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“Empathy is the soul of democracy.” – George Lakoff

The Empathy Surplus Project Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable collective caring thought leadership training federation. We fulfill our mission through small communities of practice called Empathy Surplus Congresses. Your recurring donations are very important.

Our Four Empathy Activities

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

Inwardly Digest

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

invest

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

implement

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

invite

others to join us and promote a politics of care.

 L-R: Dr. George Lakoff receives Paul Harris Fellowship Award in 2018 from Rotarians at the Berkeley, California, Rotary Club with Empathy Surplus Project Foundation founder and CEO, Charles Watts, and Edward Jones financial advisor, Jason Hillard, in attendance.

Reframing around empathy IS social change.

This empathy definition as the soul of democracy cannot be overstated. Reframing around empathy IS social change. And reframing our communities around empathy for and responsibility requires a commitment to an effective politics of care.

Dr. George Lakoff warned us of our empathy deficit

Dr. George Lakoff and his Rockridge Institute warned America in 1998. In fact, Lakoff warned us about the growing domestic threat of authoritarianism and its empathy deficit. Moreover, long before the January 2021 insurrection on the US Capitol Building Lakoff pointed to expanding authoritarian infrastructure. Furthermore, funded by unethical corporations, Lakoff warned conservatism was dismantling public government.

Rockridge published its “progressive handbook” called Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision, in 2006. In it Dr. Lakoff wrote, “A dark cloud of authoritarianism looms over the nation. And conservatism makes it difficult to address progressive issues without a politics of care. Moreover, radical conservatives have taken over the reins of government and have inhibited caring political debate for many years. Consequently, progressive ideals of empathic government must return to center stage in our national political discourse for real change to happen.

Progressive governance is an empathy civic task for caring citizens and their representatives

Reframing our world around empathy will be neither easy nor quick—it will take years of work. But we can prevail if caring citizens articulate the progressive vision because progressive political leaders cannot do it alone. And even though representatives and candidates are smart and well-intentioned, their short-term pressures are significant. They will need the help of progressives Americans. And when we trumpet our values throughout the nation, our progressive political leaders will have the backing they need to reframe around a politics of care more freely.”

Two years later, in 2008, Rockridge Institute closed its doors because of insufficient progressive financial support. 

The Empathy Surplus Project picked up the Rockridge Institute Mantel

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 Empathy Activities, the Empathy Surplus Project Foundation carries on Dr. Lakoff’s idea of bottom-up, collective caring thought leadership training.

The work is important because democracy continues to be threatened in two ways. First, too many progressives still ignore caring thought leadership science. And second, extreme conservatism corrupted corporations, and their think tanks like ALEC, continue to threaten insurrection.

Progressives must embrace reframing around empathy as the social change it is

Conservatism’s ongoing threat to democracy’s politics of care manifests itself all too often by well-intentioned but misguided progressives in both major US political parties. In fact, too many progressives ignore cognitive science and embrace a conservative idea that suggests “playing politics” should be shunned – remember Reagan’s assertion that “government is the problem.” Moreover, with the help of dozens of conservative think tanks, launched by US Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s memo, conservatism’s followers have applied their core authoritarian values to political discourse very well, and progressivism’s followers have poorly applied their core empathic values to political discourse.

America needs caring citizens and representatives who can govern the debate with empathy effectively

The Empathy Surplus Project Foundation is dedicated to promoting effective and caring political and moral discourse in ethical business and civil society organizations and government task forces. We are glad you are here because we must defend our 1st Amendment human right to civil discourse. Because if we lose a politics of care, all we have left is armed conflict to settle our differences. Therefore, we believe caring citizens are the solution. Please check out our Empathy Surplus Congresses page.

Caring Citizen Solution Day Keynote Speaker George Lakoff

April 2021 YouTube Video

Finally, consider getting involved with an Empathy Surplus Congress for weekly conversations on what you’re reading by exploring Our Congresses page. You could also explore the Stronger American Working Group page to learn about human rights education in your school district with a Human Rights Pocketbook Venture.

Join our mailing list.

Subscribers receive several emails per month that sometimes become blog posts.

Your Donations Support Caring Thought Leadership Training

Structural Diagram

Caring Thought Leadership Core Values

  • Empathy
  • Responsibility (personal & mutual)
  • Strength (to act responsibly on one's empathy)

Ten-Word Caring Philosophy

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

The Empathy Surplus Project Foundation is a charitable collective thought leadership training federation headquartered in Wilmington, Ohio. It fulfills its Four Empathic Activities through member communities of practice called Empathy Surplus Congresses and its working groups. Donations are exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(a) and described in section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Please consider using our free framing guide - Lakoff's Words to Use to Frame Our Solution.

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.

UNITED NATIONS GLOBAL compact resources

Caring Citizen Declaration

I am a caring citizen.
I govern with empathy.
I here highly resolve that
this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth
of freedom - and
that government
of the people,
for the people,
by the people
shall not perish
from the earth.
I am a person
with human rights.
I care for my own
Safety and Happiness
and that of others.
I am the solution
to expanding life,
liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness.
And for the support
of this declaration,
joining caring citizens
known and unknown,
we mutually pledge
to each other
our Lives, our Fortunes,
and our
sacred Honor.

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