The KIND Foundation

The Empathy Project: Connecting Classrooms Across the World

Education services

The Empathy Project will disrupt negative perceptions of ‘otherness’ by equipping teachers with empathy-building virtual classroom exchanges and locally-relevant tools for professional development.

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

SDG 4.7 calls on all educators and education systems to use technology to enhance learning outcomes and advance sustainable practices, human rights, gender equality, peace, non-violence, and appreciation for cultural diversity. Yet no widely available mechanisms or tools to enable these outcomes exist – and authoritarianism, xenophobia, and mistrust of ‘others’ are spreading. The Empathy Project will give teachers across five countries access to Empatico, a classroom-matching algorithm and toolkit that reflects culturally-relevant pedagogies, addresses universal learning needs, and increases children’s empathy and communication skills, letting peers in partner classrooms transcend borders to expose them to the world. Scaling Empatico through TEN Global, Education International (EI)’s model for a national–global bridging platform offering educator networks straightforward access to pedagogical resources, this project will engage over 550,000 primary school teachers and nearly 14 million students, laying the foundation for subsequent scaling to engage EI’s 36 million teacher members worldwide.

Problem Statement

Sustainable Development Goal 4.7 calls for educators and education systems worldwide to create global citizens, utilize technology to enhance learning outcomes, and focus on building learners’ capacities to personally and collectively establish and advance norms of sustainability, human rights, gender equality, peace and non-violence, and appreciation of cultural diversity. Yet relevant mechanisms, tools, and networks to facilitate these outcomes remain under-developed and out of reach for an overwhelming majority of teachers and students. Furthermore, in direct tension with the spirit of the SDGs, nations across the world are becoming more authoritarian, more isolated, less tolerant, and less stable – and people everywhere are increasingly entrenched within very narrow feedback loops cycling polarized and polarizing rhetoric and perspectives. Extensive research affirms that handling emotions constructively, empathizing and communicating effectively with others, and establishing and maintaining positive relationships (core practices that will be collectively required to achieve SDG 4.7) demand foundational social-emotional skills, attitudes, and knowledge. Though these are universal competencies that have been proven to support academic, professional, and interpersonal success, most schools have few opportunities to expose young learners (or their teachers) to unfamiliar perspectives and situations – let alone help them practice interacting, working with, and learning from people from different backgrounds and cultures. Teachers also lack direct pathways to connect with peers outside their immediate personal networks to share ideas, resources, and potential solutions for similar needs, interests, or challenges.

Solution Overview

The goal of The Empathy Project is to enable teachers around the world to access a new tool proven to develop empathy in children through virtual classroom exchanges. Empatico pilots supporting uptake among teachers and school systems in several countries have shown that engagement increases significantly when (1) teachers are introduced to the Empatico toolkit by peers or through an organization that supports their professional development, and (2) Empatico professional development and classroom activity content reflects emergent needs, priorities, and opportunities specific to the teacher’s own national and more local context. Empatico will thus partner with EI to empower national teacher organizations to facilitate utilization and localization of the Empatico toolkit through the TEN Global platform. The team will pilot this initiative in five countries that represent the diversity of contexts into which the TEN Global platform will scale to identify the readiness and support factors required in various contexts. By the end of Year 5, the proposed project seeks to actively engage over 550,000 primary school teachers across five countries to spark an empathy revolution through the transformative empathy-building potential of Empatico classroom exchanges. In addition to the increased professional capacities of participating teachers, tangible benefits will accrue to nearly 14 million public school students who will build and practice empathy, communication, critical thinking, and global citizenship skills through virtual cross-cultural exchanges. Future communities and workplaces will benefit indirectly when these students leave school better equipped to communicate and collaborate with diverse colleagues, neighbors, and family members.

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Project Funders

  • Cisco Systems Foundation 2019

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