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For the past several years, the Amani Institute has invited me to teach a course called BioEmpathy as part of their flagship program Social Innovation Management. They include this course in their program because they want their Fellows to be able to bring a deep connection and understanding of Nature to their social innovation work. And it has to go beyond inspiration — it has to be actionable.
Each time I’ve taught that course, I’ve gained new insights from the Amani staff, the Fellows, and from Nature. And each time, I gain a deeper sense of what BioEmpathy is all about, and why it is so important to all of us.
Those of you who are familiar with Design Thinking and human-centered design know the importance of empathy. It's not enough to imagine how your potential user might, or should, engage with what you're designing. You have to try to sense and understand what your potential user is thinking, feeling, hearing, saying, doing, and experiencing. You have to have empathy.
Those of you who are familiar with life-centered design, regenerative design, and biomimicry know the importance of respecting, including, and learning from Nature. It needs to go beyond inspiration. You have to try to sense and understand what Nature is thinking, feeling, hearing, saying, doing, and experiencing. You have to be able to sense sustainability. You have to have bio-empathy.
We’re all born with empathy and bio-empathy; however, our current dominant cultural paradigm — what I’m calling the Conventional Paradigm — teaches us that we need to be selfish and exploitative of other people and Nature to succeed in the “real world.”. Luckily, when we are living from our own Natural Paradigm — such as when we’re out in Nature, spending time with loved ones, or being creative — we naturally experience and express empathy and bio-empathy. We might describe this as feeling whole and connected, open and expansive, generous and joyful. You have a deep understanding that you are you, you are us, and you are Nature, all at the same time, You know you can’t not be.
I have come to believe that to make real change, we — individually and collectively — need to express and experience empathy and bio-empathy in the work we do. We need to recognize and let go of what I’m calling the Conventional Paradigm, and shift to living from our Natural Paradigm.
If you’d like to explore this further, I invite you to download the [free] Tiny Transformation Workbook, which will give you tiny peeks into the “Conventional Paradigm” and the “Natural Paradigm”, and then a tiny experience of intentionally living from your Natural Paradigm.
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