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“Reframing IS Social Change.” – George Lakoff

The Empathy Surplus Project Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable collective thought leadership education organization. We fulfill our mission through small communities of practice called Empathy Surplus Congresses. Every day we promote a caring society filled with stronger people, progressive markets, better futures, effective government, and mutual responsibility through Four Empathic Activities. Your recurring donations are very important.

Our Four Empathic Activities

Our Empathy Surplus Congresses are communities of practice. Every day we promote a caring society filled with stronger people, progressive markets, better futures, effective government, and mutual responsibility by practicing Four Empathic Activities. We:

Inwardly Digest

and use the latest brain insights of Dr. George Lakoff to frame daily caring conversations that promote human rights.


in weekly congressional hearings about how we apply Dr. Lakoff’s insights to advance caring policy directions.


caring policy directions through partnerships with ethical businesses, effective government task forces, and other civil society organizations.


others to join us and promote a politics of care..

Empathy is the soul of our republic and its democratic institutions.

Fifteen years before the January 2021 insurrection on the US Capitol Building, cognitive scientist and linguist Dr. George Lakoff and his Rockridge Institute warned America about the growing domestic threat of authoritarianism. Moreover, he pointed to a significant authoritarian infrastructure set up under the banner of conservatism advanced by dozens of effective think tanks like A.L.E.C. and funded by unethical corporations.

In Rockridge’s “progressive handbook” called Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision, Dr. Lakoff wrote, “A dark cloud of authoritarianism looms over the nation, making it difficult to address progressive issues without major political change. Radical conservatives have taken over the reins of government and have been controlling the terms of political debate for many years. For real change to happen, progressive ideals must return to center stage in our national political discourse.

This will be neither easy nor quick—it will take years of work. But we can prevail. It is up to us—caring citizens—to articulate the progressive vision. Progressive political leaders cannot do it alone. For all of their intelligence and good intentions, they are subject to overwhelming short-term pressures. They will need the help of progressives throughout America. We must trumpet our values throughout the nation so that progressive political leaders will have the backing they need to speak out far more freely.”

Two years later, in 2008, Rockridge Institute closed its doors because not enough progressives financially supported promoting the latest insights of the brain on political and moral discourse. 

The Empathy Surplus idea was launched in 2009 by our founder, Charles Watts, who had served on Dr. Lakoff’s Rockrige Nation online community advisory board. And, today, through its Four Empathic Activities, the Empathy Surplus Project carries on Dr. Lakoff’s idea of bottom-up, collective thought leadership training. The work is important because democracy continues to be threatened by (1) progressive cognitive science denial and (2) the ever-present insurrectionist threats supported by extreme conservatism corrupted corporations and their network of think tanks like ALEC.

Democracy’s ongoing threat manifests itself all too often by well-intentioned but misguided progressives in both major US political parties who suggest “playing politics” should be shunned, i.e., that somehow there is some other kind of unnamed moral, values-based discourse that should replace political discourse, if only we could figure it out. In fact, conservatism’s followers with the help of dozens of conservative think tanks, have applied their core authoritarian values to political discourse very well, and progressivism’s followers have applied their core empathic values to political discourse poorly. Moreover, if we reject the moral and political discourse that caring citizens are supposed to defend in the 1st Amendment, all we have left is armed conflict to settle differences. Consequently, we reject the insurrectionist’s point of view, which fits well with the conservative values of obedience to a “unitary executive” or face harsh discipline, that if public government and democratic society is a problem, as President Reagan said, why not tear it down.

The Empathy Surplus Project is dedicated to promoting effective and caring political and moral discourse in ethical business and civil society organizations, as well as government task forces. We are glad you are here. Please take a moment and look around.

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Effective Governance Core Values

  • Empathy
  • Responsibility (personal & mutual)
  • Strength

Caring Politics 10 -Word Philosophy

  • Stronger People
  • Progressive Markets
  • Better Futures
  • Effective Government
  • Mutual Responsibility

George Lakoff's Resources

The basic idea is this: Dr. Lakoff's resources are free and open to all. He will provide framing suggestions regularly over social media, and whoever receives them can decide how to use them, and whether to share them or retweet them.  Dr. Lakoff's process is bottom-up.

Dr. Lakoff also offers this framing service to activist organizations, media folks, and elected officials and their staff.

Your Donations Support Caring Thought Leadership Education

The Empathy Surplus Project Foundation is a charitable collective thought leadership education organization headquartered in Wilmington, Ohio. It fulfills its Four Empathic Activities through member communities of practice called Empathy Surplus Congresses. Donations are exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(a) and described in section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

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