A Time to Heal Our Country and Our Globe: Expanding Horizons at Scale

It never crossed my mind that an idea that began to take shape years ago to heal divisions among nations would be as urgently needed to bridge divides within our own country.

Today, I am proud to announce how Empatico will help address the major challenges that our nation and world face in terms of growing alienation, hatred, and the inability to listen to one another.

Fifteen years ago, as I was traveling across the Middle East and the world to build a grassroots Movement to amplify the voice of Israeli and Palestinian moderates, I was struck by a concern shared by everyone with whom I spoke. Each side felt that their people was misunderstood and mischaracterized. Tensions were at an all-time high, but it was clear that each group’s desire was similar: Muslim, Christian or Jew, Arab or Israeli, secular or religious, they wanted to tell their stories and where they were coming from. They wanted to be treated with dignity and respect.

I realized that there was no platform through which they – let alone their children – could connect to discover each other’s humanity, so I started brainstorming solutions.

A couple of years later, I founded KIND. Beyond crafting healthy and tasty snacks, KIND has been committed to using market forces to inspire kindness and bring people together. As our business has grown, we’ve aimed to scale this mission in different ways. When we established The KIND Foundation in 2016, we recognized the need to close gaps of understanding within society. Those gaps create distances, fear and hatred, and serve as obstacles to empathy & kindness.

Empatico, The KIND Foundation’s most ambitious initiative to date, is an online learning tool that will connect students across the globe. Through the platform, kids will have the chance to explore their similarities and differences, expand their horizons and strengthen their empathy muscles. We chose to start with 8-10-year-olds because they are best suited to develop empathy. Their brains are beginning to help them understand their identities in relation to others, and their biases have yet to become deeply rooted. If we can intercept students at this moment, and give them opportunities to meaningfully interact with one another, we can create a lifetime of positive change.

I’ve always felt that it’s our shared obligation to leave this world better than we found it. Since becoming a father, I have felt this more urgently and deeply. When I first conceived the idea for Empatico, it seemed like an immediate need for conflict zones like the Middle East, but not necessarily for America. I never imagined that in my lifetime I would come to see the American system as fragile as I recognize it to be today, and a global system facing mounting threats of extremism and intolerance. There is a lot that we need to do to improve the world, including developing the ability to be better listeners and more critical thinkers, and we can’t do it without our kids as part of the solution.

While in-person global interaction among children is hard to achieve at scale, we are fortunate to have technology that can connect classrooms living worlds apart. Empatico will leverage technology to take kids out of their bubbles, give them an opportunity to tell their stories, and learn with and from other kids.

This is only the beginning. We want an overwhelming majority of children across the world to be part of this journey of understanding – to see what’s beyond their communities and how kids in other parts of the world think. We want kids to adopt a sense of responsibility to other human beings. This should not only help them understand how to prevent conflict, and how to develop critical listening skills that will come handy in their own lives, but also to positively cement the areas of their own identity that they can be proud of. It should also help a new generation of leaders recognized our shared responsibility to solve society’s biggest challenges.

Third and fourth grade teachers, parents, and friends: we invite you to join us. Visit empatico.org to get started.

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