Ignite Empathy

Ignite presentation on designing with empathy.

I have this idea that I am responsible for her. 

I’m going to talk about how we are ALL actually responsible to her.

And hopefully, we design accordingly. 

So my first question is...

Does anyone know who she is?

This is Kevin Bacon, who thru 6 degrees is connected to Mayor Rahm Emanuel – Chicago’s Mayor. My Mayor. You guys know me.  Remember that you know me, and I live in Chicago.

So it matters if you think you know her.

It also matters if you think you don’t know her.

But It doesn’t matter whether you’ve ever actually met her in person.

This is a girl in Chicago.

She’s the sister of a future teacher.  Your future child’s future teacher.

Without a doubt she is someone who deserves our empathy. 

Empathy builds connections.

We all deserve each other’s empathy, because we all need to feel connected to each other.  No matter how big a leap that seems to be. No matter how many “6 degrees” it takes us to get there.


I matter when you matter. You get better when I get better.

I live better when you have a better chance of living.

And I’m not talking me and you, I’m talking about the people we don’t know, the people we design for, the people we research, the people we may never think about – they REALLY matter.

This isn’t their problem. This is my problem.

I haven’t been shot at, none of my friends or family have been shot, but I live in Chicago.

And you guys know me. So this is our problem.

It’s our problem because when we have empathy for one another, we understand we’re in this together. 

We start to pay attention to how the other person is doing. 

We start to see the SOCIAL RELEVANCE.

US vs.THEM never adds up.  It quickly turns in to YOU vs. ME.

And when has that ever turned out well?

When we see ourselves in the issue, we don’t need 6 DEGREES to be connected to Murder In Chicago, Poverty in San Antonio, or Public Health in Portland.


These become human issues, OUR issues.

And this isn’t about Moral Relativism or the Theory of Relativity.

Or any other other theory of a theory that I am obviously not aware of.


This is about human connections, and being relevant to one another.

This is about Mutual Respect & Understanding.

So we develop this capacity for empathy towards one another.

And empathy crosses borders, oceans, races, cultures, neighborhoods, and languages.

Empathy even crosses the street.


EMPATHY is a universal problem-solving tool.

And I don’t have a well-developed answer for how to teach this or what I am going to do about it, except to say we’ve already been taught this.


Why did we forget it?

Maybe we haven’t forgot it. Maybe we just need to realize six degrees really is just one degree, (possibly the person next to you).


So put on your Muppet Glasses and look, design, and live with empathy.