Winners Announced for Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change competition

Winners Announced for Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change competition

Kristie Wang's picture

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers have announced the six winners of Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change! The challenge sought local initiatives that tap the power of empathy to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change.  The competition received more than 200 entries from Northern California community organizations.

The winners were announced at the Packard Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Open House, during which winners and challenge finalists had the opportunity to share their ideas with local community members in attendance.

“So much exciting work to foster empathy is happening in our five-county region and neighboring communities,” said Carol Larson, President and CEO of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.  “We are particularly encouraged by the six winning organizations which are actively cultivating empathy skills. It is their hope and ours that local communities will be strong and vibrant places where future generations can reach their full potential as community builders and problem solvers.” 

After remarks by Carol Larson, Susan Packard Orr (Chair of the Packard Foundation Board of Directors), and the foundation's first president, Cole Wilbur, and Bill Drayton (CEO and Founder of Ashoka) took the podium to announce the winners.

"Empathy is a crucial skill for creating social change,” said Bill Drayton, CEO and Founder of Ashoka. "By activating empathy in their communities, the winners of the challenge are paving the way for a world where everyone can become a changemaker and tackle the issues that matter to them most."

The winners were selected by a panel of judges that included luminaries and thought leaders Cedric Brown (Managing Partner of Kapor Center for Social Impact), Linda Burch (Chief Education and Strategy Officer of Common Sense Media), Christina Ballantyne (Principal of San Miguel Elementary School), Dr. Fred Luskin (Director of Stanford University Forgiveness Projects), and Sterling Speirn (Past President and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Recipients of the Activating Empathy $100,000 Prize are:

Playworks, Oakland, CA

In many elementary schools recess has become the most concentrated time of conflicts, bullying and discipline issues. As a result, many students return to class frustrated, angry and unable to learn. Playworks is transforming school playgrounds into places where students learn essential skills such as teamwork, conflict resolution, empathy, and fair play by placing recess coaches in the schools who organize fun, play-based physical activities. With its prize, Playworks will expand its program to more schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and provide training to schools that wish to duplicate its model.

San Jose State University’s Collaborative for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child, San Jose, CA

Experts say that social and emotional learning is critical for students to reach their full potential. However, many teachers are not trained to deliver this aspect of education. The Collaborative for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child at San Jose State University prepares and trains teachers to use the social emotional lens to improve student outcomes and the ability of both educators and students to thrive.  With its prize, the Collaborative intends to develop a replicable model that schools can use to integrate social and emotional learning into the school day and educator training.

Soul Shoppe, Oakland, CA

Soul Shoppe provides a whole-school approach to curbing bullying and fostering empathic action. It tackles bullying at the root of the problem through social and emotional learning rather than shame or punishment. The program equips schools with the tools and training to create an empathy-based learning environment, where all kids can safely learn to regulate emotions.  With its award, Soul Shoppe plans to expand its online toolkit for parents and teachers, and to conduct a comprehensive research study to become an official state-approved program.

The First Tee of Monterey County, Salinas, CA

The First Tee of Monterey County uses golf as a vehicle for mentorship and teaching at-risk youth in Salinas to recognize their own strengths and leadership potential. Coaches and trained adult mentors deliver twenty-seven lessons that teach life skills, leadership, and empathy to youth through structured golf-based activities. Academic tutoring and support with scholarship applications is also part of the programming. With its award, The First Tee plans to bring advanced technology to its student center and to make its program accessible to more students in South Monterey County.

Recipients of the Activating Empathy $50,000 Idea Prize for piloting early-stage initiatives are:

The Respect Institute, San Jose, CA

The Respect Institute equips vulnerable youth and those that influence them with the tools to develop social and emotional resilience. Through training and coaching, the Respect Institute helps youth and their influencers to create safe, restorative spaces for learning how to practice respect for themselves and others. With its prize, The Respect Institute will expand its program to juvenile justice facilities in Santa Clara County and will reach youth who are no longer in school.

Rising International, Santa Cruz, CA

Rising International trains women and teens to launch social businesses and market crafts handmade by women survivors of war, rape, and human trafficking. Rising participants hold “home parties,” where they invite their communities to learn about humanitarian issues and to support women artisans by purchasing handicrafts. The entrepreneurial training has helped local teens earn a living wage while connecting with global issues. In the process, the teens have built strong community networks and created pathways for more opportunity.  Rising International will use its award to further scale its program in local counties.

Stay tuned for more stories from the winners and Finalists! We thank everyone who entered the competition for their vital work and for making the competition a huge success.