Networks-as-Change: Expanding Empathy

February 28, 2014 2 Comments

“In principle, empathy can override every rule about how to treat others.”

-Frans de Waal


Photo by Vamsi Krishna


Yesterday’s post considered the importance and power of the empathic turn in networks-as-change, to ground people in deep connection with living realities, for the sake of greater imagination, justice, resilience and responsibility. Taking cues from experience and the work and studies of others, here are some thoughts for how to cultivate radical “affection” (to quote Wendell Berry) in networks:

  • Go beyond abstraction to interaction – go to and meet in real places, explore them, consider how life happens there (see for example Story of Place and Heart and Soul)

  • Make room for and model vulnerability and feeling –  share not only ideas but intuitions, aspirations and fears, values and memories/mementos
  • Encourage curiosity by inviting people to interview one another about their experiences
  • Invite people to imagine what others might be feeling and to examine their own assumptions about others
  • Use immersive storytelling and fiction, which can fire people’s empathic imagination
  • Play games and music together, which experience and research show can help people build bonds and hold one another in mind
  • Develop awareness of the “empathy gap” that can come from privilege, socioeconomic, racial, and cultural divides
  • Practice mindfulness meditation or mindsight as a way of strengthening the ability to focus attention on our own and others’ experiences
  • Incorporate the practices of group “inscaping” to integrate internal experience in what can otherwise be the work “out there”

What would you add?


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