International Global Citizen's Award

encouraging young people to become better global citizens

Working with Others: Personal Community engagement or “service” - the importance of empathy, kindness and compassion.

Working with Others: Personal Community engagement or “service”


Since its inception the IGCA has included “Personal Community Engagement” or “service”.


It seems self-evident that global citizens should play a positive part in their community.


The IGCA was conceived to complement existing curricula in schools, particularly international schools, and “community service” or “service” was already well established in such schools, forming an essential and required aspect of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in CAS (Creativity, Action, Service), and the IB Middle Years Programme. Incorporating community engagement or “service” within the IGCA places it in a broader context, which includes personal lifestyle choices, using our money thoughtfully, and reflection on experience.


Looking again at the section on Personal Community Engagement or “service” in the IGCA Guide  I realised that we never actually defined what it is!


I would be very interested to hear how other people might define or explain it, but my own thoughts are that Positive Community Engagement or “service” could be defined as:


Doing something kind or helpful to benefit others or the environment.


This is a broad definition that would include relatively small actions that benefit others, the community or the environment, not just more extended or larger actions.


If we are nurturing global citizens within the IGCA, we should be trying to develop appropriate ways of thinking and habits that will continue after their engagement in the programme. We should be hoping that wishing to be involved in benefitting the community or the environment becomes firmly established in our developing global citizens.


So how can we work with participants to make it more likely that they will continue to undertake positive community engagement after our work with them at school finishes?


Of course we hope that students undertaking service will get satisfaction from their engagement, and that finding such engagement rewarding will be motivating in itself. We hope that they will wish to continue community engagement because they enjoy it and find it fulfilling and rewarding.

This can be thought of as the “pull” motivation for positive community engagement – we are encouraged or motivated to undertake it because it makes us feel good.


But there can also be “push” motivation, when students are moved and motivated to take action because they feel compassion or empathy for people, or concern for an aspect of the environment.

If we are to work on this aspect of motivation then we should be working with students to develop their kindness and empathy. On my definition above, small acts of kindness are examples of “service” or positive community engagement.


The rest of this piece looks at aspects of kindness and empathy, including practical suggestions of how we can encourage these attributes.


While empathy is important as a motivation for community engagement and service, it is also linked to Understanding Other Cultures and Outlooks within the IGCA.




“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eye for an instant?”

  Henry David Thoreau – American naturalist and philosopher (1817 – 1862)



What is empathy and why is it important?

Clear and straightforward answers from Greater Good in Education, University of California, Berkeley. 

What is empathy?

“Empathy is the quality of being in tune with the emotions of others.” Greater Good in Education, University of California, Berkeley.

Why is empathy important?



Practical actions

6 Steps to Cultivate Greater Empathy in Teaching

A useful, succinct blog from Grand Canyon University, USA


How to Build Empathy and Strengthen Your School Community

A short, clear, practical article from the Making Caring Common Project from Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Empathy Week 2024



26 February – 1 March 2024

For those wishing to take things further, Empathy Week offers a free festival of webinars, films, resources and events that explore the theme of 'Home' and develop the skill of empathy in students aged 5-18 years old.

Watch a short video about Empathy Week 2024




Kindness and Compassion



What is kindness?

Being generous, helpful, or thinking of other’s feelings.


Why is it important?

Kindness is one of the most powerful ways to improve the lives of others, and also our own lives. Kindness is infectious, as treating someone kindly makes them more likely to treat others kindly. One kind act can therefore start a kindness chain, reaching many people. Anyone can start a kindness chain, and science has shown that acting kindly makes you feel

good too


from Rebooting the Future’s Global Dimension website:



What are kindness and compassion and why are they important?

More clear and straightforward answers from Greater Good in Education, University of California, Berkeley. 

What are kindness and compassion?

Why are they important?]


Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Practical actions


“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” - Princess Diana



Kindness activity

The Global Dimension website’s theme for this month is kindness, and it has a useful practical article about how to encourage kindness through a classroom activity.



7 Random Acts of Kindness Kids Can Do at School

Simple ideas from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America



Ways to be kind to others at school


  1. Smile at people you pass in the hallway, in the store, or walking around
  2. Hold the door open for people
  3. Sit by someone who's eating alone at lunch
  4. Put your phone away and give someone your full attention
  5. Greet people in the hallways
  6. When you experience something good, share it with people (a book, social media post, YouTube video, article, etc…)
  7. Don’t gossip
  8. Talk to someone you don't usually talk to and try to get to know them
  9. Say please and thank you when you ask for things
  10. Compliment someone
  11. Help a classmate when they're confused
  12. Leave a nice comment on social media
  13. Ask new people to be in your group during class
  14. Ask someone how their day's going and genuinely listen to their response
  15. Make eye contact when you talk to people
  16. Forgive someone when they hurt your feelings (even if they don’t ask for forgiveness)
  17. Give someone positive feedback when they've done something well
  18. Apologize when you mess up
  19. Listen when someone needs to talk
  20. Say thank you a lot
  21. Share your things
  22. Post a positive quote or note on social media
  23. Give away things you don’t need any more
  24. Don’t judge people
  25. Put a sticky note with a positive message in the hallway above the drinking fountain or bathroom mirror
  26. Give people the benefit of the doubt
  27. Randomly text a nice message to your family and friends
  28. Stop talking and listen
  29. Be patient
  30. Let someone go ahead of you in line
  31. Thank the school cooks for making you lunch
  32. Leave a nice note on someone’s desk
  33. Talk to someone at school that you’ve never talked to before
  34. Tell someone why they are special to you
  35. Leave a “have a good day” note in a library book
  36. Be generous
  37. Be honest
  38. Give classmates your full attention when they talk
  39. Tell the truth
  40. Make someone laugh with a silly joke (or meme or YouTube video)
  41. Don’t complain
  42. Do the tasks that no one else wants to do
  43. Thank a member of the school support staff when they do something for you
  44. Ask a member of the school support staff how they are, and find out a bit more about them
  45. When you're arguing or disagreeing with someone, stop and actually listen to their point of view
  46. Don’t interrupt people


Edited and adapted from How to Be Kind

Project School Wellness



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