On its quest to create a kinder, healthier world — one snack at a time — the KIND Foundation, a nonprofit established by KIND Snacks, has launched a $20 million, multi-year initiative to inspire meaningful interactions between kids across the world and foster empathy. Empatico is a free online learning tool that enables students to practice communication and leadership skills needed in a divided country and interdependent world. By the end of 2020, the platform endeavors to reach more than one million students in 25 countries and make it possible for kids everywhere to connect with one another.
Empatico aligns with the Foundation’s nontraditional approach to philanthropy, which often personifies KIND’s name and embodies its longstanding mission to elevate kindness and empathy. The initiative builds on recent efforts by KIND to bridge social divides, such as the development of the Pop Your Bubble digital tool, which connects Facebook users with people who are different than them. But unlike Pop Your Bubble, Empatico is designed specifically for 8–10-year-olds. According to George Khalaf, Executive Director of Empatico, this age range represents a unique opportunity.
“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 8–10-year-olds, however, biases have yet to become deeply rooted,” Khalaf explained. “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.”
Leading technologists, teachers and global education experts collaborated to develop the beta version of the platform. Now teachers are invited to test the tool, share feedback and help optimize it for their classroom needs.
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For Heather Walker, an elementary school teacher, Empatico offers an easy way for teachers to give their students a window to the world. “Most students at our school have never left the boundaries of Chula Vista. Enabling them to have meaningful conversations and discover life outside their community has so many learning benefits and will ultimately prepare them for the world,” said Walker, who serves as an Education Innovation Specialist in San Diego. “We’d be doing our learners a disservice if we didn’t provide them with this opportunity.”
Sarah King, Deputy Director of the Global Learning Lab at Teach For All, reiterates the value of providing kids an opportunity to engage with those who have different perspectives.
“Our world is dramatically changing and what is required of students to participate and be leaders in it has also changed,” said King. “Empatico is a practical, globally-minded tool that can help teachers cultivate necessary character skills, like kindness, collaboration and critical thinking.”
Like KIND’s other social impact commitments, Empatico is inspired by the early experiences of KIND founder Daniel Lubetzky.
“My heritage as the son of a Holocaust survivor and a Mexican immigrant has shown me what happens when people don’t develop an appreciation for difference. That’s why KIND has always strived to help people discover each other’s humanity,” said Lubetzky. “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.”