The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute was established to provide an interdisciplinary platform dedicated to the research, education, and practice of kindness, with the goal of transforming the individual and society as informed by the understanding and practice of kindness.  The interdisciplinary research of the Institute is achieved through deep engagement across UCLA.

  • Research: Engage in interdisciplinary research on kindness rooted in academic work but delivered in formats and on timelines accessible to those within and outside of academia
  • Education: Leverage UCLA’s exceptional faculty and reach and provide a global platform to educate and communicate insights from the research across traditional and new media platforms and through public events
  • Practice: Translate research and insights into real-world applications working with and disseminating through strategic partnerships to achieve scale and impact with the goal of transforming individuals and society through the understanding and practice of kindness

The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute was established through a $20 million gift to UCLA College’s Social Sciences Division by The Bedari Foundation, created by philanthropists Jennifer and Matthew Harris ‘84. The Bedari Foundation’s mission is to catalyze change in environment, energy, health and wellness, and community systems.

The founding concept for the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute came from Sue Smalley, Ph.D. Professor Emerita and Founder of the Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) at UCLA.  Dr. Smalley received her Ph.D. in Anthropology (UCLA) and continued in the field of behavioral genetics in the department of Psychiatry until her retirement.  Her vision for the Institute is the investigation of kindness via science in complement with the delivery of practices and education to enrich kindness in our everyday lives.   With Matt Harris, this vision evolved to become the cornerstone of the Bedari Kindness Institute, with the excellence of research and real-world applications led by the world-class faculty making the breadth and depth of this vision a reality. Dr. Smalley serves as the inaugural chairperson of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute’s Executive Committee, playing a lead role in the formation of the Institute and bringing it to life.

Message from the Director

To maximize the scientific contributions made by the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute community of investigators, we exclusively support research through grants to UCLA faculty, and through fellowships to enrolled UCLA graduate students. Although we recognize that many worthwhile efforts to advance kindness exist beyond UCLA, and although we are heartened by such efforts, we do not provide funding to other individuals or organizations.

Members of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute community of scholars conduct translational research, seeking to discover how to apply basic research results to real-world situations and problems. In doing so, they partner with entities and organizations outside of UCLA. Generally, these relationships are established directly by the UCLA investigator, but we are happy to hear from organizations willing to host translational research at their sites.

— Daniel M.T. Fessler, Director

A key strength of the Bedari Kindness Institute is that its members encompass a broad range of views and scholarship on kindness and related topics. As such, the works of individual members reflect their individual viewpoints and contributions. Except as otherwise noted, their works do not constitute joint efforts or collective statements by our Institute as a whole.

Statement on Racial Justice

We at the Bedari Kindness Institute mourn the death of George Floyd and express our deepest condolences to the Floyd family and all his relations. The Bedari Kindness Institute strongly and unequivocally condemns racist acts of violence and cruelty perpetrated against African Americans. George Floyd’s killing is the most recent caught on camera, but there are countless others tracing back to the institution of slavery.

As a body of faculty and researchers dedicated to the project of kindness, we see the need for the promotion of kindness in many forms. One is through the transformation of institutions and systems that perpetuate racial violence and bigotry. This includes prosecuting state as well as civilian actors who enact such violence, and requiring police accountability and transparency. We also believe that a kinder world would include reductions to policing and carceral institutions with adequate resources redirected to social welfare, medical services, economic survival, educational opportunities, and other critical needs.  By addressing underlying problems leading to pronounced racial and gender disparities and injustices that extend to all aspects of our society, it is possible to enhance both justice and public safety. The militarization of policing impairs, rather than promotes, the goal of protecting and serving society’s members, particularly those who are most vulnerable — Black, indigenous, Latino/a peoples, LGBTQIA+ peoples, and many immigrants and refugees in the United States.

At the same time, we recognize that racism is not simply encoded in our societal structures, but is also manifested in, and reproduced by, thinking individuals through both intentional and unintentional acts. Kindness is a philosophy, a type of disposition, as well as a learned behavior. We acknowledge that racial prejudice and bias are products of upbringing, education, societal norms, and even professional practices. To address the problem of racialized state violence, we must also usher in new ways of being and understanding, those that center kindness alongside aspirations of justice, equality, and democracy.

As an institute, we decry the injustices embodied in the lives, and deaths, of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Dion Johnson, to name a few. And we hope to serve as a positive partner for those seeking to dismantle racism in its many nefarious forms, and to build a just society. Toward that end, we pledge to dedicate resources, energy, and expertise from the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute to efforts to identify and deploy means of combating white supremacy, anti-Blackness, other forms of prejudice, and their institutional manifestations.  These projects, to be designed and conducted in collaboration with community partners, will aim to provide the basis for real and lasting progress in countering the injustices suffered for too long, by too many.  As a community, we state clearly: Black Lives Matter.