Behind the Scenes of C4C

Pamela Kilborn-Miller is the social media team lead for Connecting for Change. She applies lessons learned from the United Nations to create information and communication strategies to accelerate positive change. This is her story of an "unexpected success".

“No matter what other change strategies we have learned or favored,
emergence is the only way change really happens on this planet.”
- Margaret Wheatley, Connecting for Change Facilitator

At the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit, the Connecting for Change event welcomed 100 global business leaders and social innovators. The following behind-the-scenes story illustrates how a powerful process called “emergence” contributed to an unexpected success story.

Connecting for Change Facilitator Margaret Wheatley once wrote: “In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, pre-conceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a more global or comprehensive level."

After the Summit, a global campaign unexpectedly emerged to support Karen Armstrong’s vision for a Charter for Compassion. This is a story of how it grew into something quite special.

Fertile Region
Vancouver and Seattle held major events with the Dalai Lama within one year of each other, so the event organizers and participants shared a common interest in compassion:

  • In 2008, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and other luminaries visited Seattle for a citywide event called Seeds of Compassion. The goal was to nurture kindness and compassion in children and all those who touch their lives.
  • In 2009, the Vancouver Peace Summit featured dialogues with the Dalai Lama, three Nobel Laureates, and thought leaders such as Karen Armstrong. The dialogues focused on peace, education and women, and peace-building.

Serendipitous Connection
At a remote mountain retreat in Washington State, I first met Connecting for Change Program Manager Charles Holmes by accident a few months before the Summit. After hearing about the event, I offered to share lessons learned from the earlier Seeds of Compassion event in Seattle. A few weeks later, Charles asked me to join his social media team.
At the Summit, Karen Armstrong inspired a global audience while describing the Charter for Compassion that was scheduled to launch several months later. The Charter calls on men and women around the world to restore the golden rule to the center of religion and morality. The golden rule reminds us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

After the Summit, Dalai Lama Center Managing Director Rennie Keates accepted an invitation from the Seattle team to attend an open space event with the following convening question: "How shall we inspire and support compassionate action in ourselves, our communities, and our world?" Thanks to the Dalai Lama Center’s support and convening power, there was an excellent turnout. New friendships and a commitment to work together were sealed over dinner.

After the Seattle and Vancouver teams helped launch the Charter for Compassion in November 2009, they pondered how to accelerate its adoption? This led to creating a global campaign with three simple steps:

  • Ask your Mayor to affirm the Charter for Compassion and proclaim your community a Compassionate City.
  • Meet with community members to define what it means to be a Compassionate City and how your city will work toward its vision.
  • Share news, events, ideas, and resources with other cities on the Compassionate Action Network. To join, please visit

In April 2010, Seattle became the first city in the world to affirm the Charter for Compassion after Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council members signed a proclamation that declared their support for the campaign. Vancouver is currently developing on its own campaign and my understanding is that Canada might become the first nation in the world to affirm the Charter! I love the idea of unleashing our competitive instincts in service of the common good.

The global campaign began only six months ago and momentum is growing. In the past year, people from 150 nations and territories visited the Compassionate Action Network (CAN) and new members are joining every day. 35 cities have joined the Campaign for Compassionate Cities or have expressed an interest in doing so. This is just the beginning…

I’m grateful to the Dalai Lama Center for its role as a catalyst in the creation of a regional movement that sparked the global Campaign for Compassionate Cities. Although the campaign isn’t formally affiliated with Connecting for Change, this story reveals the program’s behind-the-scenes magic at work. Namaste.