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2016-07-08 E.School

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Design Challenge: How might we co-design an empathic culture in our school? 

Human-centered design is a process that has been used for decades to create better products, services, experiences, cultures and organizations that keep people’s needs at the core.

You’re invited to learn about and apply human-centered design in this workshop. Using the process and tools developed by IDEO and the Stanford, this workshop will introduce you to human-centered design and help you generate, prototype and test your ideas quickly.  We will apply this process to address a practical problem and project.

Empathic Co-Design Workshop

Signup Page:  To take part add your name to this list.

Date: July 08,

Time:  9am PST/12:30pm EST (3.5 hours)

Co-Designing our School Empathic Culture Workshop 

YouTube Video


  1.  Edwin Rutsch
  2.  Helen Grace King
  3.  Alison Fornes
  4.  Gray Switalski
  5. Vicenç Rullan

  6. Jonathan Leighton

Gray Switalski

I can't say how much I enjoyed participating in the "Designing an Empathic School" workshop. 

I like ...being able to bounce ideas and collaborate with so many people from all over the world. It's truly an amazing and beautiful experience to have people from all different backgrounds coming together to work toward a common goal. The variety of viewpoints gives the project greater depth and opens worlds of possibilities.

I wish... to see the project continue to thrive and putting many of our ideas into practice (actual surveys of students or faculty, etc).

What if...the project can grow into a full, functioning, non-profit design project with solid concepts/ideas and implementation plans that can be brought to schools/school districts across the world. Perhaps as we move toward a more actualized org with a full development plan an easy way to begin this would be to pursue partnerships with singles schools or even tutoring organizations, community colleges, group homes, etc?

Edwin, thank you so, so much for being a driving force behind this! I am so stoked to be a part of this group and am looking forward to helping out and contributing in any way I can!

Vicenç Rullan

I am glad I had a chance to participate in the workshop. I felt in great company and learned the basics of design thinking, with a fast-paced hands-on workshop.  Before the workshop, I knew next to nothing about Empathic Design. Now, this practical introduction has put me in a position to enjoy further readings and experiences on Empathic Design. I do recommend this workshop.  Vicenç

Jonathan Leighton


I very much liked the hands-on approach to becoming familiar with the design process, and the ability to interact with others online. I also liked hearing about the experience of others in promoting empathy.

I would wish to see a quick overview of a second round of iteration to get a better feeling of what the honing looks like in practice. And also a summarized overview of the concrete steps in the design process (not just the names of the stages, but what we did at each stage).

What if this turned into a concrete project with deadlines, deliverables, and a plan to make it widely available

Other Comments:


Alison Fornes

I like... 
I loved the opportunity to experience an iteration of empathic design using the virtual tools you set up, and around a topic that is so aligned with my own work. I found the specific outcome of designing survey questions to ask empathy educators quite valuable, as growing the evidence base for the impact of empathic intelligence will benefit all our work. 

I wish... 
The practice was exhaustive - and exhausting for me. Perhaps it's just my introverted ways, but I am curious about ways the design approach might be tweaked to be more energy giving. 

What if... 
In many ways, Edwin, your work embodies my what if.   I am excited by the idea of there being a multimedia tools/best practices library.

Helen Grace King 

I like...
how educators across the continent were able to come together for 3 hours via modern age society of technology to discuss the role of empathy in education, specific techniques, and suggestions to collaborate to infuse empathy into the school culture.

I wish...
This was a topic we could discuss all the time with educators, policy makers, and youth. I wish I would have been able to take an Empathy Class in school. I wish the world were more empathic. I wish this were no longer a wish, but a reality.

What if...
we could create a toolkit to provide schools around the world with resources, activities, stories to build a more empathic culture. 

  • What would this toolkit look like? 
  • How do we get policy makers on board? 
  • What would the resulting world look like? 
My guess, a more compassionate society where we first think, perceive, share, then act.

Edwin Rutsch

I like... 
  • that we were able to launch the first workshop and prototype in this series. It felt like it worked well and that we can keep refining it. Also that we were starting to roll the small snowball that can keep building and building..
I Wish.... 
  • we could better capture the interviews, ideas, and prototypes that were generated. 

What if...
  • we keep meeting and holding these workshops and get more people involved?
  • Also, what if we develop a Empathic School Culture Tool kit?

