Sackville residents take doing a good deed to a whole new level as they give teens an opportunity to sell their ideas on how to make this world a better place.
In March 2011, Blair Ryan introduced The Empathy Factory for the first time to a small classroom of Grade 5 students at Hillside Elementary School in Lower Sackville. He showed them how they could come up with ways to help others. Now, not quite two years later, his volunteer-run organization will be hosting an event for hundreds of high school students and professionals at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. The venue and the age range has changed, but the subject remains the same - finding the empathy within yourself.
The Empathy Factory is a grass roots organization started by Ryan and his partner Stephanie Shute. The premise of the organization is to challenge youth to tap into their empathy and create social change. Although they will still be working with younger kids and their ideas, the Accelerating Empathy events target teens.
"We're creating this uncomfortable educational environment inviting them in to help solve social problems. Things grown ups have been trying to fix," said Ryan. "Now it's their opportunity to come up with a solution."
This is the second year for Accelerating Empathy, a two-day event in the style of Dragon's Den. Teens will choose a problem and will be given 60 seconds to pitch their idea on how to solve it. Ideas chosen from that round will move on until ultimately the three or four top ideas will win.
Last year, teens were given four problems to choose from childhood obesity, childhood homelessness, bullying and the stigma behind mental disabilities. This year they will be choosing their own issue and their own solutions.
"There will be prizes," said Ryan. "But really it's about the experience in proving they have good ideas and hopefully creating a profound experience for them."
Although there is no pressure for the winning groups to follow through with their ideas, last year three of the four winning plans did and are having successful results. Most notably is Base Y Generation, an easy-access information and resource hub for homeless youth in Cole Harbour.
Accelerating Empathy is being held in April. For more information about The Empathy Factory and to find out how you can get involved visit www.empathyfactory.com.