How might we design and build a more empathic culture?

This is the initial work, development, prototype and test site for the Empathic Design Course and Workshops. It's still being developed.

A project of The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy


Our Empathic Nature

Being empathic is our foundational biological nature and is the glue that connects and holds society together. It leads to healthy, creative, flourishing and well functioning families, communities, workplaces and teams. Neuroscience has shown that we continuously connect, interact and integrate with the world around us via mirror neurons. We flourish in an environment and in relationships where we are heard and seen, as well as, hear and see others.

After the Bath - Mary Cassatt

As author Simon Baron-Cohen says,

"Empathy is vital for subtle communication, sensitive social interaction, fine-tuned social awareness, and rapid, accurate responses to others' non-verbal indicators of their changing mental states. Practical benefits of empathy are how a parent can '”read” their infant's needs, how a dispute can be diffused before it leads to conflict, how different perspectives can be appreciated, and how we can live not just in our own heads but in others' heads too."

Consequences of War - Peter Paul Rubens

"It seems like we got an empathy shortage, an empathy deficit. More serious than the federal budget deficit. We've become so cynical that it almost seems naive to believe that we can understand each other across the gulf of race, or class or region or religion...

An empathy shortage. That's what the principle of empathy does, its calls us all to task. The heartless conservative, the patronizing liberal, the powerful and the powerless. The oppressed and the oppressor. No one is exempt from finding common ground, because when no one is exempt it forces all of us to examine our own actions, our own belief systems. It shakes us out of our complacency and protects us from our own blindness our own self-righteousness. Our own fanaticism." Barack Obama

Our Challenge

How might we heal the empathy deficit in the world?

Intervention of the Sabine Women - Jacques-Louis David

This workshop is designed to take on this challenge of healing our global empathy deficit. We begin by breaking it down into smaller more manageable projects and apply a variety of attitudes, tools, processes and methods to foster healing and connection. We also design, prototype, test and innovate new ways and tools that can help us with this task.

We Can Build a Global Culture of Empathy

Peace and Prosperity, Elihu Vedder

Our Universal Need for Empathy

First Steps by Vincent van Gogh

We are also biologically wired to need connection, attachment, inconclusion, validation and belonging. We yearn for for this as part of our biological makeup.

The Problem

The world has an empathy deficit!

Music Making Angels Peter Paul Rubens

Definition of Empathy

“The definition of empathy is the ability to be aware of, understanding of, and sensitive to another person’s feelings and thoughts without having had the same experience. “ IDEO

Empathy is saying to someone: “I’m trying to be a companion to you in your search and your exploration. I want to know, am I with you? Is this the way it seems to you? Is this the thing you’re trying to express? Is this the meaning it has for you?” So in a sense I’m saying, “I’m walking with you step by step, and I want to make sure I am with you. Am I with you? So that’s a little bit of my understanding about empathy." Carl Rogers

We use Empathic Design and Empathy Circles as Practices to Address the Empathy Deficit.