Is SEL already last year’s trend?


One of our four culture goals at the foundation is to “create energy.” This last month I went to a board meeting that created a lot of energy for me personally. The focus: a discussion on equity and empathy. More and more I am hearing about the importance of empathy and how focusing on it is a trend. Is SEL already last year’s trend?

Diedra Barber facilitated it and she opened with a set of norms that I thought might change any meeting or key decision we make if we kept these in mind:

  • Expose yourself to new ideas
  • Question prevailing norms
  • Understand world views are different and varied perspectives exist
  • Innovation takes engaged listening
  • Think anything is possible even when the change we seek is impossible
  • Your voice/views count, be present, be here in the moment

She quoted Adrian Ellis: “The common challenge facing all cultural organizations regardless of brand or size can be boiled down to relevance in the world they operate.” I feel that if we substituted cultural organizations with public schools we might think differently about our work too. We had a good conversation about the difference between “empathy” and “sympathy”. She explained: Empathy fuels connection while sympathy drives disconnection. Empathy is about perspective taking, not judging, communicating your feelings. The video she shared by Brene Brown made these words come alive: What is Empathy?

We ended with a set of reflection questions that again hit home. As you think about your work:

  • What perspective is missing from our analysis today and how do we make sure it is at the table without putting a burden or additional emotional impact on those that live that perspective?
  • If we are really committed to community and the statement of impact guides our work, how do we get these perspectives centered in our planning?

Food for thought!

C.