At Ashoka, we believe that empathy is central to our ability to imagine (and create) better communities, societies, organizations, companies, and institutions. We believe that empathy is a skill. We believe that empathy is a muscle we all have. And most importantly, we believe that, like all muscles, empathy is strengthened by use and exercise.
In this backdrop, Ashoka Changemakers® has launched a global competition on Jan19, 2012 titled: Activating Empathy: Transforming Schools to Teach What Matters, where more than $70,000 in cash and in-kind prizes will be awarded to the best ideas, programs, and learning models that ensure children master empathy, enabling them to be effective citizens, leaders, and trailblazers.
Also, with this competition, we are challenging teachers, principals, parents, students, and other innovators to rethink our approach to school culture and curricula. The Activating Empathy competition seeks to spark greater collaboration among efforts such as those that encourage social and emotional development, address bullying in ways that advance understanding of others’ perspectives, promote community diversity and respect for differences, or champion children as real-world problem-solvers.
As quoted by Danielle Goldstone, Director of Ashoka’s Empathy Initiative, “Empathy is essential for success in a rapidly changing world. We are calling on teachers, administrators, parents, students, and innovators to share their ideas for integrating empathy into the core of the student learning experience.”
The work of Ashoka Fellows and others demonstrates that empathy can be learned, practiced, and measured. For instance, 77 percent of students that are active in Peace First, founded by Ashoka Fellow Eric Dawson, reported reduced levels of fighting, thanks to the program, and Mary Gordon’s Roots of Empathy has seen helping behavior increase in up to 78 percent of children who participated in her program.
Entries submissions are invited until March 30. You can also nominate your favorite learning initiatives and post comments on submitted entries via Changemakers.com/empathy. One “people’s choice” winner will be selected by online community voting, and an expert panel of judges will select the two overall winners. As part of its efforts to create the future of play, Mattel is offering $25,000 in prizes for ideas that enhance empathy through play. DonorsChoose.org will also offer $30,000 of Townsend Press Prizes for the top five solutions by a U.S. public-school teacher, student, or administrator that advance the mastery of empathy in a way that addresses bullying.
Follow the initiative (and join us) on Twitter: #startempathy
Ashoka Changemakers is a community of action that connects social entrepreneurs around the globe to share ideas, inspire, and mentor each other. Through its online collaborative competitions and Open Growth platform, Changemakers.com is one of the world’s most robust spaces for launching, discussing, and funding ideas to solve the world’s most pressing social problems. Changemakers builds on Ashoka's three-decade history and belief that we all have the ability to be a Changemaker. Ashoka is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs—more than 2,500 men and women with system-changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems.