About Ashoka's Empathy Initiative

Students at the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School: more at http://www.inspiredteachingschool.org/.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. Every individual needs the skill of empathy to succeed. Empathy is foundational to the ability to resolve conflict, to collaborate in teams, to align interests, to listen effectively and make decisions where there are no rules or precedents, to solve problems and drive change.

Working with our global network of Ashoka Fellows and other partners, we aim to create a world committed and equipped to ensuring that every child masters empathy.

Ashoka's Empathy Initiative is a collaborative platform for social entrepreneurs and others who share this vision of a world where every child masters empathy and who have the insights and innovations that will make that vision a reality. Through this platform, we are mobilizing a global team of teams to collaborate toward realizing a society in which empathy learning is as fundamental as reading and math in early education, where parents insist that their children develop empathy, where institutions cultivate empathy learning and practice.


For 30 years, Ashoka has been building a network of 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs around the globe, bringing systemic change for the good of all in every area of need. Being at the center of this network provides us a deep understanding of the key levers for bringing about structural social change in society, across industries and sectors. We then align the key players in collaborative entrepreneurship to accelerate that change.


Empathy plays a crucial role in innovation, changemaking, and solving entrenched 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, to solve problems, to lead effectively, to drive change.


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 fluid teams of teams; rules conflict and change, or don't exist at all; and information flow is rapid and ambiguous. It's an exciting time as it means that power is no longer limited to an elite few - everyone can participate and, in fact, increasingly will have to be an active participant. As the rate of change increases, though, every person needs an ever higher level of empathetic skill in order to thrive. Applied empathy at a high level has become essential to being able to participate fully in a changing society.

A movement to highlight the critical role of empathy and the most effective strategies to include empathy in early education is now most urgent.

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