Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash
  • Dr. David Campt created the White Ally Toolkit as a way for white people to do more effective one-on-one work with their own family members, neighbors, and friends — using deep listening, empathy, and story-telling as a way to help people open their minds and hearts with regard to racial issues. I have personally attended two of his workshops, and highly recommend his work.
  • Deep Canvassing is a listening, empathy and story-telling based approach to canvassing originally created by Dave Fleischer, who was leading campaigns on transgender issues. It has been researched and found to have significant effects re influencing people in the direction of more inclusive and caring attitudes. It was recently used by George Goehl, director of People’s Action, in campaigns reaching out to undecided voters during the most recent presidential election. At the same time, see below for an important caveat about the limitations of this approach, and of empathy-based approaches in general.
  • While Deep Canvassing is relatively new on the scene, the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) was created in 1988 by Cherie Brown, for purposes of reducing the various ‘ism’s — sexism, racism, classism, etc… through experiential workshops and a ‘train the trainer’ approach. They have created chapters on various college campuses; their workshops include training people in how to “interrupt” racist, sexist comments etc. in a way that helps open people’s minds and hearts, rather than blaming/shaming/shutting people down.
  • Along broadly similar lines, Cat Zavis teaches workshops in Spiritual Activism, where we learn and practice Prophetic Empathy, a combination of a deep listening practice based in Non-Violent Communication (NVC), along with sharing one’s values and visions for a life-oriented future. This work also encourages us to consider how we have all been conditioned by a capitalist system, as a way of developing empathy for ourselves and others. Cat is partners with Rabbi Michael Lerner, and they are co-creators of the Network for Spiritual Progressives.
  • And right here on Medium, we have Dr. Karin Tamerius’ brilliant work on Progressively Thinking.
  • Resetting the Table hosts and trains people in “Courageous Communication Across Divides”. Their work grew from experiences facilitating communication on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and their film “Purple: America, we need to talk” is an inspiring example of their work in action.
  • Braver Angels (formerly known as, Better Angels) was created in 2016 by Bill Doherty, a family therapist from Minnesota, along with David Blankenhorn and David Lapp. They bring together equal number of ‘reds’ and ‘blues’ together in highly structured workshops — not to change people’s political orientation in any way, but simply to engage in re-humanizing encounters.
  • Edwin Rutsch, a self-described “empathy activist”, created the Empathy Circle format as an accessible opportunity for people to build community, while learning and practicing a basic conflict de-escalation skill that you can use in one-on-one conversations. This work is similar yet different to the Empathy Circle format taught in Non-Violent Communication (NVC).
  • empathy and listening-based approaches for social change campaigns;
  • empathy and listening-based approaches for depolarizing/rehumanizing the “other”;
  • empathy and listening-based approaches for creating new shared outcomes.



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Rosa Zubizarreta

Rosa Zubizarreta

Deepening democracy through participatory leadership, empathic group facilitation, and co-intelligent design. Learn more about my work at