Building Vibrant Communities Challenge Winners Announced

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers Announce $500,000 in Awards to California Nonprofits
Activating Empathy in Local Communities

(Los Altos, CA and Washington, D.C. – October 23, 2014) The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers today announced six winners of an online grant competition, Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change. The challenge sought local initiatives that tap the power of empathy to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change.  The competition received more than 200 entries from Northern California community organizations.

“So much exciting work to foster empathy is happening in our five-county region and neighboring communities,” said Carol Larson, President and CEO of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.  “We are particularly encouraged by the six winning organizations that are actively cultivating empathy skills. It is their hope and ours that local communities will be strong and vibrant places where future generations can reach their full potential as community builders and problem solvers.”

Award winners were announced at the Packard Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Open House, during which winners and challenge finalists had the opportunity to share their ideas with local community members in attendance.

“Empathy is a crucial skill for creating social change,” said Bill Drayton, CEO and Founder of Ashoka. “By activating empathy in their communities, the winners of the challenge are paving the way for a world where everyone can become a changemaker and tackle the issues that matter to them most.”

The winners were selected by a panel of judges that included luminaries and thought leaders Cedric Brown (Managing Partner or Kapor Center for Social Impact), Linda Burch (Chief Education and Strategy Officer of Common Sense Media), Christina Ballantyne (Principal of San Miguel Elementary School), Dr. Fred Luskin (Director of Stanford University Forgiveness Projects), and Sterling Speirn (President, Stupski Foundation).

Recipients of the Activating Empathy $100,000 Prize are:

Playworks, Oakland, CA

In many elementary schools recess has become the most concentrated time of conflicts, bullying and discipline issues. As a result, many students return to class frustrated, angry and unable to learn. Playworks is transforming school playgrounds into places where students learn essential skills such as teamwork, conflict resolution, empathy, and fair play by placing recess coaches in the schools who organize fun, play-based physical activities. With its prize, Playworks will expand its program to more schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and provide training to schools that wish to duplicate its model.

Contact: Patricia O’Brien, Executive Director of Playworks Silicon Valley
Direct: 408-340-5382
Cell: 650-281-9199

San Jose State University’s Collaborative for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child, San Jose, CA

Experts say that social and emotional learning is critical for students to reach their full potential, however many teachers are not trained to deliver this aspect of education. The Collaborative for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child at San Jose State University prepares and trains teachers to use the social emotional lens to improve student outcomes and the ability of both educators and students to thrive.  With its prize, the Collaborative intends to develop a replicable model that schools can use to integrate social and emotional learning into the school day and educator training.

Contact: Nancy L. Markowitz, Ph.D., Executive Director
Phone: 650-208-3515

Soul Shoppe, Oakland, CA

Soul Shoppe provides a whole-school approach to curbing bullying and fostering empathic action. It tackles bullying at the root of the problem through social and emotional learning rather than shame or punishment. The program equips schools with the tools and training to create an empathy-based learning environment, where all kids can safely learn to regulate emotions.  With its award, Soul Shoppe plans to expand its online toolkit for parents and teachers, and to conduct a comprehensive research study to become an official state-approved program.

Contact: Vicki Abadesco, Director
Phone: 510-338-3231

The First Tee of Monterey County, Salinas, CA

The First Tee of Monterey County uses golf as a vehicle for mentorship and teaching at-risk youth in Salinas to recognize their own strengths and leadership potential. Coaches and trained adult mentors deliver twenty-seven lessons that teach life skills, leadership, and empathy to youth through structured golf-based activities. Academic tutoring and support with scholarship applications is also part of the programming. With its award, The First Tee plans to bring advanced technology to its student center and to make its program accessible to more students in South Monterey County.

Contact: Barry W. Phillips, Executive Director
Cell: 831-277-0687

Recipients of the Activating Empathy $50,000 Idea Prize to pilot early-stage initiatives are:

The Respect Institute, San Jose, CA

The Respect Institute equips vulnerable youth and those that influence them with the tools to develop social and emotional resilience. Through training and coaching, the Respect Institute helps youth and their influencers to create safe, restorative spaces for learning how to practice respect for themselves and others through training and coaching. With its prize, The Respect Institute will expand its program to juvenile justice facilities in Santa Clara County and to reach youth who are no longer in school.

Contact: Courtney Macavinta, Co-Founder & CEO
Phone: 408-506-1102

Rising International, Santa Cruz, CA

Rising International trains women and teens to launch social businesses and market crafts handmade by women survivors of war, rape and human trafficking. Rising participants hold “home parties,” where they invite their communities to learn about humanitarian issues and to support women artisans by purchasing handicrafts. The entrepreneurial training has helped local teens earn a wage while connecting with global issues. In the process, the teens have built strong community networks and created pathways for more opportunity.  Rising International will use its award to further scale their program in local counties.

Contact: Carmel K. Jud, Founder / Executive Director
Main: 831-429-RISE (7473)
Cell: 831-331-6927

For more information, please contact:

Melissa Daar Carvajal, Program Partner, for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Phone: 415-623-6235
Kristie Wang, Media Manager, Ashoka Changemakers
Phone: 650-575-1772

Winners may be contacted directly at the information included above.


About the David and Lucile Packard Foundation 

David and Lucile Packard Foundation is a private family foundation created in 1964 by David Packard (1912–1996), cofounder of the Hewlett-Packard Company, and Lucile Salter Packard (1914–1987). The Foundation provides grants to nonprofit organizations in the following program areas: Conservation and Science; Population and Reproductive Health; Children, Families, and Communities; and Local Grantmaking. The Foundation makes national and international grants and also has a special focus on the Northern California counties of San Benito, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Monterey. Foundation grantmaking includes support for a wide variety of activities including direct services, research and policy development, and public information and education. Learn more at

About Ashoka Changemakers

Ashoka Changemakers convenes and connects high-potential changemakers, their ideas and their resources, through the power of collaborative competitions and partner networks. Together, we work to exponentially accelerate social change, so that it sweeps through systems, tipping the attitudes and behavior of individuals and institutions. Changemakersbuilds on Ashoka’s thirty-five year history of finding and launching the world’s leading social entrepreneurs and their big innovations for the good, building the field of social entrepreneurship, and advancing an “everyone a changemaker” world where people gain the skills and resources they need to collaborate on solving complex social problems.