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Edwin Rutsch

Edwin Rutsch

I’m director of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy and founder of IETA.  Been working on the empathy center for over 9 years. Would like to network with more empathy trainers and develop an online training MOOC.

1. What is your name, background and interest with training empathy?

I’m Edwin Rutsch and am director of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy. It’s the largest empathy resource that I am aware of on the internet.

You can view my extended bio here:
I’ve been working on the Empathy Center for over 8 years.

After having done a lot of different projects related to fostering and promoting empathy I’ve come to see the importance of training. I created a short video about my empathy journey. see

Empathy Trainers Salon Presentation by Edwin Rutsch

I now want to focus on developing and hosting trainings. Especially develop a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) empathy training.

I’m really working on how might we develop a personal and social empathic way of being.

2. What are your ideas for forming an International Empathy Trainers Association?

The main ideas is to bring a group of trainers together and we use the human centered design or ‘empathic design’ process to co-design the organization. People outside the design community many not be familiar with this process but it’s a very powerful toolset and mindset. Here’s a link to more about the process

3. What sort of support do you need from IETA?
I’m looking for friendships, networking, support, effectiveness, sustainability, personal growth and community. I enjoy working with others toward the same ends for fostering empathy in our culture. Also enjoy and value building friendships in this community.

I’m willing to put in time to get this association started, maintaining it and growing it.

4. How would you like to contribute of building the Association?

I want to contribute by getting the ball rolling with setting up the foundational infrastructure. Ie
  • * a initial website,
  • * this discussion group, 
  • * a facebook group,
  • * inviting people from my contact list, and
  • * setting up a series of meetings where we can start the co-design process.

I’ve started listening to the needs of empathy trainers and gathering those.

5. What questions do you have for others on the list?

I’m really interested in what are trainers; needs, values and purposes, so that we document those and start co-designing and implementing solutions to those. This association could support all of us and amplify our voice out into society.

6. Will you be able to attend some planning and design meetings?
What dates and times are good for you?

I’m fairly open to times. I’d like to find a regular time every week or two and stick to that. Would also like to find some times where we can bring in all the different time zones around the world.

7. Other Comments?

I feel hopeful about the possibilities of forming this organization and feel it could support all of us and contribute to the larger culture.


FROM MEETING 2016-05-28


“Edwin, why now?”:  

3 years ago I had a conversation and a empathy trainer said “If we only had an association, I'd get involved in that…” This sounded like a real need that trainers have.

I got involved in Occupy Wall Street, and people knew nothing about how to listen to each, empathy, how to build a movement. I saw the need for some tools to teach empathy.

I realized that many people, experts, have been teaching empathy for decades, but there is no organization, no mutual support, no sharing of our accumulated knowledge... I felt we need an organization. Every group has an organization for mutual support and lobbying, ie, The potato growers, the cattle men, the oil industry, the coal industry, etc, etc.

Trump situation. Everyone against everyone instead of “we are all in this together.” Is going to take widespread training to help people come together, listen, solve problems together, instead of competition, violence.

Q: As you go forward with association, what difficulty do you see in bringing the trainers together, and also what difficulty in bringing it into the world.

Even getting people together. Everyone is doing their own thing. Only five out of 65 came to this meeting. // Kathy thinks: “Yay, five committed people!”//

Edwin marvels that we empathy teachers can’t even get together with each other. Horrible, non-empathic interactions with each other, against each other. Scary to him that all the demons come out even against each other!!!!

Q: What do you think this is about? What is your vision for an association?

Really enjoying just being together in this group, empathy is happening, it is fun.

I could get into “political.” “we are not leaving until you put millions  of funding into spreading empathy…” The amount of billions put into wars compared to what spreading empathy could do, in the Middle East, for instance.  Have a political demonstration re empathy funding, but have to have an association, a group of people to do that.

Also, networking, support. That is happening right now, here. I am not so alone….

Q: What are the next steps for getting out the world?

I have set a foundation: google discussion group, facebook page, 30,000 LIkes at Culture of Empathy...what we are doing now, but also using The Human Design process….for finding out what everyone’s needs are…..sustainability for those doing this, finding out the needs, is what the Design process could do

Q: Say more about that….if you had to prioritize, what is major need right now

This is the first step, getting together and dialoguing….maybe this should/could be the first step...empathy circle process to capture people’s needs...then move to Design Process

Q: What would “empathic politics” look like?

Redesign social structures, all set up on competitive models. Reset justice system away from gladiator/punishment style, instead mutual decisionmaking, empathy training in prisons, end to retribution model….Competitive structures have to get changed to more collaboration. Empathy circles required in political decision-making parts of government at all levels.

Just saying “We are the Empathy Trainers Association gives us more power in going to existing political structures and having a voice.

Q: where is our power?

In offering empathic listening in these situations. We do it, Listen, but also train so others can carry on.

