UCLA receives $20 million donation to study kindness
© UCLA

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), on Wednesday announced that philanthropists had donated $20 million to establish an institute studying kindness.

The gift from Jennifer and Matthew C. Harris will establish the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute to support research and real-world practices to “empower citizens and inspire leaders to build more humane societies,” the university said in a statement.

Research will focus on actions, thoughts, feelings and social institutions associated with kindness.

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It will also provide “mindfulness awareness” training for UCLA students and staff, as well as underserved communities in Los Angeles through online programs, public lectures and a free meditation app already available called UCLA Mindful, according to The Los Angeles Times. 

Matthew Harris, a 1984 UCLA graduate, is co-founder of The Bedari Foundation, a private family foundation with a vision “that humanity can cultivate the deeper sense of consciousness and awareness required to change underlying attitudes, beliefs and responsibilities about ourselves, our communities and our planet,” according to its website.

It strives to “instill mindfulness” to help solve health and wellness issues such as addiction, depression, trauma, displacement issues for refugees and displaced people as well as environmental issues like global warming and over-consumption.

Harris said in a statement that research is needed to “understand why kindness can be so scarce in the modern world.”

The leader of a global energy industry investment firm, Harris told The Los Angeles Times that he worked through his own struggles of trauma and addiction for eventual self-acceptance.

He said he felt a compulsion to make a difference and spread kindness because of the partisan politics, environmental challenges and violence the world currently faces.

“My end goal is to have a broad platform to promote empathy and help people think about kindness,” Harris told the newspaper. “It is, in terms of the perpetuation of our species and the ability to live with each other and nature, critically important.”

The institute, housed in the university’s division of social sciences, will begin operating immediately.

“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.”