#StartEmpathy: Recap of the March 20 Twitter-based #SocEntChat
Empathy is one of the most important skills that anyone can learn in today’s global society. It is more than just awareness and concern, it’s about cultural sensitivity and conflict resolution.
It’s about the ability to communicate effectively and understand the motivations of others. Empathy is about standing up, not standing by. What better way to change the world than by making sure tomorrow’s leaders master empathy today?
That’s why Ashoka has launched a global initiative to ensure that children learn empathy, enabling them to be effective citizens, leaders, and trailblazers.
As part of this initiative, Ashoka Changemakers has launched a collaborative competition, Activating Empathy: Transforming Schools to Teach What Matters, to spark greater collaboration among initiatives that bring greater empathy into education. The competition is sourcing ways to 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.
To encourage a world-wide online community to discuss empathy, Ashoka Changemakers organized a Twitter-based #SocEntChat on March 20 in which online participants from Asia discussed “Activating Empathy.”
The panelists for the session were Sonal Kapoor, founder of the Protsahan India Foundation; Pankaj Dubey, founder of Spriha, India; Ashoka Indonesia Fellow Reggi Kayong Munggaran; Syinc (a youth capacity building organization in Singapore); and Hammad Anwar, of Rabbt, Pakistan.
The session kicked off by discussing the definition of empathy in order to bring out diverse points of view, and to understand empathy in all its depth and manifestations.
“Empathy is putting yourself in others' shoes,” said one participant, a representative of the Nepali prisoners’ organization PA Nepal. “You take someone else's problems and make them your own.”
Panelists then focused on some of the steps that can be taken to cultivate and encourage empathy among children. Encouraging creativity and social responsibility, creating a nurturing environment, and teaching strategies to heighten awareness are some of the tools that our participants suggested to encourage empathy.
They also suggested innovative approaches, such as teaching children to care for animals as a way of learning empathy. Many of these efforts are enabled by the Internet and new communications technologies. Connected classrooms, apps, games, social media, and even “chatroulettes for kids” can all play a role in inculcating empathy.
“Why should we just have games like Farmville on Facebook?,” asked panelist Pankaj Dubey. “We should have games related to charity, helping others etc too!”.
The obstacles to cultivating empathy were acknowledged—unsupportive parenting and learning practices, a lack of role models, and discouraging creativity can all hinder progress. The #SocEntChat highlighted some of the most successful examples of initiatives that are overcoming these obstacles, such as the Magic Bus in India, Door Step School, Spriha, and the recent “KONY 2012” video that went viral in early March.
Take a look the storify summary of the Twitter chat to experience more inspiring innovations for promoting empathy.
If you want to be a part of the action, click here to find out more, and how to enter the Activating Empathy competition.