On the 21st of Septemer the Youth Action Group of Melbourne City Mission put on our first event for the year; our Compassion Booth. The event was held at Flagstaff Gardens in Melbourne and had several components. Firstly, we had our ‘compassion wall’ in which people could write positive statements addressed to others in the community or ways to address inequality. We also had six different ‘compassion cards’ that focused on different inequality issues that matter to the young people of Melbourne. These topics included mental health, indigenous issues, race and culture, gender, LGBTQI +, and homelessness. Each card featured a compassionate statement relevant to the topic, some information on the topic and a small challenge for people to do that can help address the issue. We were giving these cards out to people on the street and visitors to the booth. The third and final component of the event was our videographer who was filming discussions with the people of Melbourne surrounding inequality and social justice. It is hoped that this footage can be used to feed into our second project, which may include a screening and/or social media campaign using the footage.
We decided to structure the event like this for a variety of reasons. We wanted to give people a variety of ways to engage with the topics according to their own comfort level. Whilst the video footage was the main focus of the event we really did want to just get people thinking and talking about these issues. I think we did a great job of creating a safe space where people could come sit down, grab some grub and have honest discussions with others about inequality. Whilst we got a lot of great footage for our next event I think that is the part I am most proud of; that we brought strangers together and started an open discourse about issues that matter to them. It was quite inspiring to watch and made me feel proud that we had achieved our goal.
You may be wondering why we chose to focus on compassion. When we were originally throwing ideas around for the event we discussed how many social justice campaigns often focus on the negative. These campaigns highlight where we as a society are failing. Often these sorts of promotion styles can be off putting to people and detrimental to the success of a campaign overall. We thought that we could take a positive concept like compassion and use it to highlight key issues, it would be a more appealing way to frame the topic. In practice this proved very successful as people were attracted to our open-minded, positive approach that asked the public for their opinion and solutions as opposed to telling them how they should behave. We were complimented on creating a safe space where people could be honest and express their views free from fear of judgement. And I think that was a really positive experience for everyone that visited the Compassion Booth.
I look forward to the next step in the process and where we can take this positive movement of compassion in the near future.