Kindness is not a new concept within our organisation, and in recent years we have been exploring how kindness, and taking a more human approach, can help our work.
We are an ombuds organisation. At the heart of what we do is the recognition that sometimes things go wrong and, when they do, students need an independent organisation to consider their complaint fairly. But how people experience our process, how they feel about it, and whether they trust it, are also important, and kindness plays a part in this.
Inspired by the work of Carnegie UK and their Kindness Leadership Network, we have been reflecting on how we can make our processes kinder for those who use and interact with our service and embed kindness in all aspects of our work and our organisation. In 2022 we adopted a Commitment to Kindness, closely based on the Commitment developed by the Kindness Leadership Network.
It identifies six key practices and behaviours to help us embed and sustain kindness in everything we do.
Our Kindness commitment
We will create time and space to listen.
We will build a shared understanding of what kindness means.
We will enable people to put kindness at the centre of everyday practice.
We will work together to build kinder systems and processes.
We will share challenges and celebrate successes.
We will assess the difference we are making.
What does kindness mean for us in practice?
We use our case-handling processes flexibly, adapting them where we can to be responsive to the individual student and the circumstances of the case. We give students the opportunity to talk to us, so that we can listen to their concerns and try to understand their experiences, and help them to feel that their voices are heard in our process. We know that human connection is important to wellbeing, and we try to communicate clearly and empathetically. More widely, we try to keep kindness in mind in all our interactions, with our colleagues and with people we come into contact with in all aspects of our work.
Being kind doesn’t always mean giving someone everything they are asking for. It’s important to consider what is reasonable as well as what the person wants. Being kind means listening to people but not necessarily agreeing with them, setting appropriate boundaries, and trying to make sure people have realistic expectations. It also means finding a balance so that being kind to one person doesn’t inadvertently mean being unkind to others, whether that is other students who have complained to us, people in providers or our own colleagues.
We think a kinder approach can help to build trust in our service and our decisions, and can bring benefits to all involved.