Today compassion is viewed as an important competence in working life, a necessary tool for people in a workplace to help deal with difficult situations and to make good, ethical choices.
The other side of the coin is compassion fatigue, the fatigue that can follow from feeling compassion very strongly and can lead to severe burnout unless the person in question is afforded the necessary psychological support.
At Arcada these and other related areas are being examined. In 2019 the pilot project Learning Compassion was financed by the Lindstedt Foundation. The interdisciplinary course will take place in 2020-2021 and it is being planned by Jan Nåls, Head Teacher in Film and Media at the Department of Culture and Media, Marina Arell-Sundberg, lector in Ergo-therapy at the Department of Health and Welfare, and Minna Stenius, responsible for education at the Master in International Business Management at the Department for Finance and Business Analysis. They envisage this course as being the start for further research in compassion at Arcada.
– We have clear indications that there’s a demand for subjects like empathy and compassion. In my subject, film and media, they are constantly relevant as we try to create audience empathy through stories and identifying with the characters, says Jan Nåls.
Compassion - intuitively feeling and being able to exist in the moment
– There’s a great need for compassion in many types of profession. It has to do with relating to others and with managing your own and other people’s feelings, says Minna Stenius.
The aim of the pilot project is dual. Firstly, the course aims to give Arcada students increased respect for other professions. According to the course plans students have more in common that they think, and the same goes for personnel. Secondly, the course seeks to give students important working-life skills.
– Students will have tools to help them make good, sound and ethical choices at work. To do this you have to understand compassion and empathy,” explains Marina Arell-Sundberg, “always keeping in mind sustainability; if we set out with a sense of common values it’s easier to work together, she adds.
The course participants will find that the interdisciplinary approach manifests itself in many ways. The course will offer opportunities to collect and share the knowledge already found at Arcada, such as previous research and case studies from Arcada’s respective departments. This of course involves strengthening various skills and sharing best practices through assignments and workshops.
– Within the professions taught at Arcada future students will daily come across issues relating to compassion. During the course, students will be able to adopt new attitudes and a different way of approaching their future professions. It has to do with shouldering a collective responsibility and openly communicating about these issues, says Nåls.
– The pace of societal change is accelerating, making the need for these skills imperative. On one hand there are more and greater possibilities, on the other hand increasing numbers of people feel threatened by a lack of security. Barriers that need not exist are created. There are, however, tools and mindsets that help us look beyond the barriers, Stenius explains.
Studies in compassion deal with overcoming these different barriers, whether they are ones of class, ethnicity, gender or some other. Compassion is a prerequisite for a functioning democracy – society just doesn’t work if we humans can’t understand one another’s points of view. The wellbeing aspect is also strongly present.
– We know that more and more people out there on the labour market don’t feel well. Through this type of course we can give students tools that will help them feel better. Compassionate people in working life are an asset, and if Arcada can provide an education in compassion then this in turn is an asset for Arcada, Arell-Sundberg concludes.