Digitally empathic society [a new challenge]

Challenge: Acquiring partners and participants in a non-profit event, for which the noble-cause does not directly affect them.


A friend recently asked me to help put on an event, the AKF Partnership Golf outing for Chicago. The funds raised by this event will be multiplied 7-13 times by matching donors and 100% of all sponsorship dollars will go directly to funding community-improvement projects, like clean water, in poverty-stricken nations. This past week, we had our first committee meeting. In the chairman’s opening remarks, Karim Khowaja made a valid statement about a challenge that we may face while seeking support for this noble-cause:

Poverty in other nations is easy to keep out-of-sight out-of-mind, not everyone is directly impacted by poverty. This isn’t the same as invoking empathy for cancer-research, as 1-in-2 men and 1-in-3 women will have cancer in their lifetime. So how do we effectively reach enough people and invoke empathy in order to acquire partners and participants in a non-profit event, for which the cause does not directly affect them?

‘A’ Solution

Utilize social media and an innovative digital presence to spark interest and convey our message, leveraging the empathic nature of human beings to yield partners and participants.

We were built to be a globally empathic civilization. Communication is the fuel of empathy, and if stronger communication tools can transcend more time, space, and social boundaries, then in order to efficiently convey our message, invoke empathy in others, and effectively acquire partnerships and participants in the small window of only a few months, then we must use powerful-media and the best-communication tools available to us.

Prove it

In 10-minutes of motion, Jeremy Rifkin talks about how empathy is chemically created within the human brain (mirror neurons), how these mirror neurons play into our interactions, and the evolution of empathy within human culture and how it has been fueled by communication, creation of the written word, the industrial revolution, creation of markets, and now through the emergence and power of social and digital media.

Social media can create global empathy

In the video, @JeremyRifkin uses the earthquake in Haiti as a prime example of how social media is increasing global connectivity and global empathy. Within 1-hour of the earthquake, tweets began spreading; within 2-hours mobile uploads to youtube were being shared and viewed; within 3-hours we saw a global movement of nations rushing to help those in need. The viral spread of information and the visuals of victims triggered the mirror neurons of a global population and we were able to feel the pain of others.

Digital Innovation

How can we help? We have a natural desire for instant-gratification, and the ease of donating via mobile-app, SMS, and through simple clicks on your favorite social network made it possible to expedite fundraising efforts to Haiti. Improving the user experience of donating can quickly spark interest and increase conversion.

evolution of human empathy

  • Tribal empathy or blood-tie empathy: early human beings were only concerned about the well being of their own blood-line and of those in their immediate tribe. They had little-to-no interaction with anyone outside of their own tribe, nor did they have any solid means of communication.

  • Theological consciousness and religious ties: Hydraulic agricultural civilizations gave birth to script. Our ability to create a written record of thoughts, ideas and beliefs allowed messages to transcend space and time. This gave birth to theology and thus people began to de-tribalise, and create bonds based upon religious ties.

  • The Nation State: the industrial revolution and creation of markets caused society to expand our sentiment of empathy to encompass entire regions.

  • Global Empathy and an empathic civilization: growing upon the strong bonds of blood, religion and nationality, we extend our empathy to all humans as our kin, and to the animals of the world as our neighbors, and to our planet and environment as our common biosphere, making us an empathic civilization.