KIND Invests $20M to #SparkEmpathy By Connecting Classrooms

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Empatico / KIND Foundation

The KIND Foundation, started by KIND Snacks, is putting its name into practice with Empatico, an online learning tool connecting classrooms. The free tech tool for teachers aims to match and connect classrooms around the world, with $20 million in funding from The KIND Foundation.

The goal is to help the next generation explore commonalities with their peers, while teaching skills like empathy—hence its hashtag, #SparkEmpathy—and kindness to tomorrow’s leaders. Empatico’s goal is to reach at least one million students in 25 countries by 2020.

Empatico follows previous KIND-funded social impact initiatives, all inspired by early experiences of KIND founder and CEO, Daniel Lubetzky, who is founder and President of The KIND Foundation.

“My heritage as the son of a Holocaust survivor and a Mexican immigrant have shown me what happens when people don’t develop an appreciation for difference,” Lubetzky stated.

“That’s why KIND has always strived to help people discover each other’s humanity. Empatico is the most assertive step we’ve taken to realize this mission. Our hope is that this tool expands boundaries of understanding for the next generation of leaders so that they are prepared to tackle the world’s problems together.”

The beta version is available now at Empatico.org, a collaborative platform inviting the ed tech community, teachers and global education experts to test the tool and share feedback.

Optimally designed for eight to ten year-olds, George Khalaf, Executive Director of Empatico, stated that the target audience is backed by science:

“Neuroscience suggests that changing the adult mind is an uphill battle because so much of our brain has already been wired, and we have developed default assumptions about those who are different. In eight to 10-year-olds, however, biases have yet to become deeply rooted. Around this time, kids are asking questions about their place in the world. Giving them an opportunity to develop this curiosity and have positive experiences with diverse people can strongly influence how they perceive others in the future.”

Empatico blends video conferencing technology with standards-based activities on universal topics that supplement the existing curriculum. For example, “Spark” activities are classroom lessons that last from one to three hours and match the curriculum that kids are already learning. “Community Cartographers” is a two- to three-hour social studies unit including about 30 minutes of video conferencing to encourage students to map their neighborhoods with a satellite map to see where their school fits into the broader community.

Empatico classroom

The only thing classrooms need to participate is a connected computer with a camera for video chatting—and the spirit of sparking and engaging in a conversation to explore perspectives. Empatico is currently available for students who can converse in English, but plans include other language versions.

The new corporate citizenship initiative is an on-brand extension of KIND, which has consistently lived up to its brand name since founding in 2004 with the mission of do the KIND thing for your body, your taste buds and your world.

Lubetzky launched the KIND Foundation two years ago, backed by corporate revenue and his own money from shares in KIND Snacks, which he founded in 2004 and is still independently owned as a New York-based healthy foods company.

Last fall, KIND hosted its first social entrepreneurship summit to inspire others to put their profits where there values are and help foster a better, kinder world.

Earlier this year, the Foundation tested a social media experiment called Pop Your Bubble, challenging the public to shake up their own points of view and add diverse perspectives to their Facebook feeds in a bid to c0unter fake news and close-minded thinking.

In addition to Empatico, KIND is partnering with Making Caring Common, an initiative of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, to implement the KIND Schools Challenge, which invited middle- and high-school students to design and implement projects to make their school communities kinder and more inclusive. (2017/18 deadline: Wed. October 25th.)

“I’m frankly very alarmed by what’s happening within the United States and globally in terms of rising extremism, the inability of adults to listen to one another, increasing alienation and division,” Lubetzky told Fast Company. “It’s kind of like the United States is no longer the United States of America, but it’s like two Americas.”

As for Empatico, he added: “The concept is to create a seamless, frictionless mechanism to allow classrooms across the world to connect with one another, kind of the way Airbnb or Uber help you find a ride or a place to stay, [we want] to very efficiently help teachers be able to frequently and easily connect [their classrooms] on a global basis to help narrow those gaps and help provide kids this amazing gift of being able to discover the world out of their own classrooms.”

Lubetzky feels urgency. “It needs to scale up like crazy so that we can provide counteracting measures to the increasing alienation and division that we’re seeing in the world. It’s just one small but very important step in that direction.”

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