Changemaker Schools

Through Ashoka’s unique position at the center of a network of system changing entrepreneurs, we have identified empathy to be the fundamental skill that every child must master in order to develop the foundation for teamwork, leadership and changemaking. To truly communicate with others and develop deep personal relationships, individuals must practice a high level of empathy. Only empathetic individuals are able to fully participate in our highly interconnected society by collaborating to solve problems at school, home, in the workplace and community.

Start Empathy, an initiative of Ashoka, is a community of individuals and institutions dedicated to building a future in which every child masters empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings and perspectives of others, and to use that understanding to guide one’s actions. It is critical both to individual human development and to our collective ability to solve problems and build a stronger society.

Start Empathy is not out to build a single program, curriculum, or silver-bullet fix. Rather, we're working to unleash demand for empathy as a core 21st century skill – collaborating with social entrepreneurs, educators, parents, and key players in the media, business, and academic sectors to make empathy as essential as reading and math in early education. Success will take all of us, and will require rethinking how we parent, educate, and raise our children in a world that is changing faster than ever before.

Why Start Empathy in Africa?

What does Africa look like when every individual has mastered empathy as a child? As rigid hierarchies are flattening, everyone is called on to lead and leaders must mobilize and collaborate with others. Authoritarian leaders in all sectors are finding that their familiar approaches are becoming less effective and they must engage rather than dictate; however, without empathy, teamwork is impossible. Those who have developed a robust life pattern of empathy will be successful in this changed world, while those who have not mastered empathy will be further marginalized.

  • In countries where individuals have mastered empathy, politics are no longer the will of the strongest, but are rather inclusive, democratic systems where all citizens have a voice in the governance of their country.

  • In an Africa where everyone masters empathy, the social divisions such as ethnicity, race, status, and wealth that divide society no longer result in violent conflict. Empathetic individuals of different backgrounds seek to understand each other’s point of view and develop mutually beneficial solutions and contribute positively to their communities and countries.

  • Empathetic business leaders imagine themselves in their customer’s situation and design products and services to meet needs of the wealthy as well as subsistence farmers. Applying empathy to business creates strong relationships with employees, suppliers, partners and communities, resulting in a more efficient private sector that harnesses the talent of the continent.

  • Empathy enables an "Everyone a Changemaker" Africa where all individuals understand the root of problems and what change is needed. Empathetic changemakers then initiate solutions to improve their community. When everyone creates positive change, our world responds rapidly and effectively to challenges and life improves for all.

To learn about Ashoka's Empathy initiative, click here. For more on Start Empathy!, connect to our online marketplace, with videos, articles and many other resources for schools, parents, teachers, students and citizen sector organisations.