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Cultivating Networks of Empathy with Ashoka Changemaker Schools

Ashoka’s Changemaker Schools Network is a community of leading schools that prioritize empathy and changemaking as student outcomes. Through innovations in school curricula, culture, and systems, these schools are pioneering how education can cultivate children as changemakers. Ashoka is identifying, selecting, and collaborating with these leading schools to enhance and amplify their models and collectively identify and address the challenges to making such an education a reality for all children. Ashoka's overall vision is to advance an Everyone a Changemaker world, where anyone can apply the skills of changemaking to solve complex social problems. [From http://empathy.ashoka.org/ashoka-changemaker-schools]

Photo of Em Havens
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Ashoka's program caught my attenion because of the way their approach seems to be inspired by the deeper question of "how might we empower children and students to lead meaningful & fulfilling lives?".

Ashoka's belief in empathy is similar to Paul Tough's belief in grit in his book "How Children Succeed". In these instances, both empathy and grit are foundational characteristics necessary for students to be able to grow into dynamic, resilient human beings that are able to create value in this world. 

It also makes me think of Sir Ken Robinson's Ted Talk on how school's kill creativity. 

A few questions that emerge: What are other foundational characteristics necessary for youth that will ensure future success & fullfillment? Are schools a natural intervention point in building out stronger, aligned pathways of support for young people? 

A bit more information about what it takes to become a Changemaker School (from: http://startempathy.org/about/changemaker-schools):

We’re looking for schools or school networks of all types, geographies, and demographics that have the following characteristics:

Everyone a Changemaker Alignment. Changemaker Schools, in aspiration and practice, are cultivating all of their students as changemakers. They are vision-oriented and focused on the “who” rather than the “what,” developing all children as active contributors rather than passive recipients. They have high standards of excellence for students, teachers and staff alike. And they are making the development of empathy a priority in their curricula, culture, and systems. They may be far advanced in these efforts or just beginning, but school leadership is committed to an aligned vision and has taken steps in pursuit of it.

Innovation. Changemaker Schools are innovating. They have demonstrated their ability and willingness to develop and test new ideas, rather than just following established norms. And leadership fosters a culture of innovation in the school.

Influence. Changemaker Schools have the authority, reputation and relevance needed to influence others in the education sector. There is no singular measure of influence, but Changemaker Schools—whether public, charter, independent, large, small, urban, rural, low-income, or affluent—all have clear aspiration and either the demonstrated capacity or obvious potential to get others to follow their lead.

Changemakers. Changemaker Schools all have a Change Team, comprised of teachers, administrators, parents, students and/or other school staff who are entrepreneurial, collegial, ethical and share the Everyone a Changemaker vision. This team must also demonstrate commitment to realizing the vision in their own school and beyond and a willingness to equally share their own experiences and learn from what others have done.

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Photo of Luisa Fernanda

Emily,
I am so glad that you are pointing out this initiative. I had the pleasure to attend a workshop with high school students part of this program and I've never met such inspirational individuals. The program supports young people to be entrepreneurs And to believe in achieving their dreams. This type of empowerment and support is vital to not only provide youths with pathways to employment but also to create change that could potentially change the unemployment landscape.

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Photo of Em Havens

How cool that you were able to see a first hand account of the impact of the program, Luisa! Full disclosure- I'm currently working with their counterpart, AshokaU, as they grow internationally. Both programs are not only effective when it comes to empowering young people, but they also successfully build out the infrastructure & strengthen systems that are working to shift the unemployment reality for young people for years to come.