The two most precious commodities in the world are kindness and empathy. They already know this at KIND Snacks, the hugely successful New York-based food company whose CEO and founder Daniel Lubetzky (Stanford Law ’93) is wagering that a new initiative called Empatico can spread kindness and empathy by starting a conversation that connects people around the world.
Like much of what springs from Lubetzky’s imagination, the idea is genius.
Most Americans have figured out that the national conversation is broken, that we’re running a quart low on empathy, that greater engagement is key, and that we need to keep pace with a world that is getting smaller.
Empatico checks all those boxes—on a global level. After all, a lot of what afflicts the people of this country also afflicts people in other countries.
“Of everything that I’ve started in my life, I think Empatico has the most potential for transformative change. It can help children discover each other’s humanity.”
Here’s how it works: Empatico is a free and simple tool that lets educators connect their classrooms with other classrooms virtually. It provides educators with all they need to engage colleagues from faraway places in participating together in activities, live videos, file sharing, and other partnerships. The goal is to give students (ages six through eleven) a greater understanding of their similarities and differences—and to help them learn valuable life skills such as respectful communication, critical thinking, cultural sensitivity, and active listening. The result? Kindness and empathy, hopefully.
The project is now operating in more than 150,000 classrooms in all 50 states and more than 130 countries.
“Of everything that I’ve started in my life, I think Empatico has the most potential for transformative change,” Lubetzky says. “It’s a platform and technology and a set of tools to help teachers expand the horizons of their children and provide them essential social emotion-learning skills. It can help children discover each other’s humanity.”
In describing the role teachers play in introducing students to the world, Lubetzky identifies a shining example.“There’s a woman named Melissa Collins who’s a teacher in Memphis, Tennessee, and all her students are black and they’ve never met a white kid before,” he says. “One of the things that she likes to do is connect with kids in an all-white school in southern New Jersey who have never met a black kid.”
Other teachers reach out further and connect their students with kids in other countries, like Mexico and Nigeria.
For Lubetzky, how people get along with one another is more important than whatever facts and figures they have in their heads. “There’s a greater correlation between EQ [emotional quotient] and happiness and success than there is with IQ,” he says.
That adds up. Competing to see who is smarter than whom can push people apart, but kindness and empathy will usually bring them back together.
Photos: Gillian Fry