Team CoLearning CoPassion: We help students teach emotional skills to their younger peers

Team CoLearning CoPassion tackles the loneliness of young urban people using other young people as peer educators. The idea is to spread the skills of compassion (the ability to notice other people’s distress empathetically and react to it), co-passion (the ability to feel and co-live other people’s joy and enthusiasm) and self-compassion, says team leader Anne Birgitta Pessi.

“Statistics on the loneliness that young people experience are very worrying. So far there have not been many interventions, especially when it comes to students at universities and polytechnics. Our previous research on compassion and co-passion in the workplace shows that these skills greatly improve one’s psychosocial and physical wellbeing, as well as the functioning of the group or community.

Polytechnic and university students are very isolated. They have little social contact even if they live in cities with plenty of opportunities for social interaction. Seeing other people socialising around you can make your loneliness feel even more cruel. Cities are places of connection and interaction but also of severe, painful loneliness. This is an important topic as the world is becoming increasingly urbanized.

Our research will be done in Palo Alto, Edinburgh, Buenos Aires and Helsinki. We are building a co-learning module for emotional skills and helping students train their younger peers on it. The key contents will be compassion, co-passion and self-compassion. A digital platform may also be used, but only as a tool, as we want to bring people into face-to-face contact.

Our group consists of experts in the fields of theology, pedagogy, social sciences, brain research, co-learning and service design, and we work together with people from the business world and the public sector. We are passionate, full of love and idealistic.

Our previous compassion research project has generated a lot of interest and we are constantly asked to give talks in Finland, as well as abroad. At some point we would like to establish a CoPassion Center at the University of Helsinki and join Helsinki or other Finnish cities in the global Compassionate Cities Movement. Helsinki Challenge is a great opportunity, since we will get to discuss these ideas with our mentors as well as develop our solution.”

1. Why can your team make the world a better and more sustainable place?

The stars of the project will not be us, but the students who get to teach younger students and have their own mentors from workplaces. There is benevolence and good in all of us, it just sometimes needs a little push from science, business and us older people in order to flourish.”

2. If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be?

We would learn a lot from representatives of the praxis of compassion and co-passion, people who have worked hard and succeeded but who are even more dedicated to give back to help others.

3. What’s the best thing that has come out of science and research so far?

The questions of life and death that medical science works on, such as creating antibiotics are incredible achievements. However, I would also like to highlight the crucial nature of the central issues for humanists and theologians: what does it mean to be human, what is the core human nature? If we understand that people feel the deepest possible meaningfulness when connecting with others and promoting their well-being, it affects absolutely everything – in us, in them, and in our interaction.

Team members:

Anne Birgitta Pessi, team leader, professor, University of Helsinki

Henrietta Grönlund, team co-leader, university lecturer, University of Helsinki

Niina Junttila, university researcher, University of Turku

Mette Ranta, post-doctoral researcher, University of Jyväskylä

Anna Seppänen, doctoral candidate, University of Helsinki

Jenni Spännäri, post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki

Tii Syrjänen, project manager, University of Helsinki

Monica Worline, research scientist, Stanford University

Suvi Saarelainen, doctoral student, University of Helsinki