As the CEO of a civic tech company whose customers are cities and government agencies who are developing civic mobile apps, it's not unusual to get a phone call or email from a Mayor, City CIO or Administrator asking whether we can help develop some unique app that is needed.
But what is unusual is to get a text from a mayor's office asking if we can develop an app to help spread kindness. That is exactly what happened about a month ago.
The inspiration for the app and a new initiative to cultivate and track acts of kindness, was due to a text conversation between Albuquerque, New Mexico's Mayor Richard Berry and Anaheim, California's Mayor Tom Tait.
Mayor Berry says that kindness is a trait that everyone is capable of. "You are never too old or too young to implement it into your everyday life - and that is exactly what we hope to achieve by launching the ABQ Kindness campaign." He adds that Albuquerque is "... already a great city with great, kind people, but you can never show too much kindness to your neighbor."
The genesis of the growing movement happened back when then-City Councilor Tait had a conversation with Dr. Jalevsky, a grieving father who had launched a campaign about kindness after discovering a series of inspiring drawings and poems about kindness shortly after his daughter, Natasha's, death.
As part of Mayor Tait's strategy to address some of the more difficult societal issues he inherited when he took office, including homelessness, drug abuse, gang violence and human trafficking, he proclaimed 2013 as the Year of Kindness for the City of Anaheim
While Mayor Tait's challenge of logging One Million Random Acts of Kindness by the city's school children and led the formation of RAK, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation to support those efforts with free grade-level curriculum for Anaheim, other mayors are beginning to answer Mayor Tait's challenge as well.
Along with Mayor Berry of Albuquerque, as many as fifteen additional cities and organizations have launched similar initiatives within their own community, with the nonprofit City of Kindness spearheading and supporting the growing efforts to spread kindness.
Momentum for the kindness initiative was kicked into high gear during the 2016 US Conference of Mayors, when Entrepreneur and Billionaire Philanthropist Philip Anschutz was joined on stage by the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism and Lady Gaga, who along with being a musical icon also cofounded with her mother the Born This Way Foundation, to discuss how kindness was critical to addressing many of the societal issues facing today's cities.
Much of today's pop-culture reputation perception of the city of Albuquerque is, in large part, from globally popular television series like Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, whose story lines focus on the criminal element and are filmed in Albuquerque.
But the reality is that the city is also grappling with issues similar to those of Anaheim.
Mayor Berry's initiatives addressing homelessness, including Albuquerque Heading Home and There's a Better Way, have both gained national attention. And his efforts in working with the Justice Department to address chronic issues within the city's police department have resulted in both new training for officers dealing with citizens with mental health issues and a new state of the art Real Time Crime Center to increase transparency and effectiveness as well as better engage citizens.
What readers may not know is that beyond the headline-capturing difficulties that the city has faced, Albuquerque also has a reputation of being a friendly city, named the 9th Friendliest City by Travel and Leisure.
It is this part of the city's culture that the mayor is determined to nurture through his new initiative and through a new mobile application that will make it simple to record acts of kindness from school children, the community and a growing list of organizations and companies who have signed on to participate in the kindness challenge. And in the spirit of cultivating this culture of kindness for years to come, the initiative is now spearheaded by the mayor's own Youth Advisory Council.
Says Mayor Berry, "My hope is to make kindness a habit for people. By encouraging and recognizing people for being kind, we hope to dramatically change mindsets to become one of the kindest cities in the nation."
At the 84th U.S. Conference of Mayors, leaders across the nation signed a resolution to achieve One hundred Billion Acts of Kindness. The mayor of Albuquerque sees this as an opportunity for community to come together to help reach the goal.
"But with this goal, we are going to need to deploy technology so we can track acts in a meaningful way. We are investing in this app to help lower the cost for other cities to deploy technology to track their acts of kindness in their community as well as provide an engaging system to keep people reporting."