Roleplay to Develop Empathy

Roleplay to Develop Empathy

Bethesda, United StatesGulu, Uganda
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Our org and community hosts simulations and contributes to the open source codebase. We enable anyone to create, conduct, refine and share online role plays.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our modern world is presenting us with some big, multi-stakeholder, seemingly intractable problems. Our methods for addressing complex problems has not kept up, so we need to develop better tools and help shape our minds and habits of thought toward those that will help us find better solutions quicker. Being able to empathize with others is essential to finding true solutions. Our platform lets people create their own worlds showing how they perceive things, and allows others to enter into those worlds. In a technologically enabled role play, people make their mistakes in a virtual world. They can gain empathy, a holistic perspective and learn the humility required to succeed. We enable people to see through an other person's eyes, and we enable all to be able to create those vistas.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We enable anyone, anywhere to be able to create, conduct, refine and share online simulations. It is a 'one-stop-shop' platform that has a place for people to author simulations, conduct simulations, play in simulations and to package up and share simulations. It is an open-source web app that our company hosts, but the code is free for anyone to download and use. Research has shown that people learn more from creating simulations than from playing in them. We enable that. Just as the printing press enabled anyone to write books, we enable everyone to create meaningful virtual worlds: worlds that can be used for training or for planning. Worlds where people can play with perspectives and be unlimited by geography. The person playing the role of an Afghanistani farmer in a simulation may actually be an Afghanistani farmer. We enable people to cast their vision of the world and causality into a virtual world which other people can experience and critique.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." -- Plato The Peaceconferencing process, done yearly at The Bishop's School is a concrete example of what we do. Our run at GWU where students authored simulations and then played them with their classmates is another solid example. We allow anyone to author a multi-player simulation. They can then facilitate the simulation or allow others to do so. The facilitator will assign players to the simulation roles and invite the players. So, for example, one could create a simulation of Sudan, and assign one player the role of the current leader from the North, and another that of the leader of the South, and another the UN Representative and so on. Then the players could log onto the platform, read their background information and 'become' those actors in the simulation. There is no greater prescription for empathy than to completely put one's self into the place of another. We enable that. During the simulation the players will be able to interact in ways that the simulation author(s) have provided for them. Perhaps chatting or working on a memorandum of understanding together, collaborating online, etc. Afterwards during the highly important debrief the players will be able to share their experiences. Sometimes this is done with players playing the same role in different 'simulation universes.' So the UN player from one run of the game could compare their experiences with the UN player from a different game. Again, this all helps the players gain holistic viewpoints, and empathy.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our marketplace is every institution that teaches people how to work/communicate/negotiate/collaborate/follow and/or lead with other humans. We also help expose people to underlying models of the world, such as economic models or models of public opinion, so they can learn them and independently judge them. Two other groups do similar work to us - minus the user generated content part, to the best of our knowledge, only we enable that - but after decades in the field they are relatively unknown outside of a small circle. These are the ICONS project and Fablusi, and both of those projects are housed inside universities. We want to grow and extend the reach of 'technologically enhanced role play' to nearly ever institution of higher learning.
About You
Sea Change Simulations, LLC
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Sea Change Simulations, LLC

Organization Country

, MD, Bethesda

Country where this project is creating social impact

, GUL, Gulu

Your role in Education

Coach, Parent, Student, Other.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with

Private (tuition-based)

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

How long has your solution been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

Our company hosts the simulation platform for people and also contributes to the open source code base to make all of this possible.

Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

We allow anyone to become a simulation author. Just as the printing press enabled mass publishing we will do the same with simulations.

Social Impact
What has been the impact of your solution to date?

We have enabled online roleplays in the United States, Australia and Uganda. These have allowed players to see through the eyes of other people. I'm not sure I can copy and paste their testamonials in here, but some of them are on our web site at

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

We would like to grow from 4 schools using this platform to over 1,000. We believe the time is right for explosive growth in the use of simulation in learning, and we want an open source tool, initiated at an institution dedicated to peace, to be at the forefront of this next wave of human accomplishment.
It is impossible to imagine a future in which people don't learn interactively. It is impossible to a future in which the human race thrives where people don't learn empathy. We want to help enable that future and over the next three years we will be growing our network of connections and preparing the ground for the growth that must come if we are all going to continue to survive and flourish on planet Earth.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

The biggest barrier has been getting instructors to try something new. Right now instructors are comfortably in control of the classroom, but things such the Khan Academy and the meme of the 'flipped classroom' are starting to change that. Having an instructor engage the class with role play means that they have to move from the comfortable role of 'sage on the stage' to the role of the 'guide on the side'. We are going to make it easy for them to take that step into a world they will be more effective and happier.
One of our first, highly positive experiences was with a teacher who saw that when her students were in a simulation, she could watch them and give each the personal attention that they needed. When all teachers see what she saw, we will experience exponential growth.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Get 32 schools using this software to give students great educational experiences growing their empathy.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Support the documentary on Peaceconferencing being created right now by Del Mar Television.

Task 2

Streamline the process for schools to sign up and use our platform.

Task 3

Get the word out about what we can offer to people.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Get 64 schools using this software to give students great educational experiences growing their empathy.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Generate enough revenue to get at least one dedicated server.

Task 2

Expand our community of users who can help each other by sharing information (Like Moodle community) to over 200 active

Task 3

Complete creation of API to allow other open source coders to easily extend our platform.

Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]

This work began when I was at the United States Institute of Peace. The platform was originally designed to help prepare peacebuilders for complex environments. It was evident at the time that our collective decision making processes were not keeping up with the complexity of the world. It was obvious that we needed better tools.
Since we were operating on a 'peace budget' we used open source software, and grew the tool at the USIP Academy. We witnessed some highly powerful learning moments: moments when people realized that things were more complex than they originally thought, and began to see the world through other people's eyes.
In 2009 I met Kristen Druker who wanted to use the tool to help her conduct her class roleplays of international conflicts. It was a natural fit, and even better since we were reaching future leaders earlier in their development. Since then we have used it every year and have greatly improved the tool with direct feedback from the young people using it.

Tell us about your partnerships

I have formed an LLC to do the business of hosting simulations. The software is open source so anyone can use it, but our company generates revenue by charging for services. This business model is similar to Red Hats: What Red Hat is to Linux, Sea Change Simulations is to the USIP OSP.
While we are a 'for profit' company, we are non-profit at heart. We are not in this for the money, but for the good it can provide. Later, if we meet the right people and have the resources to do so, it would be completely in character for us to become a non-profit.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]

Ideally two to five more developers, one great graphic artist, one software tester, one person to register new schools and handle other administrative tasks, one marketing person, one community manager and good working relationships with an accounting and legal firms.
If one looks at the Moodle community, one can see that useful open source projects can take off with fewer resources, but to grow quickly and help a larger pool of people benefit as soon as possible, a larger team would be extremely desirable.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We have given a lot of thought to sustainability. The concept of one set of authors creating simulations to pass off to many instructors to guide a multitude of players through a simulation is an example of scalability and sustainability. Closing the loop one has the players who then want to become authors and contribute back. Creating simulations helps people learn even more than playing in them.