A private foundation has awarded the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) $20 million dollars to study kindness, working toward a potential “antidote” to a world living in “violence and strife.”
The Bedari Foundation is a self-described private family foundation dedicated to enabling “significant cultural shifts in the fields of health and wellness, community displacement, and environmental conservation.” The money will be used to establish the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute effective immediately.
“Universities should always be places where we teach students to reach across lines of difference and treat one another with empathy and respect – even when we deeply disagree,” said university Chancellor Gene Block. “The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute will bring the best thinking to this vital issue and, I think, will allow us to have a real social impact on future generations.”
The foundation will be housed in the division of social sciences and will support a variety of research on kindness and how to translate that into real-world practices and educational opportunities to the public, according to an announcement made by UCLA. The institute will employ many scientific disciplines from both within the university and externally to study kindness, incorporating evolutionary, biological, psychological, economic, cultural, and sociological perspectives
“Our vision is that we will all live in a world where humanity discovers and practices the kindness that exists in all of us,” said Bedari co-founder and UCLA graduate Matthew Harris. “Much research is needed to understand why kindness can be so scarce in the modern world. As we seek at Bedari to bridge the divide between science and spirituality, through the establishment of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute we hope to educate and empower more and more people in the practice of kindness.”
According to UCLA, ongoing studies at the university involve examining how kindness spreads from person to person and group to group, how to encourage kind behavior, and how kindness may reduce symptoms of depression. Mindfulness has also been a component of current studies in understanding how it changes the neurobiology of the brain and leads people to act kindly. Among the researchers is Daniel Fessler, a UCLA anthropology professor, who will lead the institute as its director. Fessler studies how kindness can foster a positive emotional experience that drives an observer to also act kindly.
“In the midst of current world politics, violence and strife, the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute seeks to be an antidote,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of the UCLA division of social sciences. “Rooted in serious academic work, the institute will partner and share its research on kindness broadly in accessible formats. The Bedari Foundation’s extraordinary gift is truly visionary and we are grateful for its support and leadership.”
Additionally, the Bedari Kindness Institute will seed funding for research projects surrounding the issues of kindness and will provide mindfulness training to students and professors as well as Los Angeles communities.