back, on an individual level, taking positive action may involve getting out of our comfort zones, says electrician Nedd Brockmann, a HUMAN KIND speaker.
After he moved from Forbes NSW to Sydney for work, he was profoundly impacted by people living on the streets. “I really needed to help,” he says.
He ran 50 marathons in 50 days in 2020 to raise more than $100,000 for the Red Cross. More recently he pushed his body to the limits to complete a run of nearly 4,000 kilometres from Perth’s Cottesloe Beach to Sydney’s Bondi Beach, raising $1.85 million for the homelessness charity Mobilise. “The initial reason I started running marathons was to see what my capabilities were,” says Brockmann.
“I wanted to find out what was possible for me and, in turn, inspire people to take action.
“As individuals, we all need to do our part to create change,” he says.
Kaechele, who will share some of her philosophies and accomplishments at HUMAN KIND, agrees: “I was raised with the understanding that we are all one,” she says. Her “art + kindness”-inspired projects include “CA$H 4 GUN$” — a conceptual artwork in the form of a gun buyback scheme in New Orleans; Heavy Metal — an art-science initiative hell-bent on cleansing Timtumili Minanya (River Derwent, Tasmania) of heavy metal contaminants; Ladies Who Jump — a philanthropically minded annual skinny dip in the depths of winter; and 24 Carrot — a kitchen garden program that teaches children from schools around Tasmania to grow, harvest and cook healthy produce.
“I happened upon the garden project because I realised during a cooking session in my art gallery in New Orleans that the kids in my neighbourhood didn’t know what vegetables were,” says Kaechele. “And there is a health —physical and mental — crisis that stems from disassociation with real food and a disconnection from the land.”
The artist is currently developing a project that will support rainforest preservation globally, with millions of dollars to apply annually. “I have to figure out how to do it — or rather, bring people on board who will,” says Kaechele. “I believe I can join with others in the same position as myself to amplify our impact.”
Says Winning, “Imagine a world where we feel there is more than just being on a hamster wheel, a world that is powered by amazing ideas and action, inspirational learning and stimulation and, of course, kindness.”
We’re all in this together and, together, he says, we can change the future.
HUMAN KIND 2023 will be fuelled by 50+ world-class personalities, all of whom have an ability to think outside the box in the realms of technology, science, business, sports, wellbeing, music, art and comedy, to solve the challenges of the future.
This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our seventh edition, Page 28 of Winning Magazine. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.