Packard Foundation, Ashoka Changemakers award empathy grants

Gary Hedden/Special to the Town Crier
Several hundred guests attended the Los Altos-based Packard Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Open House Oct. 22. Along with snacks and tours, the event featured an awards ceremony that honored winners of the Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change online grant competition. Grant recipient Carmel Jud, above, founder and executive director of Rising International, trains women and teens to launch social businesses and market crafts handmade by women survivors of war, rape and human trafficking.

The Los Altos-based David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers Oct. 23 named the six winners of the online grant competition they co-sponored, Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change.

The organizations announced the winners at the Packard Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Open House, during which winners and finalists shared their ideas with several hundred attendees.

The challenge sought local initiatives that tap the power of empathy to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change. The competition received more than 200 entries from Northern California community organizations.

“So much exciting work to foster empathy is happening in our five-county region and neighboring communities,” said Carol Larson, president and CEO of the Packard Foundation. “We are particularly encouraged by the six winning organizations that are actively cultivating empathy skills. It is their hope and ours that local communities will be strong and vibrant places where future generations can reach their full potential as community builders and problem-solvers.”

According to Bill Drayton, CEO and founder of Ashoka, empathy is a “crucial skill for creating social change.”

“By activating empathy in their communities, the winners of the challenge are paving the way for a world where everyone can become a changemaker and tackle the issues that matter to them most,” he said.

Recipients of the $100,000 grants:

• Playworks: The Oakland-based organization transforms school playgrounds into places where students learn essential skills such as teamwork, conflict resolution, empathy and fair play by placing recess coaches in schools.

• San Jose State University’s Collaborative for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child: The initiative prepares and trains teachers to use the social-emotional lens to improve student outcomes and the ability of both educators and students to thrive.

• Soul Shoppe: The Oakland-based enterprise provides a whole-school approach to curbing bullying and fostering empathic action.

• The First Tee of Monterey County: The group uses golf as a vehicle for mentorship and teaching at-risk youth in Salinas to recognize their own strengths and leadership potential.

• The Respect Institute: The San Jose-based group equips vulnerable youth and those who influence them with the tools to develop social and emotional resilience.

• Rising International: Based in Santa Cruz, the organization trains women and teens to launch social businesses and market crafts handmade by women survivors of war, rape and human trafficking.

A panel of judges selected the winners. Judges included Cedric Brown, managing partner of the Kapor Center for Social Impact; Linda Burch, chief education and strategy officer of Common Sense Media; Christina Ballantyne, principal of San Miguel Elementary School; Fred Luskin, Ph.D., director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects; and Sterling Speirn, president of the Stupski Foundation.

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