Start Empathy, an initiative of Ashoka, is a community of individuals and institutions dedicated to building a future in which every child masters empathy.
Despite how the world is changing, only a handful of children are consistently provided with the learning environments and opportunities necessary to help them develop the skills they need to thrive. We must shift this pattern. We urgently must see young people as changemakers and help them develop the skills they need to be empathetic, ethical actors who will positively impact their own lives, their communities, their schools, their companies, their countries and the world, now and throughout their lives.
Ashoka seeks to catalyze a global “framework change” to transform how society understands success in growing up. The fact that every parent and educator today knows his or her child or student must be able to read to succeed is the result of a previous societal framework change around literacy—from the old paradigm of literacy of the elite to the new paradigm of literacy for all. Today, everyone knows that a child who doesn’t learn to read will get left behind.
But now we face a new shift, from the old paradigm of education for repetitive function jobs in hierarchical environments, to the new paradigm of education for changemaking in fluid environments. To thrive in a world of rapid change, every child must grow up developing the essential skills of empathy, teamwork, leadership, and changemaking.
At the foundation of Ashoka’s efforts to create an Everyone a ChangemakerTM world, and to transform the youth years in support of that vision, is the Start Empathy Initiative. Empathy is foundational to everyone’s ability to live successful, fulfilled lives as changemakers.
We need everyone to be creative contributors to change, but to ensure change is positive, it is essential that this potential be rooted in awareness of self and others. In a world of rapid change, we increasingly find ourselves in situations where rules are changing, in conflict, or haven’t been created yet. To act in positive and constructive ways in this environment, we must rely on empathy, the ability to understand the feelings and perspectives of others and to use that understanding to guide one’s actions in response. We must ensure that every child grows up fully developing his or her innate capacity for empathy.
Ashoka’s 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 at which this idea becomes inevitable because a new framework has taken hold.