Identity on the Line
Identity on the Line

Webinar 4

Keynote speaker: Dr Elif M. Gokcigdem:

Date: 16 October 2020 3-4 PM CEST

Title:«Designing for Empathy with the Oneness Mindset»

There is an increasing awareness that the complex problems facing our world require more than academic knowledge and technical abilities. How we see the world is how we live it. It is critical that we shift our focus from our individual, ego-centric, or in-group trenches, and instead consider our interdependence as one indivisible whole. Such a unifying worldview cannot be attained and sustained without empathy, our inherent ability to perceive and share the feelings of another. Empathy enables us to connect with ourselves and with others while awakening us into our interconnectedness as parts of a greater whole —all of humanity and the planet. Awareness and an appreciation of our interconnectedness calibrate and harmonize our values, attitudes, and behaviour. It inspires us to meaningfully engage with others and our environment through acts of compassion and altruism. This phenomenon, which can be called the «oneness mindset», is a self-sustaining cycle; powered by empathy, leading to compassion and altruism, and a rewarding sense of fulfilment of our humanity.

Despite empathy’s immense potential for personal, institutional, societal, and environmental progress, we often constrict it by extending only to those who are like us. Can we expand our empathy beyond our in-group to others that do not look and think like us, as well as to the environment? Which potential pitfalls should we be aware of on the journey of empathy-building? As empathy cannot be learned from linear instructions but only through lived experiences and authentic role models, what are the roles, responsibilities, and limitations of museums in creating those safe spaces where individuals can explore their empathy within the context of our oneness? Can institutions develop a shared terminology and a strategy towards empathy-building? In addition to an overview of a list of ingredients that create an «alchemy of empathy,» this presentation will also explore some essential questions institutions need to take into account when embarking on the journey of empathy-building, such as: what/who is the «object» of empathy, as well as the scope and the spectrum of empathy, so that the intentions, the commitments, and the expected outcomes could be better defined. Through an increased understanding of ourselves and our capacity of empathy, we can better design healing solutions for our communities and our planet.

Dr. Gokcigdem is a thought leader, a historian of Islamic art, and a museums scholar who is committed to creating fertile grounds of empathy through informal learning platforms to inspire positive behaviour change, caring mindsets, and compassionate worldviews that value all of humanity and the planet. Her work is at the intersection of arts, culture, science, spirituality, innovation, and social transformation. She is the Founder of Empathy-Building Through Museums Initiative and the editor of two visionary books on empathy-building: Fostering Empathy Through Museums (2016), and Designing for Empathy: Perspectives on the Museum Experience (2019), which was published by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Dr Gokcigdem curated the world’s 1st multidisciplinary Empathy Summit titled: «Fostering Universal Ethics and Compassion Through Museums» with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, in 2018, in Dharamsala, India. Dr Gokcigdem presents in conferences on arts, museums, peace-building, entrepreneurship, and innovation, and is an advisor to several empathy initiatives by major U.S. museums, including zoos and aquariums. More information on her work can be found at

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