April 27, 2015 Compassionate Austin Meet-up

Summary of the April 27, 2015 Compassionate Austin Meet-up 

Monday, April 27th, 6:30-8:30 pm at the Terrazas Branch- Austin Pubic (Address: 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX, 78702; Phone: 512-974-3625). 

Prep for the 4/27/15 Meeting (sent out with the meeting announcement/invitation):
1) Think about ways that the Austin community supports caring for others, self, and the Earth. Come up with 2 Austin strengths and 2 Austin challenges that you would like to share with the group (1-2 min per person :))

2) Think of 1 story of compassion that has special meaning for you that you would be willing to share with the group! (1-2 min per person :)) You can share a simple moment, an event, a book, a film… anything that has generated compassion (caring for others, self, and the Earth) in your life.

Announcement information sent out prior to the meeting:

Earth Week Info:  Compassionate Austin is participating in the Compassion Games for Earth Day and Week (April 18-26).  WE NEED YOU! Important: See the 3 posts on the Compassionate Austin Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/compassionateaustin) with our activities/challenges and please join in.  Let’s show compassion for the Earth!  Here’s the link with info about the Games: http://compassiongames.org/love-this-place-serve-the-earth-week/.

1) Austin Voices of Compassion- Sharing our compassion insights and stories (We may start audio-recording these to collect a library of our “voices”. Such recordings will be completely optional for each person.)
2) Compassionate Austin website update!
3) Important upcoming event Saturday May 16th 1-3 pm at Cunningham Elementary School in Austin- Compassionate Austin Tree Sculpture- Festival- Honoring Students, and More! Mark your calendars!
4) Earth Week- Compassion Games – April 18-26- partnerships- results
5) Updates/discussion of ongoing projects: The “Compassionate Community” Assessment of Austin- UT School of Public Health student service projects; The Cunningham Elementary School’s Ashoka Innovation Grant to support Compassionate Austin; The 1 Billion Acts of Peace Campaign and Peace Day Austin; etc.
6) Discussion of Compassionate Austin’s organizational structure- options- partnerships
7) Next Steps

Summary Notes (provided by Lesa):

We had 9 people in attendance.  Great discussion and sharing!

Lesa Walker welcomed everyone and introduced Scott Kaufmann.  Since Scott had to leave early, we began the meeting with the following agenda item:

Compassion Assessment of Austin- Reports from the UT School of Public Health Master’s Student Service Projects and Compassionate Austin’s Contribution to the Charter for Compassion’s Application for the Kansas University “Out-of-the-Box” Prize. 

Scott is a Master’s Degree student at the University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH).  He has been doing a Compassionate Austin Service Project as part of his UTSPH coursework this semester.  Scott provided an update of his project to the group.  Scott has reviewed online planning documents and information from Austin’s Office of Sustainability and “Imagine Austin” and has identified data to inform the Compassion Assessment of Austin.  He is generating a report of his findings [see the attachment to this email] and also entering his findings on the Trello project-planning/data-sharing platform.  [Compassionate Austin is trying out the Trello platform – https://trello.com/tour – as a place to gather, store, and collaborate on the Compassion Assessment of Austin.]  Austin’s Office of Sustainability and Imagine Austin provide key elements of the vision and direction of Austin.  Scott noted that he could not find much detailed data online.  However, Scott found excellent overview information on Austin needs, strengths, and challenges in the following key areas:  Community Advocacy and Outreach; Economy; Education; Environment; Governance; Housing; and, Transportation.  Scott expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to do the project and his desire to stay part of Compassionate Austin.  Everyone thanked him for his great work!

Lesa Walker updated the group that another UTSPH Master’s student, Amy Schneider, is doing a different service project- a survey of cancer survivors living in the Austin area to assess their needs and services.  She was unable to come to the meeting but will have a summary of her survey and data analysis completed soon [see the attachment to this email].  She will also enter her project summary data onto the Trello platform.

Scott and Lesa both made videos discussing the Compassion Assessment of Austin projects and process.  These videos contributed to the Charter for Compassion International’s application for the Kansas University “Out-of-the-Box” Prize for innovative community assessment.

Austin Voices of Compassion:  

Each of us shared our thoughts on Austin’s strengths and challenges in caring for others, self, and the Earth.  We also shared a personal story of compassion.  Some themes emerged from the sharing.

Austin Strengths:  tolerance;  diversity;  co-mingling of ideas; open thinking; “smart” city- many people with higher education; many non-profits; visionary goals of city agencies, e.g. zero waste and renewable energy; more inclusive than other cities; many programs to help people, e.g. “+1” program to help people with utility bills; accepting, friendly, open-arms, liberal.

Austin Challenges:  we live in a “bubble”; rapid growth- how do we absorb the growth with compassion; Austin is ranked as one of the most segregated cities; dismissal of people in institutions; income inequality; environmental degradation; large homeless population.

Our stories of compassion were heartfelt and moving.  [Thank you everyone for sharing!]

