2016: Spotlighting Empathy in Changemaker Schools, India

2016 is going to be a very exciting year for Changemaker Schools, India! We are rapidly expanding our reach and our team, and as we do so, we felt that (for a number of reasons) ‘Empathy’ would be a good theme of the year.

A fundamental value within Ashoka is that just as Literacy and Numeracy are core skills for survival in the 21st century, so too are personal skills such as Empathy, Team Work, Leadership, and Creative Problem Solving. We believe that if these skills are instilled in the growing years then an individual will be more likely to grow up to be a Changemaker.

In case you may be new to this concept (welcome!), let me clarify. Firstly, a Changemaker can be described as someone (child, teacher, parent, etc…) who, when given the right supportive environment and opportunities:


  • Is equipped and inclined to live for the common good
  • Has learned to thrive- and help others thrive- in a rapidly changing world
  • Has learned to search for and act upon opportunities to improve our collective quality of life
  • Has learned to see social and environmental problems – however small- and step up to help solve those problems


According to Ashoka’s past experience of working with world-renowned entrepreneurs and Changemakers working in the field, these people often exemplify character traits such as those mentioned above (Empathy, Teamwork, Leadership, Creativity). However, while each skill is important to being a Changemaker, we believe that it is through Empathy specifically that one’s ability to identify and discover creative solutions to some of societies’ deepest needs derives. 

Empathy (emotional and cognitive) can be described as: the ability to pay close attention to and be sensitive to ones’ environment- both with humanity and with nature (now and in the future). An empathetic individual is self-aware, other-aware, and we-aware at the same time. And through this sensitivity and inclusiveness, one becomes closely connected to the world around them, constantly striving to understand the feelings, perspectives, and lives of others; ultimately being better able to interact within their own ecosystem and beyond.

Furthermore, Empathy is considered the pinnacle for where becoming a Changemaker beings, preceding the other 3 skills because, simply put, without it- what kind of leader will we be? How well would we be able to interact within a team? Or to what extent could we creatively solve global issues?

Therefore, as the Changemaker Schools Program enters into its second year, we have chosen to consciously highlight the ways in which our Changemaker Schools teach and demonstrate Empathy within their learning space and among their students, staff, and communities. So, interspersed within our other blogs addressing our events, new discoveries, and other exciting topics, keep an eye out for stories on how our Changemaker Schools are playing their part to instill a sense of empathy in the world’s next generation. To kick start this year of Empathy, we are planning on having ‘Changemaker Days’ around this theme.