Every Child Practicing Empathy
The world is changing—faster than ever before—from a society run by elites to a society in which everyone can be a changemaker. In this new world, empathy is one of the most important skills. Empathy is foundational to the ability to resolve conflict, collaborate in teams, align interests, listen effectively, and make decisions where there are no rules or precedents—to solve problems and drive change.
Ashoka's Empathy Initiative is a collaborative platform for social entrepreneurs, educators, and concerned citizens whose ideas and talents can contribute to the creation of a world where every child practices empathy. We are bringing together a global network of Ashoka Fellows and other partners to work towards a society in which learning empathy is as fundamental as reading and math; where parents insist that their children develop empathy; and where institutions cultivate empathy learning and practice.
For 35+ years, Ashoka has been building a network of more than 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs around the globe who are creating systemic change for the good of all in every area of need. Being at the center of this network gives us a deep understanding of the key levers for bringing about structural social change across industries and sectors. We then align the key players to accelerate that change.
Empathy plays a crucial role in innovation, changemaking, and solving systemic problems. We need the skill of applied empathy—the ability to understand what other people are feeling and to guide one's actions in response—to succeed in teams, solve problems, lead effectively, and ultimately to drive change.
As the rate of change in the world accelerates, our traditional power structures are being transformed, opening the way for millions to participate in society in a way that they could not do before. The end of slavery and colonization, the rise of democracy and the women's and civil rights movements, and the current technological revolution are flattening hierarchies and diffusing power from the hands of a few to those of every individual across the globe. The door has opened to a future where every person can and must help tackle the increasing number of social challenges that are emerging every day.
In the past, people could turn to rules and hierarchies for guidance, but the world is changing too fast now. Hierarchies are being replaced by teams organizing fluidly based on need. Rules conflict and change, or they don't exist at all, and information flow is rapid and ambiguous. As the rate of change increases, every person needs to learn new skills in order to thrive. Therefore, applied empathy becomes an essential skill for participating fully in a changing society. This gives rise to an urgent need for a movement to highlight the critical role of empathy, and the most effective strategies to include empathy in education.
How would schools need to change in order for every student to practice the skill of empathy as readily as they learn to read and write? How would organizations need to change in order for every employee to develop the capacity for more empathic and innovative thinking? And if such a shift were brought about, how might each of us start to see the world—and our role in improving it—differently?
There are three core components to our strategy:
- Accelerate Empathy Entrepreneurs. Ashoka has a critical mass of Ashoka Fellows working with children and young people, as well as many others whose innovations contribute to a more empathetic society. We are getting this community to work together towards the vision of a world where every child masters empathy. And we are identifying and electing new Ashoka Fellows who are developing pattern-changing models that will cultivate deeper collective capacities for empathy across society.
- Position and Learn from Pioneer Schools. Ashoka is identifying influential primary and secondary schools and school networks—public, public charter, and private—that are ready to help lead this transformation in education. The initiative is collaborating with these carefully selected Changemaker Schools to develop and showcase models of school environments that integrate empathy as a core learning objective and strategy. With these model schools and the Initiative's other partners, we seek to inspire and enable every school to clearly identify, and then assess, the habits and skills young people need to be effective, solution-oriented, empathetic citizens.
- Change the Conversation. Creating a world in which every child masters empathy as readily as they do math or reading will not be the work of one or two players in education, or even a few hundred. It demands that all of us participate. Ashoka seeks to catalyze a shift in mindset across society, helping educators, parents, and others to understand more clearly what success looks like in today's rapidly changing world, and why it's essential that children grow up mastering empathy and other skills that will enable them to be effective changemakers throughout their adult lives.
We encourage you to explore the diverse ways that Ashoka’s Empathy initiative supports changemaking in young people and adults. Engage with our dedicated teams today to help advance an “Everyone a Changemaker” world:
Ashoka Changemaker Schools enable all students to become changemakers: young people with the skills and confidence to change the world for the good of all. Follow us on Twitter: @AshokaCMschools
Start Empathy, an initiative of Ashoka, is a community of individuals and institutions dedicated to building a future in which every child masters empathy. The Start Empathy Initiative is expanding and leveraging Ashoka’s network of social entrepreneurs and other changemakers to drive a movement to make empathy a priority skill for all children. We seek to accelerate society to a tipping point where this idea becomes inevitable because a new framework has taken hold. Follow us on Twitter: @startempathy