Mural Meeting Room 

Page 4:   (Public View)

Interviews - 
  • pending
    • Edwin Rutsch 
    • Helen Grace King 
    • Alison Fornes
    • Gray Switalsk
    • Vicenç Rullan
    • Jonathan Leighton

    • Buy-in?
      • Problem: Stakeholders question the validity of empathy
      • wondering how to get buy in.?
      • how to get buy in? things are going fast.
      • having many stakeholders invested in empathy
      • How might we get buy-in from all the stakeholders in building a empathic school culture?
        • Explain benefits and past experiences
        • talk with all the stake holders
    • Listening to voices 
      • Problem:  Stake holders such as teachers and students do not feel heard
      • We all have our stories
      • Teachers
      • Teachers need to feel heard by administrators. We cannot effectively teach what we do not preach
      • extend empathy to teachers/admin - allow teachers to have voice with admin
      • Students
      • what is importance of the student voice?
      • Useful to have short , structured empathy circles to feel heard
      • Students notice when we are serious about giving them a real voice
      • Differences are ok. We are all flawed
      • powerful to see we are all human.
      • How might we hear all voices in building a school empathic culture?
        • Focus groups with students. With activities and games
        • create a space for empathy
    • Low Empathy Problems
      • Problems from lack of empathy?
        • there are many problems generated in a school when there is low empathy
      • How might we identify the problems created by a lack of empathy in a school culture?

    • Empathy Technique
      • approaches to activate empathy
      • new experiences outside of comfort zone
      • use enthusiasm
    • Project-based learning 
    • Active listening
      • Inter group Dialogue. Active listening, facilitation
      • active listening. students are not used to being listened to
      • How can administration better listen to students' needs and provide them with support and guidance?
    • Empathy Circle
      • used approach of circles of dialog.
      • circles of dialogue - ask and listen to questions that are relevant to them
    • Empathy Buddies
      • Empathy Buddies, create opportunities
      • empathy buddies who are there to guide you through the whole workshop. 
    • Students Facilitate Parents in Empathic Listening
      • Students learn how to do empathy circles, etc and then take it home and host an empathy circle with their family. Have seen where this gives students a real scene of involvement and pride.
      • Got greatest empathy teaching facilitation.
      •  A lot of active listening. Parents could also see younger people differently.
    • modeling empathy
      • Students will model teachers' empathetic behavior
    • Role Plays
      • get people identify with people hurt us
      • defend someone that hurt you.
    • Constellation Role Play

    • Project Based Learning

    • Design/Project  Based Learning
      • Designing experiential activities to what they are exploring= opportunity to think about others, the world, the environment
    • Animals
      • Practices: Introduce young people to new experiences - to Nature
      • Animals interaction programs
      • How to reduce animal suffering: Animal Interaction experiences
      • issue of animal suffering. how do we introduce that?
      • Personal connection with animals--> responsibility, autonomy, become part of something.
      • interaction with animals= spark, care
      • leads to more questions of what can we do next to prevent suffering

    • Implementation
      •  failure to implement: "something else came up"
      • Need to carefully plan interventions because other things become more urgent
      • empathic culture: invest time into planning implementation
      • empathic culture: talk to the stakeholders - LISTEN to them
      • Intentional teaching of empathy
      • talk with all the stake holders
      • Empathy Experience in school
      • Administration should develop relationships with teachers/staff
      • How can administration better listen to students' needs and provide them with support and guidance?
      • You would set aside time to allow empathic connection.
      • Allow Time
      • how do we extend empathy to the teachers?
      • frustration: people learn the process but don't follow up and incorporate it in their lives
      • Workshops with 2 angels to support you - like "empathy buddies"
      • Invest more time in planning implementation. Importance of talking with other stakeholders
      • how do we all together work on this. teachers, parents, students, administrators

    • Support with research -Evidence based

    • Definitions of Empathy
      • At the beginning of knowing
      • Relational Empathy vs Individualistic
      • Empathy is non-local
      • Empathy is paying attention to information flowing in the system. Being open to what is emerging

    • Empathic Sustainability
      • Problem: Many programs die out over time and the new habits are not maintained.
      • One participant has experienced that a program or process gets set up in a school or with individuals but then disappear over time.
      • How might we foster sustained empathy over time in the School Culture?

    • When were you empathically Felt seen:
      •  Hard to think of a time when this was the case.

