Building a Movement: The Story of Seeds of Compassion and the Compassionate Action Network

For one week in April 2008, Seattle hosted an unprecedented event—The Seeds of Compassion. “Seeds” was an historic series of public gatherings, discussions, and workshops that galvanized individuals, networks, and organizations around the world.

Over 154,000 people participated in the 5-day event.  More than 7 million viewed the event online.

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Seeds of Compassion event in Seattle.

Anchored by the deep wisdom of the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and other luminaries, this community-focused event celebrated and explored the relationships, programs, and tools that nurture and empower children, families, and communities to be compassionate members of society. Each of the five days provided those present an opportunity to better understand the real benefits of compassion and concrete steps on how to bring compassion into their lives. 

In addition, community and spiritual leaders, educators and writers, researchers and thinkers all gathered to share their wisdom, ideas, and questions with tens of thousands of others. Parents, children, youth, teachers, activists, politicians, and philanthropists were prompted to consider how we can help Seeds of Compassion resonate for many years after April 2008.

One of the outcomes of that process was Compassionate Action Network International, envisioned as an organizing hub for a global compassion movement. With the Seeds of Compassion providing a foundation and with a strong passion and commitment to give form to the desire for compassionate action, Compassionate Action Network began in April of 2009 building a worldwide organization to help foster a culture of compassion.

On February 28, 2008 acclaimed scholar and bestselling author Karen Armstrong received the TED Prize and made a wish—to help create, launch, and propagate a Charter for Compassion. After much work and the contribution of thousands of people. the Charter was unveiled to the world on November 12, 2009. In the spring of 2010, the Compassionate Action Network succeeded in having the City of Seattle sign the Charter for Compassion, and then initiated a "Compassionate Cities" campaign to spread the movement to cities everywhere.

Over the next three years, the  Compassionate Action Network launched several significant organizations or initiatives, including Compassionate Seattle (the first Compassionate City campaign), the International Compassionate Cities Campaign, and the Compassion Games (a year-round "co-opetition" of communities and organizations to manifest compassion).