 Meeting 2016-06-08

Intention for this meeting: My intention for this  meeting is to kickstart building the association by getting to know others interested in forming it, getting to know their needs and ideas, building relationships as well as planning and taking next steps.

Craig  interviews  Edwin

Looking to get traction on empathy. The pain is in the lack of effectiveness.

Wanting a deeper community around empathy.

It is common for trades to advocate for the interest and needs of members.

If there is a group of us, we can have a stronger voice and advocate for empathy in a variety of places--i.e. Schools, military, etc. This expands the scope and effect of empathy. Being heard and using the collective voice to build momentum and get the word out (but beyond that really).

I want to establish empathy as a core social value. Training is one way as is the association itself

I had set up an empathy tent at UC Berkeley which is the home of the Free Speech movement. I said we have Free speech but no one is listening. :)

What is an effective way to send your message? Free empathy movement and start building relationships.  

Definition of Empathy-- feeling our way into someone else’s experiences.

Interested in Association: I been working in empathy for awhile… we have stronger voice if we are together… having more impact.

Having our voice heard… empathy movement could generate a cultural revolution…

We have free speech but nobody is listening

MEETING 2016-06-22

Edwin Rutsch

Introduction: I’m director of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy and founder of IETA.  Been working on the empathy center for over 9 years. Would like to network with more empathy trainers and develop an online training MOOC.
What does an ideal IETA look like to you?   

A place for

  • Connecting with fellow trainers.

  • advocating for the importance of empathy in all parts of society,

  • sharing training materials and resources,

  • setting and maintaining standards,

  • protecting and advancing mutual interests.

  • offering business support and leads to members,

  • maintaining a directory of empathy trainers that prospective clients can access,

Kathy interview Edwin

K: next steps for IETA

E: I really tasks. Did set up the website and the meeting.

Have got all kinds of project in the works.

  • Like Empathy Lit review team

  • Live different group project. Inspirational talks in school to have the studnets think more about caring. They want students to think of emp. I want to set up a series of design workshops for schools. Like to have a whole series and getting funding for setting up programs for educators.

  • Working a curriculum for 12 lesson empathy program

  • Working on a paper for relational empathy. Thinking about empathy in systemic way.

This a list of task in the work.

K: reflects back

E: Systemic empathy

Meeting 2016-07-06

Parth  Interviews Edwin

What inspired you to delve into creating this org.?

Looking for meaning, traveling and seeking the meaning of life.

Even in the tech field, I was seeking the meaning of life.  Did documentaries about this - came across empathy.  This was what I was seeking.

Empathy = moments of deep connections between people.

Empathy as a gateway.

Barack Obama - “Country has an empathy deficit”

The whole world has a deficit, we need a whole world that values empathy.  This is what can end conflict and change the world, what can create a more fulfilling life for myself and the world.

What are the practices that you’ve engaged in that have allowed you to connect deeper to your empathic self?

-Empathy circle - Carl Rogers

-We all have empathy, we are in a constant state of empathy even though there are blocks.

-Need to address blocks to empathy.  Fear is a major block.  So is stress and anxiety.

-Yoga, dance, etc can help relax us to open us up and make up more open to others.

Do you feel as though there is anything beyond empathy?

-Empathy is the gateway to a cornucopia of beautiful feelings.  You need to maintain empathy to keep these feelings open.  Those feelings are what are beyond empathy.  


Greg interviews Edwin

  1. What kind of programs are you offering in the area of empathy?

  • Wide series: the website allows for donations, offered empathic listening, and also been doing some human centered design workshops on empathic school cultures.  In person workshops on empathy circles, empathic listening, etc
  • None of these are really stable financially, wants to address that more directly
  1. Out of all of these things you're working on, which one do you feel closest to?

  • Processes are similar.  
  • Mediation - active listening and facilitating dialogue.  
  • Active listening as a process is the core of most other things.  Like what Jerry is doing with the body and wants to get into that more.  
  • Wanted to do an empathy movement, was inspired by Obama.  Was looking at a bigger picture and thought Obama was going to put money into empathy.  However, he found there was a lot of rhetoric but no follow through there.
  1. What do you want to do to market your various services?

  • Looking for something with traction, trying different things, project doing now is within society is that Black Lives Matter, Police Officer killed, riots, empathic community and policing circles
  • Online empathic listening to get the ball rolling
  • Empathy cafes with 30+ people to dialogue to get the importance of empathy
  • A social problem, memorial with Barack who said we need more empathy, likewise with George Bush and Hillary Clinton in bridging social divides, thinking this might be a way forward in finding traction.  
  • Empathic listening, mediation, human centred design and trying to put it together.
  1. If you had your way and could just get traction for any project, which one would it be?

  • It’s all the same thing for me.  It’s about people learning empathy skills.  
  • The BLM/police one I really like.  Holding a space for that to happen is really important.  I like that and the empathic schools.
  1. How do you see this as a way to make money?

    • BLM/Police - start with kickstarter.  Showing a success then the community can pay for it.  City officials can then start giving money.