Why Frameworks 4 Change?

Part of me had always felt uneasy in my work with people with learning disabilities – there was something difficult to pinpoint in the culture that was subtly oppressive. In all of my roles, I had always contributed to new thinking around values and culture.
I started Frameworks 4 Change in 2005 at a time of personal crisis and professional pressure. My wife and I had both been forced to give up our jobs as a result of a mental health crisis in the family.
I had been helping to lead an advocacy project in Brighton which had built upon my experience as a support worker and manager in the lives of people with Learning Disabilities. Spending part of my teenage years living in a care home for older people had given me a glimpse of how good and kind people can be when person-centred values are embodied.
Fast forward 13 years and Frameworks 4 Change recently sent out its 1000th invoice. The most useful work the organisation can do has revealed itself to me – the work I am proudest of creates real shifts in awareness and goes to the heart of developing a deeper understanding of what people need. I heard a story last week from one of the participants in a compassion circle training course which aims to give people the confidence and skills to introduce compassion circles into the places where they work. A new job had given this clinical projects leader at a hospice the impetus to introduce the idea of trying out a compassion circle and the senior leadership team had responded by saying why don’t we start with ourselves.
The compassion circle is designed to build psychological safety by enabling participants to have equal airtime to reflect on the ‘flow of compassion’. The circle methods include pairs giving each other undivided attention and the group taking part in thinking rounds. One of the pairs that came together in the circle had been dealing with a prolonged dispute, the trust had broken down some years before and working together had been a strain. After listening to each other without interrupting the facilitator encouraged the pairs to offer each other some heartfelt appreciation – this exercise was healing as it made space for both an acknowledgement of what had happened and a recognition of what these colleagues valued in each other – a relational issue that had been allowed to fester causing unhappiness and tension had shifted, the protagonists felt happier and the team could be more effective as a result.
It is hard being human. We have a tendency to judge ourselves and each other as we are threat-based creatures constantly scanning to see if we are valued and accepted ‘by the tribe’. In the early days at Frameworks 4 Change, we worked with organisations on culture change and we had some good results. However, as we have reflected on the human predicament we have come to the view that when compassion becomes central to an organisations way of being, understanding can grow and people discover themselves becoming kinder and loving, more tolerant, forgiving and patient.
Frameworks 4 Change invites and supports people to develop compassionate practice. Practice starts with self-work to enable people to become more conscious of their own needs and skilful in meeting them. Relational practice helps to create the conditions in which people can thrive and grow and group practice leads to increases in trust, confidence and co-operation.
Compassion is a powerful catalyst for change – even small changes in awareness that arise as compassion is embodied can be transformative. As we grow our compassion we become more alive to our own and each other’s struggles and we find the courage to move to action to help to alleviate the pain and suffering we may be experiencing. Compassion softens the boundaries and edges between us – it helps us to shift out of a fear-based way of relating to be more loving and kind.

What is Frameworks 4 Change?

Frameworks 4 Change is grounded in a paradigm of humanity, community and nature. Our observation is that public service cultures can become transactional and de-humanising as task and targets take precedence over the potential of kindness and compassion to transform our personal and collective experience.
3 Principles help to guide and inform our work:-
• Growth of Self Awareness
• Love of Community
• Harmony with Nature

Self-Compassion

Quiet Mind, Open heart lies at the centre of the compassionate work – a direct invitation is made into a more embodied and steady authentic compassionate presence. Our thoughts and emotions can be swept away at any time by real or imagined events – the invitation back to the centre-ground of our awareness begins with feeling our feet on the ground, connecting with an awareness of the breath entering and leaving our bodies, gently quieting our minds and opening our hearts. In this way, we return to the flow of compassion which is always available – as we like to remember, kindness is never more than a breath away.

Relational Practice

Our relationships are central to our expression of compassion. In compassionate relationships we begin by listening to understand; the invitation is to listen with a quiet mind and an open heart. We are invited to replace our judgements which can easily lead to contempt with heartfelt curiosity as we really seek to know what each other is living through – the hopes and joys, the grief and the sorrows. Coming to know each other more fully in this way makes our compassionate expression flow naturally as we make our appreciation of each other explicit.

Group Practice

In compassion circles, participants feel welcome and safe as the aim of the practice is to give participants a feeling of ‘being held and being heard’. The hierarchies that can mitigate against us connecting on the level of shared humanity are left at the door as we are encouraged to meet as equals and to celebrate our differences. Compassion circle facilitators follow a script which aims to give participants equality of airtime, space to contemplate and opportunities to commit to action.