Start Empathy


Our Theory of Change


At the foundation of Ashoka’s efforts to create an Everyone a changemaker 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.

Our goal is a major societal shift, which is no small task, but we have a highly leveraged approach that we call a jiujitsu strategy:

THE FRAMEWORK = Change is accelerating in the world. To thrive as individuals and a society, everyone must be a changemaker, able to take initiative to positively contribute in a world of uncertain rules, fluid institutions, and constant change. Empathy is a foundational to changemaking. Therefore, every child must master empathy.

Jiujitsu emphasizes winning in combat by using your opponent ́s weight and strength as weapons against him, while using the least of your own mental and physical energy. The key is sharp, determined focus and identifying the key points and moves that will turn even the biggest opponent around.

The key question then becomes: what are the least number of forces one must catalyze into interaction in order to generate a chemistry that is rapidly self-multiplying and that progressively draws in yet more forces?

We cannot reach every child ourselves, but by activating a carefully selected network of collaborators, we
can set in motion an irreversible movement toward a future where everyone understands that empathy is as essential to a child’s success as literacy.


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