A dedicated Lego fan & an empathetic business move.
See the world through my eyes
The potential that learning a language has to promote cultural understanding and empathy.
Duolingo, the site that lets you learn a language for free while simultaneously translating the web, came out of beta a few weeks ago. I love the idea, but I wish they would combine it with a Couchsurfing.org philosophy and a Google+ hangout platform—something where you could meet native speakers around the world with similar interests and practice speaking the language as well as reading and writing it. Imagine the power of that platform in promoting empathy and cultural understanding.
Enough arguing already: Create an experience & tell good stories.
A couple weeks back, we teamed up with the folks behind Insight Labs to try to crack just what it’s going to take to make empathy a norm in today’s education system. Tucked away in an industrial warehouse in Half Moon Bay, and joined by more than a dozen leading thinkers & doers from across a variety of industris—including design, advertising, media, and academia—we wrestled with the very same questions we’ve been asking ourselves for months: what exactly do we mean by empathy? And why exactly is it more important today than ever? And what’s it going to take to spread not a curriculum or a program, but an idea?
This was a group that wanted to believe that empathy was the next big thing, but wasn’t convinced as to why. So we spent nearly 2.5 hours trying to make sense of what empathy is and why it will matter more tomorrow than at any other time in history, at which point it wasn’t at all clear that we were going to get anywhere. It was then that someone said, “You can’t thrive without the 4th R: reading, writing, arithmetic, & relationships,” and that our job was to supply the tools for doing that. This quickly became the room’s ah-ha moment.
The end result was a set of takeaways that will help guide the next phase of Start Empathy. But looking back, they’re also takeaways that all of us who after for systemic social change would do well to keep in mind:
- Empathy is meaningless without changemaking, and changemaking is dangerous without empathy. We’ve come to realize that empathy carries too many associations on its own. A big part of our job is to unpack the term, remembering at every step that what we’re after is applied empathy, and a collective commitment to equipping kids with the skills they need to be life-long changemakers.
- It’s about relationships. We spent the first two hours circling around “what is empathy” and “why is it important?” It was only when a woman described it as “the 4th R” that it clicked for people. Relationships are something that everyone can see and experience themselves—through the growing number of friends you can connect with on FB and LinkedIn, the increasing # of people you interact with each day, etc. This also bridged the gap between cultivating empathy in students, and modeling it yourself, as you can establish the same goals for teachers and students alike. Working in isolation is no longer an option, whether you’re a designer, a scientist, or an educator: it’s all about the team-of-teams.
- Forget arguments: tell good stories. The turning point in the conversation was what we’ll describe as “the Molly moment.” Ashoka Fellow Molly Barker, founder of Girls on the Run, and a key champion behind the Empathy Initiative, had flown in from Charlotte to join the day’s discussion. Molly described what they’d achieved through GOTR, reaching 190K girls each year and mobilizing 47K volunteers, and started to cry as she explained that there was something transcendent about that experience that’s impossible to put to words. Her opening up suddenly gave everyone else in the room permission to do the same, and to get away from all of the political back-and-forth of “empathy is this versus that.” It was at that moment that Nina Rappaport, founder of Kimochis, said, “it’s the 4th R,” and everything shifted. While flawless arguments and showcasing the evidence-base are important, in the end, it’s all about good storytelling.
- Start with the outcome. Toward the end, Hilary Hoeber, Public Sector Practice Lead at IDEO said, “You can design or relationships. You can’t design for empathy.” Empathy is fuzzy for most people, but any teacher can teach in a way that supercharges relationships. And a child or adult’s ability to forge relationships is something that you can (and often already do) measure.
- This must be experienced. Our charge now is to recreate everything that happened in that room over the course of three hours, in three minutes for everyone who finds us online or as members of our schools network. Everything we do—whether through an event, or an online videos—should lead to an “empathic experience,” or this will never fly. It’s time to recreate “the Molly moment” in everything we do.
STEM education is super duper duper important. Don’t get me wrong. But what would we do with the great innovations of great engineers if we didn’t also have great minds figuring out how to implement, distribute, and market them, create the organizations and businesses and value chains needed to deploy them? Are our schools creating the types of people capable of making good on that potential? Check out this article in the atlantic to understand why calls for better STEM education should be accompanied by calls for empathy education.
