On the occasion of the "5th Annual Designing for Empathy Summit & Workshops"
October 11, 2022
"Working to promote an education of the heart is the best contribution we can make to future generations if we are to help them meet the complex challenges that lie before them. I celebrate with you the fact that you have been exploring this perspective in the form of your summit and workshops for the last five years." ~~The Dalai Lama
Humanity is at a crossroads: it is imperative that we find ways to develop care and concern for one another, and our interconnected existence. Empathy, our ability to imagine what it might feel like to be another, is a perceptive lens through which we may choose to view the world, and our place within. A focus on the many nuances of empathy from multidisciplinary and multicultural perspectives is necessary for our understanding of what empathy can be for our world. A multifaceted approach to empathy can enable us to develop the most relevant, healing, and ethical empathy-building solutions that would benefit our oneness —all of humanity, our kin that we share our world with, and our planet.
The 6th Annual Designing for Empathy® Summit & Workshops will take place at The Rubin Museum of Art, and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York (October 25-27, 2023). This year, we are inviting multidisciplinary creatives to collectively explore the invisible stories that are often overlooked, yet are critical to our understanding of what empathy is, its many nuances, and what it means for our collective future.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
The tension between duality and oneness, is one of those invisible narratives that underlies our existence. As we go through life from the vantage point of the self, which is prone to ego-centric attitudes and choices, how might we expand our circle of care towards the other? How might we use art, artifacts, and museums to learn about ourselves, and the ways we perceive the other, so that we may develop strategies for self-accountability and self-correction? Which invisible filters, through which we view the world, and our place within? What are some of the invisible choices that we make? What can we learn from those experiences where our heart tells us that we are a part of something much greater than ourselves and all is one, yet our embodied reality makes it difficult for us to witness this invisible oneness of being? Can our oneness be the object of empathy? …What else about empathy is essential for us to know, yet remains invisible to the eye?
Annual Designing for Empathy® Summits provide all participants with direct engagement in the process of social innovation towards equity, diversity, and social and environmental justice through collaborative work in empathy-building. The 6th Annual Designing for Empathy® Summit & Workshops will be home to a unique multidisciplinary network of dedicated creatives, scholars, and thought-leaders. We believe that empathy permeates all aspect of our lives, and a collective action to intentionally design for empathy should be equally diverse and inclusive. Our 3-day gathering results in long-term innovative collaborations across disciplines and sectors to create a culture of empathy in our world. Annual Designing for Empathy® Summit & Workshops are curated by Elif M. Gokcigdem, PhD, founding president of ONE - Organization of Networks for Empathy, and the editor of Fostering Empathy Through Museums (2016) & Designing for Empathy: Perspectives on the Museum Experience (2019).
Designing for Empathy® framework suggests that an empathy-building effort should begin with the exploration of three guiding questions concerning the “object” of empathy, the Alchemy of Empathy, and the Scope & the Spectrum of Empathy. Within the context of Designing for Empathy® framework, a working definition of Empathy is: a form of perception that enables us to connect with ourselves, and others, while awakening us into our oneness. Inspired by indigenous and wisdom traditions that point out to the oneness of being, Designing for Empathy® approaches the concept of oneness as a mindset that is essential to our collective survival. Oneness Mindset is considered as a lens, or a master perspective, through which we might choose to see our world and our place in it, inspiring us to design and utilize our resources such as knowledge, technologies and systems, with the intention of helping humans develop harmonious engagements with the whole. Within this context, Empathy-building is an intentionally designed, transformative (perspective/paradigm shifting and worldview-expanding) lived perceptual experience that leads to self-knowledge. Through empathy-building we might calibrate and harmonize our engagements with the other, within our inherent oneness.
Museums harbor several key ingredients that are conducive to fostering empathy: storytelling, experiences of awe and wonder, experiential learning, dialogue, and contemplation can be experienced in the shared spaces and diverse contexts provided by a variety of museums. By positioning museums as incubators of empathy-building, ONE’s Designing for Empathy® framework contributes to the creation of a culture of empathy in our world, by enabling active collaboration across cultures, disciplines, and sectors to deepen our understanding of the nuances of empathy through experiential learning and innovation.
The 6th Annual Designing for Empathy® Summit & Workshops participants will:
Participants at the very first empathy summit with HH The Dalai Lama in 2018, left the gathering with three commitments, which became integral to the ethos of all summits:
We invite you to arrive at the Summit with a clear intention, and plan to leave with one commitment that you will bring to life. Due to the collaborative spirit of the Summit, all participants are requested to commit to the quality of our collective learning journey by being present throughout the three days. Space is limited to 40, including the speakers.
In partnership with the FIT, this year we will be launching a Designing for Empathy® Student Engagement Framework that will include all-campus student participation to select events, and a scholarship/award ceremony. FIT campus will be invited to afternoon sessions, where students will lead some of the panels, and will be the recipients of five inaugural Designing for Empathy® Student Awards, including a memorial award named after our dear friend: Victoria Renee Edwards Award for Excellence in Designing for Empathy®.
ONE’s journey began with the Empathy-Building Through Museums Initiative in 2014. ONE's vision is to help shape our culture around empathy, while positioning museums as incubators of empathy-building through cross-sectors collaboration an innovation. ONE is led by Elif M. Gokcigdem, PhD, a historian of Islamic art, a museums scholar and the editor of two pioneering books on empathy in museums. In 2021, she established a small consulting firm: Elif M. Gokcigdem, LLC (d.b.a. ONE - Organization of Networks for Empathy) in Arlington, Virginia.
Elif Gokcigdem (she/her) is the founding president of ONE - Organization of Networks for Empathy, and the editor of Fostering Empathy Through Museums (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), and Designing for Empathy: Perspectives on the Museum Experience (American Alliance of Museums, 2019), which are considered reference books in empathy-building through museums, a new field of inquiry she pioneered in 2014. Dr. Gokcigdem developed Designing for Empathy® as a unique, patented intellectual framework, and an international platform for multidisciplinary, multisector, and multicultural collaborations to deepen our understanding of empathy, and to develop strategies, scholarship, and empathy-building experiences that consider the wellbeing of the whole —all of humanity and our planet. In 2018, Dr. Gokcigdem curated and co-chaired the world’s first empathy summit titled: Fostering Universal Ethics and Compassion through Museums with His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamshala, India. Elif grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, studying history of art and mysticism, and later, museum studies in the US. Currently, she leads ONE, teaches at the GWU Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, and serves as a member of the Board of Trustees at the Museum of Us.