Using Empathy to Craft a Better Solution

Youth Challenge Incubation Phase 1, Week 2: Empathy and Research

What if, just by asking the right questions, you could turn your good idea into a fantastic one? We are in week 2 of our incubation process. This week we led our Youth Challenge cohort through a Crash Course in Design Thinking to help them recognize the importance of empathy in their process.

Empathy is the ability to feel what others are feeling. This is crucial in social innovation work, because you can’t solve a problem until you understand all the factors that make it a problem in the first place. You might think that Jack is failing a class because he can’t read, when he actually just can’t see. Empathy helps you know that you need to get Jack eyeglasses, not a reading tutor.

How do you figure this out? You get to know the people you are serving through asking the right questions, observing, and listening intentionally to avoid making assumptions. Once you do the hard work of empathizing, you have the power to craft a solution for someone that they might not have known that they always needed.

This week, our Youth Challenge winners are hitting the streets interviewing and observing parents, youth, teachers, community leaders and mentors to practice empathy and improve their project concepts.

What can you do to practice empathy this week?

  • For social entrepreneurs, here are some great guidelines from Design Kit on how to get to know someone who is influenced by what you do.
  • Looking for something less formal? Here’s one simple habit that will make you a great conversationalist.
  • Follow the exploits of Dick & Rick as they try their hand at human-centered design. The goal is to keep it human-centered. Hint: one is doing it right and the other isn’t.