It’s hard to tell whether my empathy radar is acutely sensitive, or whether empathy really is on everyone’s mouth these days. It sure does feel like empathy is around every corner, behind every tree, under ever rock, etc etc.
Just today in my inbox: check out this writing exercise of the day—unprompted by anyone on Ashoka’s empathy initiative— from novelist and National Book Award Finalist Dana Spiotta. Or yesterday’s piece by Harvard Biz School alum on the most important thing he learned during business school (take a guess…).
As I said in a post on our facebook page today, we set out with the task of “making the case” for empathy—and everyone’s making it for us!
Facebook, Loneliness, Empathy, and more…
In another addition to what’s sure to be an growing and controversial conversation, this month’s Atlantic cover piece explores research connecting Facebook use and levels of loneliness and narcissism.
Meanwhile, Eric Klinenberg at Slate posted his refutation here.
There’s certainly no conclusive evidence one way or the other, but the Atlantic article raises some interesting questions and it’s eloquently written.
A couple of good passages:
“A considerable part of Facebook’s appeal stems from its miraculous fusion of distance with intimacy, or the illusion of distance with the illusion of intimacy. Our online communities become engines of self-image, and self-image becomes the engine of community. The real danger with Facebook is not that it allows us to isolate ourselves, but that by mixing our appetite for isolation with our vanity, it threatens to alter the very nature of solitude. The new isolation is not of the kind that Americans once idealized, the lonesomeness of the proudly nonconformist, independent-minded, solitary stoic, or that of the astronaut who blasts into new worlds. Facebook’s isolation is a grind. What’s truly staggering about Facebook usage is not its volume—750 million photographs uploaded over a single weekend—but the constancy of the performance it demands. More than half its users—and one of every 13 people on Earth is a Facebook user—log on every day. Among 18-to-34-year-olds, nearly half check Facebook minutes after waking up, and 28 percent do so before getting out of bed. The relentlessness is what is so new, so potentially transformative. Facebook never takes a break. We never take a break. Human beings have always created elaborate acts of self-presentation. But not all the time, not every morning, before we even pour a cup of coffee.”
“Facebook, of course, puts the pursuit of happiness front and center in our digital life. Its capacity to redefine our very concepts of identity and personal fulfillment is much more worrisome than the data-mining and privacy practices that have aroused anxieties about the company. Two of the most compelling critics of Facebook—neither of them a Luddite—concentrate on exactly this point. Jaron Lanier, the author of You Are Not a Gadget, was one of the inventors of virtual-reality technology. His view of where social media are taking us reads like dystopian science fiction: “I fear that we are beginning to design ourselves to suit digital models of us, and I worry about a leaching of empathy and humanity in that process.” Lanier argues that Facebook imprisons us in the business of self-presenting, and this, to his mind, is the site’s crucial and fatally unacceptable downside.”
What do you think? Does Internet communication only allow “ersatz intimacy”? Does that matter?
Source: The Atlantic
A few days ago it was Empathy, now it’s Entrepreneurship and Creativity
FastCo seems to be saying the same thing we are…
This is their latest article ont he role of creativity and entrepreneurship in education.
Empathy and leadership
Nice to see this article in Fast Company today.
Iowa paper devotes its front page to fighting bullying.
Respect to Sioux City Journal! Read their Op-ed on why they decided to make bullying a priority, after yet another teenager took his life:
How many times have each of us witnessed an act of bullying and said little or nothing? After all, it wasn’t our responsibility. A teacher or an official of some kind should step in. If our kid wasn’t involved, we figured, it’s none of our business.
Try to imagine explaining that rationale to the mother of Kenneth Weishuhn.
It is the business of all of us. More specifically, it is our responsibility. Our mandate.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge our community has yet to view bullying in quite this way. It’s well past time to do so.
Stand up. Be heard. And don’t back down. Together, we can put a stop to bullying.”
It’s time to #StartEmpathy - Join the movement.
Ed Stockham created this video for Start Empathy and posted it on his own website. It’s beautiful. He’s a genius. I don’t even have a clue how he does the animation drawing with video, but the result is brilliant and he captures the essence of the empathy. Less than 24 hours later it already has more than 2,600 views… and 398 likes + 0 dislikes.
Daniel Pink talks about a new national campaign to get people to change their driving behaviors… through empathy.
So simple, yet powerful. The big question is whether behavior only changes when one sees the sign, or whether it affects one’s driving overall.
(the picture was taken from Dan Pink’s website)