We welcomed the Head Librarian at the Terrazas Branch Library:  He joined and participated in the meeting.  He shared that the library would be starting to work with the homeless community in an effort to lend support to the “The Challenger” street newspaper, written and produced by the homeless in Austin. [Here’s the link to the newspaper website: http://www.challengernewspaper.org/.   Here’s a November, 2014 article about “The Challenger” in the “Daily Texan”: http://www.dailytexanonline.com/2014/11/19/when-giving-thanks-also-give-two-dollars-to-the-challenge.]

 Book recommendation: “Compassionate Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg-


Event Announcement- Cunningham Elementary School (and Compassionate Austin website info): 

Lesa Walker shared a flyer about the upcoming event at Cunningham Elementary School on May 16th from 1-3 pm.  Cunningham Elementary students have been involved in obtaining a “Compassionate Austin” tree sculpture for their school grounds.  They have learned about compassion in the process.  On May 16th the sculpture will be unveiled and students celebrated.  There will be art activities in which students create bird nesting pods and seed balls to place on the tree. Cunningham plans to pass the “Compassion Torch” to Casis Elementary with the hope of engaging students there. This event is the culmination of Cunningham Elementary’s Ashoka Innovation grant to support Compassionate Austin. [Thanks so much to Cunningham Elementary students and special thanks to Rylee Frazier, the art specialist at Cunningham.]

Cunningham Elementary is also setting up the Compassionate Austin website.  Lesa Walker is supplying the initial website narrative and photo content.  The website will be launched soon.  Stay tuned!  [Thanks to Matt Benoit at Cunningham for his work on the website.]


Lesa Walker provided the following updates.

  • Compassion Games- Earth Week: Compassionate Austin is registered as a team in the Games. We are reporting on activities and events in Austin showing compassion for the Earth from April 18- April 26.  We’re putting Austin on the global Compassion Map!  Thanks to those of you who contributed to the “Love This Place” Story Mapping Challenge (http://compassiongames.org/compassion-games/crowdsourcing-compassion-for-mother-earth/) as part of the Games!
  • April 29th– Lesa will be meeting with leaders of Compassionate Dallas/Fort Worth and the Interim Director of the Charter for Compassion International in Fort Worth to discuss areas for potential collaboration.
  • April 29th– Lesa will be meeting with leadership of Ashoka Youth Venture, the Charter for Compassion, and the Thresholds Collaborative in Fort Worth to discuss a compassion education model proposal and potential pilot in Austin.
  • Compassionate Austin is joining with Austin peace organizations to plan for International Day of Peace events on and around 9/21/15. Planning meetings are underway. 

Discussion of Compassionate Austin’s Organizational Structure- Options- Partnerships: 

Ted Ziehe has explored several wonderful organizations and events that open opportunities for partnerships with Compassionate Austin.  He presented his findings and encouraged people to learn more. He will be following up with the Community Advancement Network (see below) and others.

  • Greenlights (http://www.greenlights.org/) – provides supports for non-profits. We have over 6000 non-profits in Austin.
  • 6/3/15 (5:00-8:00 pm) is Greenlights “AustinNext” forum- How can social innovation close Austin’s growing divide?- Join nonprofit leaders, mission-driven businesses, engaged citizens and government officials for a discussion on how to address Austin’s pressing social issues through fresh, innovative approaches.  Austin Mayor Steve Adler will give the keynote address.

 Register here:  http://greenlights.org/austinnext

  • Giving City Austin: http://www.givingcityaustin.com/about/history/.
  • Austin-Travis County Integrative Care- Community Advancement Network (CAN)- Interim Executive Director is Mary Dodd (http://canatx.org/). He had a brief conversation with Mary Dodd and will try to arrange a meeting. CAN is a partnership of governmental, non-profit, private and faith-based organizations which leverage mutual resources to collectively improve social, health, educational and economic opportunities in our community. CAN has an extensive list of partners and develops an annual assessment of Austin.  The CAN Dashboard is full of detailed date to inform the Compassion Assessment of Austin.  We need to find out how we can interface with this group. Perhaps we can do a presentation at one of the CAN Board meetings.
  • Leadership Austin. Leadership Austin prepares community leaders with the skills to lead, an understanding of the issues, and a strong network with which to connect and serve Greater Austin. Check out the website and upcoming events:  http://leadershipaustin.org/.
  • Philanthropitch Austin (http://philanthropitch.org/): Philanthropitch is a fast pitch forum for Austin’s most promising nonprofit organizations looking for access to human and financial capital.

Core Steering Group:

The door is open for anyone who is interested and willing to commit some time and energy to Compassionate Austin as part of core steering group.  We welcomed people to contact compassionateaustin@gmail.com.


Lesa Walker will not be able to attend the May 18, 2015 Compassionate Austin meeting.  Jessie Metcalf agreed to host the meeting in her absence.

The “4th Annual Peace & Conflict Studies Spring Symposium: The Right to Peace: Growing Up with Conflict” is May 1st at the ACC Eastview Campus from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.   Lesa provided a handout with registration and agenda information.

Next Steps:

Lesa asked people to help define Compassionate Austin’s unique contribution to Austin.

Ideas offered:

Compassionate Austin doesn’t have a product, we promote an attitude.

We help people see the world through the lens of compassion.

We affirm the compassion we see in Austin.