The Kindness Offensive secure 25 tons of food for asylum seekers in London (in picture: James Hunter, David Goodfellow and Bennie Crane)
The Kindness Offensive aims to have fun, be kind and inspire as many people as possible to do the same by performing both small and large-scale Random Acts of Kindness. Based in London, they grew out into a group with thousands of volunteers and dozens of corporate sponsors. Dressed in bright day-glow jackets and helmets adorned with smiley faces, they distributed over 39 tonnes of goods in just one day, provided a toy for every child unfortunate enough to be hospital in London; provided van-loads of food for every soup kitchen in London and hold tea parties for old-age pensioners.
In today’s interview, David Goodfellow (seriously, could he have a more perfect last name?) – co-founder of The Kindness Offensive – talks about his experiences and insights.
1. You started The Kindness Offensive by going out into the street with some friends one day and asking strangers what you could do for them. What advice do you have for others who also want to do good but never find the time or courage to make it happen?
I think we all tend to do what makes us happy (or at least what we think will makes us happy). If you’ve not made the time for Random Kindness it’s probably because you don’t really see it as something that might actually be a source of happiness for you. So I’d say have a little go at it and see how you feel. If you feel happier as a result have another little go and so on…
It’s like Huey Lewis sang about love, “You don’t need money, don’t take fame, Don’t need no credit card to ride this train…” You’re never too old or too young, you don’t need more time or any more experience than you already have and you’re never, never, never in the wrong place. Kindness is appropriate in all places, at all times by everyone, including you and me!
In short…. Find the time and be courageous!
2. What was your favourite mission so far? Why so?
Our favourite mission is always the one we’re working on; if it’s not then you’re at least in some part living in the past, which we feel in someway diminishes the present. So right now our favourite mission so far is… Wait a moment!!! We also have a policy of not talking about what we’re doing until it’s done. So to find out the answer to this you’ll have to wait a few months but by then we’ll on to something else LOL.
I can tell you what some of our favourite Kindness Offensive videos are though… Hope you enjoy some of them..
The Everyday Kindness Awards: Lost Tourist
The White Stuff Kindness Offensive Official Video
3. What was the most memorable reaction of a recipient to one of your kindness missions?
There have been so many and such a wide variety; how do you compare a parent weeping with joy as they watch a young child play with a new toy we just gave them; with the sheer look of outright astonishment on the face of a festival goer as we do something we called ‘Pimp My Tent’? One thing’s for sure we do elicit a lot of reactions and experiencing those reactions is a genuinely awesome thing to be part of!
4. What is the best way to deal with negative feedback from others, like the time you gave away free chocolates and it was considered to be a risk for the ‘safety and health of children’?
We’ve found that the best way to deal with negative feedback is to be as positive about it; whatever you do don’t let the bastards get you down, like Jagger sang “Hey you, get off of my cloud..”
Broadly speaking, we approach achieving this it in one of two ways. Either we look for the good in the negative and spin it into something positive, or we simply ignoring it. It’s worth remembering, just because somebody somewhere says something or does something negative does not mean it automatically has any validity or real power over you. If you can’t see the positive angel don’t let it command your attention at all.
The Everyday Kindness Awards
5. The Kindness Offensive is really good at making kindness fun, which is something I also love to do. Do you have tips for making kindness into a fun activity?
Make it personal, have a think about what you personally have fun doing and then have a think about how you could make it into something kind for others as well. Put the cherry on the cake for yourself. We like parties so we tend to turn the things we do into parties. For you it might be baking or rowing that makes you happy, so ask yourself “is there a way I could include some Kindness into what makes me happy already?”
6. Could you tell us more about your ‘Phone Whispering’ technique? You explain in your TEDx talk, how it cost you months of calling companies before you got good at it. Could you give some do’s and don’ts for people who want to help others as well by getting large companies on board?
One year we were Phone Whispering to save Christmas; you can watch all about it in this short video:
Kindness Miracle: Behind the scenes
When we were Phone Whispering for that project I ended up on a call with Simon Woodroffe (the founder of the Yo Sushi restaurant chain and a former Dragon on the BBC show Dragon’s Den), he said something that really stuck with me:
“You can do this, I really believe you can do this, just don’t give up before it’s over, most people fail because they give up before it’s over”.
I think that’s very good advice; it means firstly you’ve got to actually try and secondly you shouldn’t stop trying until you’ve done it.
If you look at our videos on YouTube you’ll see a yellow frame flashes up on most of them just before they end. That yellow frame is something we call a ‘Production Card’; it’s a little space that we use to say whatever we’re thinking about at the time. If you dig through the production cards you’ll find some more in depth detail and top tips about how we go about Phone Whispering.
The kinder bus
7. How do you see the future of the Kindness Offensive? What fun plans do you have and how would you love to see it develop?
From the first week back in 2008 we have always been astonished at the ‘legs’ our seemingly simple little idea has. Considering that even to this day we are still nothing more than a group of friends. The Kindness Offensive has no bank account, no official registration of any kind and almost none of the underlying bureaucracy that normally accompanies something that operates at our size and frequency.
It’s amazing, we’ve seen it skyrocket and so far we’ve not reached anything I’d describe as a plateau, the rocket engine is still firing seemingly with more fuel in it than ever! It continues to this very day to grow and expand. At present we have a fantastically talented core team, several buildings under our control, warehouses’ full of brand new stock and lots more besides.. Overall our plan remains the same as always, ‘Be Kind and Have Fun’ doing it.. So watch this space.
Global day of joy
If you haven’t done it by now, be sure to hop on over to The Kindness Offensive website and check out more of their amazing projects. If you’re in the London area, you might want to get involved. I think it’s amazing what a group of people can do when they set their mind to it. Which brings me to the next point: how do you (want to) change the world and make it better?
As you just read, you don’t need bureaucratic large organisations to accomplish big things. I hope you feel inspired by all the goodness, confetti and smiley faces. I sure do.
All images from the Kindness Offensive Flickr page, first picture by Will Wintercross