A Framework for Growing Compassionate Communities

Understanding your Local Context

Everything needs to be seen and understood within its own local context.  The context within every community will be individual and unique.  Understand your local context will inform both the process and the journey of the community.

In order to engage with this model in a pragmatic way, there are three key components to the process. These are:

The Listening Phase.  This involves listening to the people and to the community within the local culture in terms of its needs, aspirations and priorities.  Listening is central to effectively understand the community.  This can be done through focus groups, questionnaires and through informal and formal conversations.

The Connecting Phase.  This process of listening naturally leads in to connecting with the people and the culture.  This is through meeting with people, groups and connecting with their understanding and agendas.  The process of meeting people where they are is central to effective listening and connecting with the culture. It is informal and leads naturally into increased engagement.

Within this process the planning and next steps can take place. Moreover a growing consensus can begin to emerge of ownership of not only the process but also of the vision. The Connecting Phase naturally leads into

The Engaging or Conversational Phase.  During this phase you will be engaging with the community, building collaborations and networks. Conversations will be ongoing and organic in nature.

In practical terms this is a grass roots approach to growing a compassionate community, sometimes referred to a bottom-up approach.  ie, it starts where the community is and develops from here, as opposed to imposing agendas and structures onto the community or individual.

You need to journey with the community;

it is their journey.

You need to immerse yourself in their culture and context.

What is pivotal throughout this process is to build a consensus through conversation and dialogue with the people and culture in which you seek to serve, or are present in. This process of emerging consensus can be achieved in a number of ways.

This process aims to build in sustainability and ownership of the project / process as well as an emerging structure and accountability.

In order to grow a Compassionate Community there needs to be:

  • A pooling of best practice
  • Support for individuals and groups in their journey
  • A method to promote sustainability.

Within each of these there are key questions to ask yourself in your community’s journey

Pool Best Practice:

  • What works?
  • Why it works?
  • How it is delivered?

Promoting Sutainability:

  • Who owns the process?
  • Is there consensus?
  • Is there multi agency support?

Peer Support:

  • What support is required?
  • How is this delivered?
  • Who does it?



Questionnaires can be developed and used to assess the relevant needs, priorities and elicit the view of community or and businesses. For example what are the views, agendas or priorities of the community? Who are the marginalised groups in the community?

Follow up with a community meeting. The listening process is ongoing and can be followed up with community meetings in order to get an overview of the community needs and agendas.  These can then be further refined and given focus and direction.

Meet people where they are. Follow up the questionnaires with ongoing  conversations and dialoguse, both formally and informally (ie in the local shops, businesses and community groups)

It is key to understand the culture you are engaging with and residing in, in order to effectively grow a compassionate community.

In journeying with a community there are a number of pitfalls to be avoided. These include the temptation to believe you know what is best for the community.  This may be referred to as mindreading and is often the case with large organisations external to the community.  Interventions can often be imposed on a community, assuming that is what is needed.  Consequently there is no ownership from within the community and the intervention is often shallow  ie it has no roots  and can be alienating to the people it seeks to serve.

By growing a compassionate Community from within it allows the community to both own and drive the process in meeting local needs. This is a central tenet of growing something new and unfamiliar. This ownership seems to provide a framework for sustainability and future growth. It creates sustainability whilst allowing the vision to evolve organically and naturally

©2024 Growing Compassionate Communities Registered Charity No: 1176047 Registered Address: Arrowsmith Court, 10 Station Approach, Broadstone, Dorset, BH18 8AX


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