Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, has steadily become a business skill for branding as much as it is a social skill. While we can learn and borrow from the likes of famous change-makers, we could learn even more from children and their remarkable capacity for empathy without judgement and creative problem solving.
Innate Motion partner, Joyshree Reinelt’s son is one of our favourite examples of how impact can come from unique moments of empathy. 10 year old Jay celebrated his last birthday in a special way, and it was all his own idea. While most kids Jay’s age wish to have the “me!me!me!” birthday party coupled with lavish gifts and extravagant gestures, Jay wished to throw a birthday party that would raise money for children & adult amputees in Calcutta who desperately needed prosthetic limbs.
Jay was only 4 years old when he and his parents made the trip to Calcutta, a business trip for Joyshree who was working on a Unilever project at the time.
It was here when Jay and his parents met the inspiring works of a local organisation helping amputees and cripples of all ages by fitting them with new, prosthetic limbs. The experience was confrontational for young Jay who had never come face-to-face with poverty and a way of living so far removed from his own. Although small in might and years, the experience stayed with Jay fuelling a child-like, innate ability to empathise and we wanted to do something about it!
6 years later and his thoughts and feelings from that fateful day in Calcutta were realised. His experience, turned memory, birthed an incredible idea in young Jay seeing him ask for money instead of the usual gifts for his birthday. As only a kid could, he called his birthday party-fundraiser “Kick4Legs”, an initiative to help the children Jay never forgot walk, and run, and play again. Instead of gifts, Jay asked friends and family to donate money to this cause. Despite the serious nature of Jay’s request, his birthday took place in the name of fun! The kind of fun and play a few children in Calcutta would soon be able to enjoy thanks to his thoughtful birthday wish and his community of friends and family. At the end of the day, the feeling of pride and excitement for what Jay endeavoured to do was palpable.
“Instead of eagerly watching Jay open his presents, the kids were ecstatic in watching Jay count up how much they had saved for “Kick4Legs”. It gave an immediate sense of achievement to all.”
– Joyshree Reinelt
With a total of 500 Euros saved, Jay’s party helped 17 kids walk, run and kick again, or for some, the first time in their lives. Jay’s act inspired many to see what a difference they could make in people’s lives. A small act can be powerful in how it inspires and enables others to do the same. It was not only Jay helping these children in Calcutta but everyone who donated. Jay both inspired and enabled people to give back and that’s how communities and movements start – the process was for kids, by kids which made it all the more real.
Social entrepreneurs can learn from children like Jay who possess an incredible capacity for empathy and creative problem solving. Where most would see a rattling childhood experience, Jay saw an opportunity to help. The joy and satisfaction that Jay and his friends helped permeate through the “Kick for Legs” initiative is a great example of how innocent and innate our need to find and activate purpose is. These children funded a bottom-up solution from kids for kids and had fun while doing it! An output that many brands would love to achieve!
Jay & other kids his age have taken this to the next level, through a Maker Camp to co-create Kick4Legs as a toolkit for kids around the world to use for causes close to them.
Both Joyshree and Kyle joined the kids, other Innate Motion partners and fellow travellers at One World Play Project in San Francisco & Materialize in Brussels on the 6th February 2015 for a simultaneous Maker Camp across two continents!