    • What interrupts empathy?
      •  time: when and how to intervene. If not planned, won't be implemented
      • Time.
      • More stress=more ideas? or does it shut down ideas
      • what's in the way: very personal to the individual
      • Not being seen= wish they had empathy ciricles
      • When we are stressed, empathy goes down.
      • Not being self-involved. Being outwardly-oriented
      • TIme? Yes, time is used to stress you. Their theory - more stress = release of ideas. 
      • In that stressful environment: empathy circles - time for active listening
      • A design workshop for educators: very stressful. I didn't feel seen. Lots of new info - stress.
      • not sure - does the time stress suppress or release the idea?
      • when you felt most seen: a peak experience! Yet I have lots of "not being seen" experiences 
      • Finding time to work in application
    • How might we ..
    • Why? Why is a empathy important?
      • empathic discipline: identify the why, identify the tools to implement
      • Empathy is more than just about human to human interaction but for the planet
      • Becoming better persons
      • Benefits of teaching empathy. Why?
      • humanistic point of view
      • Create students to do good
      • success - change in perspective
      • Empathy= valuable skill of 21st century
      • human trait
      • Create more ideas via empathy circles. Dig Deep.
      • I believe it will work
      • raises oxytocin
      • Empathy is something you always need to take with you
      • Acceptance of others
      • students were excited and had fun. they want to partner with me to bring this to the school
      • empathy and compassion is a 21st century skill.
      • I feel empathy is useful, but not all people do.
      • The main need: (1) Creating better humans. People who want to good in the world.
      • Empathy= better student, better citizen
      • Active listening + reflection "I've never felt so creative, so deeply heard."
      • Recognition, Profound experience
      • We all deserve compassion
      • teaching empathy=better humans
      • The main need (2): empathy and compassion cannot be delegated. Human skill.
      • Students learn better if they are empathic
      • marketable skill.
    • Relationships
      • First time they felt heard, see as leaders
      • Personal connection with animals--> responsibility, autonomy, become part of something.
      • teachers don't feel heard by administrators
      • Students notice when we are serious about giving them a real voice
      • Empathy circles= share feelings in moment= feeling heard
      • teachers don't feel heard by administrators
      • people feel good with the empathy buddies - two people, for example, support your intro to the group
      • how do we extend empathy to the teachers?
      • Teachers need to be heard
      • Not being self-involved. Being outwardly-oriented
      • Students will model teachers' empathetic behavior
      • administrators model empathy
      • empathy buddies who are there to guide you through the whole workshop. 
      • Administration should develop relationships with teachers/staff

    How Might We...
    • How Might We... collect and create the most effective tools possible for transforming a school's culture to be empathic? *****
    • How Might We... establish greater buy-in from stakeholders for transforming a school empathic culture?
    • How Might We... articulate a shared vision for an empathic school culture? 
    • How might we address the challenges to empathic culture?
    • How Might We... repair the interruptions to empathy?
    • How Might We... establish more effective communication in schools in order to better serve students? 
    • How Might We...create opportunities to implement sustainable empathy teachings, practices, & actions into school culture?
    • How Might We... sustain an empathic culture overtime?
    • How Might We...cultivate relationships that promote sustainable empathy? 

    Final HMW.
    How Might We... collect and create the most effective tools possible for transforming a school's culture to be empathic? *****
    • Exposure to animals as "persons"
    • Collate existing resources
    • Ethics
      • how to teach age appropriate eithics
    • Self-compassion training for teachers
    • Meditation and self-compassion for students
    • Perspective-taking exercises
    • create categories of resources
    • personal practice empathy circles. hows your personal practice going?
    • developmental differences in perspective taking

    • Increase communication
    • Provide training from area experts (i.e.mindfulness, wilderness, etc)
    • Get out of the classroom! and the boardroom - experiencing new things together can help create bonds and get creativity flowing
    • Conferences were teachers/trainers/admin can collab
    • Teambuilding
    • Increase in responsibilities for students through self care
    • Increase hands-on experiences
    • experts give talks
    • art of hosting pracitces
    • Help professionals access their own wisdom
    • Strategic Questioning (Fran Peavey), Emergent Processes for creating new tools
    • Inclusion of I&C courses and participation
    • Offer professional development courses and workshops
    • Setting aside time for informal discussion and brainstorming

    • create an ongoing design series on the theme of building a tool kit
    • create a web toolkit of ideas.
    • create some prototype school projects
    • gather best practices into a website.
    • do constellation exerciess of the tool kit.
    • hold teachers support circles. empathy and imaginative empathy

    • Communicate with researchers
    • Share knowledge
    • Define the tools and teachings
    • Share the tools
    • Make it colorful
    • Make it fun and engaging
    • Workshops
    • Activities
    • Focus on empathy skills: Self-Awareness, active listening, perspective-taking, mindfulness, teamwork,
    • restorative practice
    • positive empathy stories sharing
    • Practice Empathy via project based learning, service learning projects and human-center design
    • Create safe and welcome environment via...
    • Breakdown barriers to empathy
    • Overcoming hesitance to share knowledge: create space where people connect with the power of empathy - "when was a time you felt most heard"
    • Creative Writing- to talk about emotions and safe place
    • Having freely available materials
    • Working on teams (active listening, empathy buddies, ...) for materials' design and adaptation
    • Collaboration between schools
    • Using evidence-based materials
    • Visits to other schools
    • Having fairs to present materials, as well as testimonials
    • Relate materials to their impact on learning
    • fear of wasting time
    • Non-denominational and mainstream slant. Grade the materials acceptability
    • Experiential training and experiential materials
    • people specializes one theme
    • Finding accessible and authentic language to create the tools
    • Ashoka network of changemaking schools - Who's doing what / grade level
    • create this design project series, bring in etc.
    • What is the assessment piece?

