The Compassion Initiative aims to explore, understand, disseminate and inspire compassionate motivation and action, across the three flows of compassion (for others, receiving compassion from others, and offering compassion to oneself), within individuals, families and friendships, workplaces, organisations and communities, and throughout society and the world more broadly.
We aim to serve our Mission through three key pathways:
Training individuals in compassion, self-compassion and compassion-based interventions
Conducting research exploring the application and impact of compassion
Disseminating and teaching compassion knowledge and information through multi-media
Imagining, understanding and promoting a more compassionate world.
The Compassion Initiative envisions a coming of the “Age of Compassion”. In so many ways, the future of our species will rely on our ability to overcome the apparent barriers of gender, social status, religion, race and culture, and cultivate compassion as a basis for living and working together, creating cooperation throughout the world, and caring for one another, taking steps to relieve suffering where ever it may be found.
The Compassion Initiative’s vision may be lofty, but we will contribute to bringing this vision to reality through:
- Developing a greater and more comprehensive understanding of compassion through rigorous scientific enquiry, including the many important physical and psychological health benefits that the practice of compassion can have for oneself and for others, and
- Developing empirically validated, multi-level techniques and practices for cultivating compassion, and making those techniques and practices widely accessible and readily taken up by people and groups in a variety of contexts.
The Compassion Initiative was co-founded by Dr Stan Steindl and Dr James Kirby, both from The University of Queensland and both Clinical Psychologists.
In 2014, Dr Stan Steindl, a clinical psychologist in private practice at Psychology Consultants, Adjunct Associate Professor in the UQ School of Psychology, and UQ Alumni, made a donation to the University of Queensland for the establishment of the UQ Compassion Symposium. The inaugural UQ Compassion Symposium was delivered on the 5th and 6th of September 2014, attracting over 350 attendees.
The inaugural symposium keynote speaker was Professor James Doty, Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. CCARE is a centre for excellence in the science and practice of compassion, producing high quality research and publications on this topic. His address was very well-received, thought-provoking and inspiring, and important connections with him were established.
Dr James R. Doty is an Advisory Board Member for The Compassion Initiative, and we are honoured to have him as a founding member of The Compassion Initiative.
One of the key aims of the symposium was to motivate and inspire researchers, academics and students at UQ to be interested in and incorporate compassion into their work. This aim was successfully achieved and an informal Compassion Network was established. The UQ Compassion Symposium was held again in 2015 on September 16th and 17th, where over 350 attended, and Dr Dennis Tirch, Director of The Center for Mindfulness and Compassion Focused Therapy in New York, was the Keynote speaker.
The UQ Compassion Symposium is now a permanent annual symposium. Our keynote speakers over the years have included:
- Dr Emilianna Simon-Thomas, Science Director, Greater Good Science Centre, UC Berkeley
- Dr Roy Baumeister, School of Psychology, University of Queensland
- Dr Deborah Lee, Clinical Psychologist and Head of the Berkshire Traumatic Stress Service
- Dr Chris Germer, clinical psychologist and lecturer, Harvard Medical School
After a hiatus during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope to return in 2021!
In conjunction with the activities of Dr Steindl, Dr James Kirby, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at UQ School of Psychology, and also UQ Alumni, began to develop a strong research interest in the science and practice of compassion and self-compassion. Having a strong track record in research, focusing largely on helping families, he began to develop research protocols that incorporated practices related to compassion and self-compassion into his ongoing research.
Dr Kirby now has established research ties with many collaborators around the world, and has a long list of research papers and published chapters broadly on the topic of compassion. He has worked closely with Professor Paul Gilbert, Founder of Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), as well as Founder of the Compassionate Mind Foundation in the UK, and Professor Gilbert is also a Honorary Professor at UQ School of Psychology and an Advisory Board Member for the Compassion Initiative.
Dr Steindl and Dr Kirby have also collaborated on various projects related to compassion, ranging from research projects and writing, to presentations and podcasting.
From modest beginnings, greater momentum quickly grew. There is now increasing interest and commitment from other contributors, funding sources are being explored, and Dr Steindl and Dr Kirby have built upon their early efforts, bringing it all together here at The Compassion Initiative.
Dr Stan Steindl
Co-Founder, The Compassion Initiative
Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants Pty Ltd and
Adjunct Associate Professor, UQ School of Psychology
Dr James Kirby
Co-Founder, The Compassion Initiative
Senior Lecturer, UQ School of Psychology