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Inspiring Best Practice 10 January Jan 2020 0725 10 January 2020

For a more civilized society, a network of kindness councilors

There are 75 so far, but their numbers are growing. The idea of the “Cor et Amor” association to foster the sense of community and give a good example for everyone, starting from the little ones

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In the era of anonymous haters, of growing political extremism and subtle but widespread racism,, people have decided to oppose swim against the current and say “no, I’m not having this”. It’s May 26, 2019 and the association “Cor et Amor”, active in the Canavese area, in Piedmont, Italy, during the administrative elections in the surrounding municipalities, understands that a specific cultural change is needed. . And this change must start from the institutions. So they decide to make a proposal to mayors in the provinces around Turin, Italy: to launch a “Kindness authority” in their town councils. That’s right, that thing that seems to be lost forever, if you read the news. The job of councilors in the vision of the association is to concretely promote activities in their cities that can help citizens to pay more attention to their behavior, and to give each other good examples.. Starting from the education of new generations, which will be the ones that will make a difference in the future.

“We aimed to surround children with kindness, trying to involve the school environment but also local communities. Who better than a councilor can incarnate this mission?” Luca Nardi, president of the association “Cor et Amor”. The organization, whose motto means “abracadabra, those who play and are kind win”, has, for many years now, launched the Kindness Games, a day devoted to promoting good manners and a selfless culture, ranging from individual behaviors toenvironmental protection, road safety and care for disabilities. Now, the idea of the authority aims to bring their effort to the next level, universally spreading the values that should be the backdrop to society as a whole, to guarantee the cooperation and the help of everyone.

There are two requirements to become a successful kindness councilor: first of all, the need to not restrict this role to pure symbolism, but on the contrary to concretely and constantly promote actions that can help the community. The second requirement is that the promoted activities, whatever their focus, must be at no cost, because “it’s entirely possible to create great things with little”, the president of the association explains. “Kindness brings together knowledge, selflessness, trust, sincerity, cooperation, generosity. This can be practical or more blue-sky, it can be implemented on a philosophical or more concrete level, therefore the proposals can have various nuances. Thanks to the authority we aim to reach a higher number of citizens.”

The mayors are always searching for new ways to involve citizens. Although they are also struggling from a lack of resources, this is a chance to attract people by compacting local communities

Luca Nardi, president of the “Cor et Amor” association

The first to take up the challenge was the administration of Rivarolo Canavese: their kindness councilor is Lara Schialvino, who is already the Public Works councilor. “Personally, throughout the Public Works job, I’ve always noticed that listening to people and trying to do everything we can to solve the problem, remembering to be empathetic, really helps. Among the first “kind” actions the councilor has adopted within her area of competence is the creation of parking spaces for pregnant women at the Post Office, at the Health Care centers and supermarkets. “Often women work and take care of the home, and this helps us” Schialvino explains. In the area of road safety, a new regulation requiring drivers to keep to a 1.5 meter distance from cyclists on the road has been introduced. While for the next year the intention of the municipality is to plant and donate a tree to each newborn. “At a certain point we had to cut down some trees because they had become a hazard, so we decided to replace them by grafting new trees into them. I would like that thanks to this initiative, growing up with the tree, children gain awareness of what the common good is”.

The association’s initiative has quickly spread to many other Italian towns, not only in the Canavese area. To date, there are 75 councilors that have launched a specific delegation and have entered the network. The best thing is that they come from all Italian political sides, from the PD to the Fratelli d’Italia. An element that reminds us of how we can all recognize the value of this.

The concept has spread easily thanks to word of mouth, and from Piedmont to Sicily the number of public administrations that have decided to embrace the initiative is constantly growing. “Who knows, perhaps we’ll be able to implement it even on a national scale”, the president of the association wonders. An important strength is the fact that the initiatives cost nothing. “The mayors tell us that they are constantly seeking new ways to involve citizens. Although they are also struggling from a lack of resources, this is a chance to attract people by compacting local communities and, when difficulties are encountered, making sure to help each other and find solutions together”, Nardi points out.

The objective must be pursued with determination, because we will forget the jokes, but the fruit of the endevour will remain

Lara Schialvino

Among the proposed initiatives so far, from North to South of the peninsula,the first “ kindness bench”, easily identified by its purple color has been installed in Quincinetto in the province of Turin, where you can sit and chat, tell stories and give advice to the person sitting next to you. In Lonate Pozzolo, in the Italian province of Varese, the new councilor for kindness launched the “Quaderni Sospesi (Suspended Notebooks)” initiative for donations to underprivileged children. And there’s more: in the Salerno province, four municipalities stipulated a specific agreement on sports and culture especially seen through the lens of kindness, creating collaboration among neighboring municipalities. The best thing is that there is potentially no limit to the creativity that can bring to life various different actions, often grassroots activities, starting from the citizens and that can be easily replicated elsewhere. The association, through its social channels, brings together all the initiatives, to help spread the good ideas and help municipalities take inspiration from each other’s activities. There is an archive that can be used as a resource in schools and whoever wants to propose an activity.

And in case people want to joke or not take this movement seriously “I keep saying that the objective needs to be pursued constantly, because we’ll forget the jokes, but the fruit of this endevour will remain “, Schialvino says. And this is the strength of the idea: “we promote cooperation and collaboration among citizens but also among councilors and municipalities, a chain reaction that is based on reciprocity. I believe that the strength of kindness is what unites us”, the councilor specifies.

The road is mapped and however ambitious the mission is, we can understand how easily it can spread. At the end of the day, even on a practical level, it’s the small things that make the difference. “Understanding people who are in hospitals and visiting them, for example. Small gestures are often the ones that make people feel happy. I can see that there is so much longing for happiness and serenity”, Nardi concludes. A small town association that has fully understood the spirit of our time: what if we could changed the world with kindness?

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