The Internet is humanity's most powerful communication tool, but it only works for a few of us. Youth who are disconnected from the Internet are also disconnected from their peers globally. They are disconnected from cultural exchange with us, the lucky few who do have Internet, and we are disconnected from them. The mission of Project Empathy is divided into three parts:
- Facilitate cultural exchange between youth around the world.
- Enable non-Internet, or "off-grid," schools to receive relevant digital content.
- Support collaboration between youth on shared projects, including building Project Empathy in accordance with their vision.
The genesis of Project Empathy was in conversations over several months between Thane Richard, Thomas Steele-Maley, and Peg Keiner. What began as a service learning project for the GEMS World Academy Chicago 7th grade during the Spring of 2016 has now expanded into a process that can be replicated in classrooms and after school programs. You can read more about the creation of Project Empathy in this blog post.
Empathy, not Sympathy
Project Empathy draws inspiration from the Institute of Design at Stanford's "Design Thinking" process. The most important piece to understand is:
This is Project Empathy, not Project Sympathy.
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
This means that the focus is not on feeling sorry for poor people around the world, but on truly understanding the reality of the world around us and those who live in it. Sympathy can certainly be one of the feelings that arises from that process, but it usually comes mixed in with many others. Once we have this understanding, then we can begin to take steps to make meaningful change to build the world we want from the world we have.