Mary Gordon, Founder of Roots of Empathy with her 2018 Governor General’s Innovation Award. Photo credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall. © OSGG, 2018 | Mary Gordon, fondatrice de Racines de l’empathie, avec son Prix du gouverneur général pour l’innovation 2018. Photo : cplc Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, © BSGG, 2018
Mary Gordon was awarded a 2018 Governor General’s Innovation Award for her education achievement, Roots of Empathy. As a kindergarten teacher who ran family literacy centres in underprivileged Toronto neighbourhoods, Mary Gordon occasionally encountered domestic abuse cases. Ms. Gordon believed that the acts of violence were due to a lack of empathy and, as a result, she decided to bring a mother and a child into a classroom to illustrate what love and patience look like. This exercise was the foundation for Roots for Empathy, which officially began in 1996, as a non-for-profit organization that currently spans 11 countries.
Ms. Gordon believes that the common denominator in all forms of violence is the absence of empathy. She defines empathy as “the ability to take the perspective of another person.” This perspective begins with the relationship between parent and baby. By engaging with a baby in a classroom setting, the students can reflect on their own feelings and those of others, developing empathy.
Roots of Empathy is an incredible example of a social innovation and a Canadian achievement that is helping children and families all over the world. As Gordon stated in her GGIA acceptance speech, “Roots of Empathy’s goal is to break inter-generational cycles of violence with a mission to build a more caring, peaceful and civil society through developing empathy in children.”
For more information on Ms. Gordon’s Roots of Empathy program, please see the introductory video presented during the 2018 Governor General’s Innovation Awards ceremony.
Read more about Roots of Empathy in our Partner booklet with Public Policy Forum.