Mary Gordon

Ashoka Fellow
Toronto, ON, Canada
Fellow Since 2002
When children find humanity in a baby & are coached to find it in themselves & others, the world changes child by child


This profile was prepared when Mary Gordon was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.

Mary Gordon's program, Roots of Empathy (ROE), works to reduce childhood aggression by teaching students emotional literacy and fostering the development of empathy. Her program, which consists of children hosting parents and infants in a classroom setting, has been successfully launched in 133 Canadian schools, directly affecting some 4,450 children.

The New Idea
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person


 Empathy has emerged as a critical 21st century skill as countries around the world are desperately seeking ways to reduce violence and foster inclusion. Mary Gordon created Roots of Empathy in 1996 to answer this call. Her mission is to build caring, peaceful and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. Her vision is to change the world, child by child. In the short term, Mary's program raises levels of empathy, resulting in more respectful and caring relationships, and reduces aggression, including bullying. In the long term, it builds the capacity of the next generation for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting. Mary Gordon has successfully developed her evidence and school-based programs in ten countries on three continents, reaching close to a million children worldwide. She continues to expand her programs internationally, reaching children in rural, urban and indigenous communities, and she has the support of governments, foundations and corporations who value her programs. Mary is an Ashoka Globalizer and speaks internationally on the topics of empathy, child wellbeing and resilience, child protection and violence reduction. She has consulted on policy with governments and international NGOs such as the World Health Organization

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