"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Emotional Philanthropy

The world is confronting multiple issues in a broad spectrum of disciplines. We are not only facing environmental challenges, poverty, ethical issues, hunger and war. Additionally, there is an international endeavor for knowledge and wisdom to better understand the world, the human beings and to discover the self through worldwide projects like the decoding of the human genome and the development of string theory to explain the universe. Initially, one could attempt to solve environmental problems using our knowledge in ecology and implementing ethical principles; one could try to stop crime with the help of psychology and political science; one could attempt to stop war by establishing dialogue and reach agreements. However, is there something we could use to help solve all the world’s problems? I would like to introduce a new concept to the world which in my opinion has the potential to vastly diminish the world problems: Emotional Philanthropy.

This concept was born as the result of a reflection around the following question: What can every human being do to help solve all the world problems? Thus, Emotional Philanthropy is just a behavior that is independent of race, geography, gender, culture and any other demographic denominator because as human beings, we can all have something in common. Emotional Philanthropy is based on the belief that we don’t need physical resources to change the world because we can achieve a better effect by stimulating the well-being of the mind. Therefore, the vision is to use the power of the mind to solve the world’s most challenging problems. Similarly, my mission is to create awareness of the importance of mental health in every corner of the world and demonstrate how to leverage emotions to make the world a better place.

Because of my backgrounds as a future scientist and my interests in psychology, I have found this initiative extremely interesting and promising because it is not based on advanced or complicated psychological principles or socioeconomic theories. Instead, it is based on very basic principles that are simple, applicable and achievable but which in retrospective, are extremely powerful.

The basics

Emotional Philanthropy is a boundless list of attitudes and routines that result in a positive experience for the mind and the external world. Some of the basic principles include:
1Fear war, not death.
2Don’t drink a glass of water without thinking how precious it is.
3Smile to strangers.
4Be grateful when you say ‘thanks’.
5Give a present for no reason.
6Offer help.
7Imagine what the person next to you is feeling.
8Externalize your feelings.
9Think of something pleasant before going to sleep.

These principles can be categorized into three vital groups:

Donations that harmonize the relationship mind-world (1-2)
Donations that harmonize the relationship mind-other (3-7)
Donations that harmonize the relationship mind-self (8-10)

As mentioned earlier, these are mere habits that are applicable to all human beings and can thus construct a common psychological ground between cultures, religions and demographic groups. Emotional Philanthropy can also be seen as the intersection between Positive Psychology and the Butterfly Effect because on one hand, it seeks a positive thinking and feeling instead of attempting to solve a specific problem, and on the other hand, it relies on the fact that small and apparently insignificant actions such as a smile can vastly change the world.

The world as a network of solidarity

My visualization of a world in which Emotional Philanthropy is present in everyday lives of all individuals looks like a network of solidary relationships; one in which everyone is aware that we share the world, that we all have feelings and that we are all able to coexist by highlighting our positive experiences with each other. I foresee a world in which the people recognize that the most rewarding good is a positive emotion, not a physical object like money. I believe that the well-being of the mind combined with the appreciation for the other, creates a strong platform from which ethical, social and political problems can be addressed because our ability to solve the world problems needs an attitude component to complement our skills and knowledge.

When we think of charitable donations and philanthropic organizations, we always think of physical objects or resources being donated as a mean to help others. Although these donations are very valuable, they are not very accessible and easy to produce thus participation is very low. However, we can make the world a better place by providing daily emotional donations that help nurture not only the mind of the donor but also his/her relationship with the recipient. These apparently insignificant donations are extremely helpful in building the network of solidarity that the world is desperate for and as the Butterfly Effect suggests, a smile in Europe might save a life in Africa.

Goals and Strategy

After introducing a new paradigm in philanthropy, I intend to develop a strategy that serves well the idea of creating a positive change in humanity. My initiative has short and long term goals with a corresponding plan of action depending on the maturity stage of the initiative.

On the short term, I intend to create awareness about the importance of positive emotions and how they enable the well-being of the mind which in turn, ameliorates the relationship with the world and facilitates an understanding for the other. For this stage I would like to promote the term Emotional Philanthropy and encourage people to try some of the basic principles at least for a day. It could be as simple as starting with my own network of acquaintances and challenge them to start donating emotions to the world. I am certain it will be a very rewarding experience for any individual. This can also help me collect contributions from my colleagues who can in fact help to broaden the list of principles or rules that make this new paradigm. I don’t plan to change everybody’s mentalities at this point but instead, I would like to encourage experimentation and promote a simple routine.

Subsequently, I would like to found a non-profit organization whose ambitious vision is to change the human behaviour by making everyone an emotional donor. Everyone in the organization should be committed to the promotion of Emotional Philanthropy principles and analyzing the trends and effects that start to become visible. Because the principles of becoming such a donor are so simple, yet so powerful, they are very likely to be welcomed by the community. The advantage of having an organization serving this vision is that Emotional Philantropy can become more visible and target as many people as possible. For instance, the organization could get involved in the community by sponsoring events or even creating events. Moreover, the involvement in the community is a great opportunity to start creating a micro-network of solidarity and “recruit” emotional donors. Because there is such a little effort required to adhere to the principles of Emotional Philanthropy, our business plan should focus on highlighting the positive outcomes of people’s experience when donating emotions and listening to testimonies in order to keep the concept alive by expanding on new communities. I expect to have a fair amount of people who are ready to accept and adopt the routines and behaviour we propose and these people could play an essential role in helping the concept spread further.

On the long term, I can foresee multiple emotional donors who start to create visible changes in the world. The ultimate goal of my initiative is to harmonize the relationship that every person has with the world by using the power of psychology. I intend to create as many emotional donors as possible until a tipping point is reached, in which the advantages of such behaviour become so evident that it will automatically spread to millions of individuals. By donating emotions to yourself or to others, you can learn to love yourself and care for the others. Similarly, by receiving emotional donations from others, you will better sympathize with the world improving that sense of belongingness to the world. When a person has a peaceful and strong relationship with the world, then the person will also have a healthier perception of the self because he/she will become more aware that we are and we transform our world. My model suggests that a person who has a harmonic relationship with the world, the ‘other’ and the self becomes aware that we share a common world and that our actions may affect the well-being of everybody else. Therefore, this person is more likely to comply with social responsibility, incorporate ethical behaviour on everyday life and commit to improve humanity thus playing a crucial role in making the world a better place. I am certain that when millions of individuals comply with these basic principles of Emotional Philanthropy, then we will live in a world in which we feel affection for the world, the other and ourselves. When there is affection, there will be no room for disrespect, selfishness and indifference, which are the main sources of today’s most alarming world problems.

I have taken advantage of today’s technological infrastructures to provide a starting platform for my initiative. Thus, I have used the tools of Web 2.0 to create a group on Facebook named “Emotional Philanthropy” where I provide basic information about my vision and my goals. I have invited all my friends to join the group and expect to have over 100 members by the end of the month. I am encouraging participation and have opened discussion boards to receive comments and discuss the experiences we have as emotional donors. I believe this is a great starting point and it could become my initial network of volunteers to promote the initiative. Additionally, it could serve as a mean to shape the concept of Emotional Philanthropy by receiving feedback, suggestions and collaboratively share the authorship of this new paradigm and give it its deserved meaning.

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