Start Empathy, an initiative of Ashoka, is a community of individuals and institutions dedicated to building a future in which every child masters empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings and perspectives of others, and to use that understanding to guide one’s actions. It is critical both to individual human development and to our collective ability to solve problems and build a stronger society.
Start Empathy is not out to build a single program, curriculum, or silver-bullet fix. Rather, we're working to unleash demand for empathy as a core 21st century skill – collaborating with social entrepreneurs, educators, parents, and key players in the media, business, and academic sectors to make empathy as essential as reading and math in early education. Success will take all of us, and will require rethinking how we parent, educate, and raise our children in a world that is changing faster than ever before.
We know that a child who masters empathy at the age of six is less likely to bully ten years later, and that, for students, having one supportive relationship with an adult outside the family can be the difference between success and failure as an adult. And we know that far from being a "nice-to-have," empathy – and the various skills it entails – is increasingly critical to our success at home, in the workplace, and in the world.
Cultivating empathy can start with simple actions, like taking the time to stop, breathe, and listen when your child comes to you with a problem. It can start with a bedtime story. It can start by understanding what your strengths are as a school or as a teacher, and in honing in on ways you can embed empathy into your teaching, culture, and behavior. The bottom line: it can start today.
Ashoka and Empathy
Ashoka’s vision is an Everyone a ChangemakerTM world: one that responds quickly and effectively to social challenges, and one where each individual has the freedom, confidence, and societal support to address any social problem.
The work of Ashoka started more than 30 years ago with identifying and supporting leading social entrepreneurs who bring new solutions to difficult problems. Over time, we’ve built a network of 3,000 entrepreneurs across the globe, and we’ve started efforts to equip multitudes of others to join the ranks of societal problem solvers.
Through the course of our work, we’ve discovered core skills that exist across our community of changemakers. Specifically, we see universal strengths in teamwork, initiative, leadership, and one that is foundational to the rest: empathy. To that end, Ashoka is committed to recognizing and fostering human actions that are guided by a deep understanding of others. And we have launched a broader initiative to elevate empathy as a key 21st century skill in our schools, our homes, and our communities.
An Everyone a ChangemakerTM world is within our grasp, but only if we start with empathy.