    • Interview Experts
    • Document practices 
    • evidence 
    • Model process with stakeholders
    • Interview stakeholders
    • Personal practice leads to greater empathy 
    • Evidence of how empathy creates joy - transformation - meaning, etc.
    • Find practices that bring empathy into content areas - interdisciplinary empathy
    • To develop this series into a toolkit; connect what we're doing with StartEmpathy and others
    • Multimedia presentation: Documents, video of practices, interviews / testimonials
    • Introduce tools in ways that address concerns/fears


    Do Research 
      • research project to find tools and structure the how
      • research: collect ideas
      • sort ideas by effectiveness
      • do interviews on effective methods
      • create an organization, conferences, publish research
      • do a survey of practitioners of effective methods
      • how ambition
    Design a Survey:
    What questions do we ask about effective practices?
    • Walk me through a successful day using your concept to teach empathy?
    • Perspective taking: to a student - describe an experience of taking another perspective
    • What practices bring more happiness to your school?
    • use our design questions.
    • How do you measure effectiveness?
    • What were the biggest obstacles and what worked to overcome them?
    • What led to school buy-in?
    • What 3 things you learned about teaching empathy practices?
      • Name
        • Play empathy games
      • Edwin
        • 1. active listening
        • 2. role playing
      • Name
        • "How can we make them live it?" -> role playing, = RAFT. Role, Agenda, Format, Topic. Bring board. They choose from each column. To capture voice of character from book= a deeper look into the situation.
      • Name
        • 1. Need to include empathy in content areas
          Constellation, interdisciplinary empathy, uncovering hidden or misunderstood motivators
      • Name
        • 1. inquiry education 
        • 2. student as co-creator of knowledge 
        • 3. connection to nature as a way to highlight interconnect. of all

    Check List Instructions for Participants

    1. Use good computer equipment: 
    • Try to use Google Chrome, it works best for Google Hangouts and MURAL 
    • Use as large a screen and as powerful a computer as you can! (and the fastest Internet you can find). Cell phones do not work.
    • Use a mouse. (especially with Mural).  Scratch pads are hard to use in MURAL.
    •  iPad may not work; best to use a regular computer.
    • Use earbuds to avoid audio feedback.
    • try not to use WiFi but rather a direct connection for better and more reliable internet performance.
    • Agree to stay for the full workshop. We work as a team and having participants leave mid workshop disrupts the flow.
    2. We use Google Hangouts On Air for Video Conferencing.
    See How to use Google Hangouts

    YouTube Video

    Before the Workshop - Create an account on
    • We will use the Mural platform for some of our design activities,.
    • We need participants emails, we will invite you to join Mural.
    • Participants will receive an invitation to a Mural room.
    • Before the workshop on the Mural page 1, create a introduction about yourself. 
    • Play with the software to get familiar with it.

    5. Watch this Introduction to MURAL

    YouTube Video

    Presentation Notes: 
    July 08, Empathic Co-Design Workshop
    How might we design an empathic culture in our school?
    Start Recording

    Personal Introductions in MURAL

    About Human Centered Design   (5 min)

    Mural: Review of Design Process

    • Empathy, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.
    • We will do a minimal iteration in 3 hr. We have a;

      • 8 hr workshop version

      • 7 week workshop version

    Emotional Preparation

    • This will be very fasted paced, 
    • You may feel overwhelmed, frustrated from; 
      • The fast pace
      • Leaning  new programs like Hangouts, Mural, etc.
      • Dealing with technical problems with computer, audio, Hangouts, Mural, 
      • Leaning a new design process 
      • but that's ok.
    • There's a learning curve on the technology and it's a great tool set to learn and most people gain a lot from learning it.



    1. Empathy - Interviews (45 min)

    • Sample Questions  (2 min)

    • Do interviews (5 min pp)

    2. Define   (15 min)

    • Sort and Cluster Interviews (10 min)

    • Find themes and Insights

    • Craft How might we statements (5 min)

    • Select HMW - Vote

    3. Ideate  (20 minutes)

    • Brainstorming

    • Cluster  (5 min)

    • Select  (1 min)

    4. Prototype  (20 minutes)

    5. Test    (20 minutes)

    6. Feedback (15 Min)  5 min write  - 5 min share


    7. Iterate - Plan to do it again.