Soliya Speaks on Digital Story Telling at Aspen Ideas FestivalJune 26, 2019
Soliya CEO Waidehi Gokhale joined Mohamed Abdel-Kader, Executive Director of the Stevens Initiative; Chris Plutte, Managing Director of the Bezos Family Foundation; and Wendy Kopp, co-founder and CEO of Teach for All, for a panel on virtual exchange at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Titled "Virtual Exchange: Building Empathy and Human Connection Through Digital Story Telling," the panel explored how facilitated, cross-cultural discussions inspire in young adults the curiosity and willingness to better understand both the self and the other. The discussion highlighted the significance in these conversations of interacting with rather than dismissing difference, with Waidehi Gokhale stating: "We're not trying to find just the spaces where we could hold hands; we're trying to wade into all the muddy puddles and come out the other side. We very much engage with those differences." Doing so, she stressed, was the only way that participants can recognize their shared humanity and develop empathy, "a hard, fundamental skill set that can and should be fostered and grown."
Panelists also stressed the relevance of virtual exchange in the 21st Century context. Chris Plutte conveyed the value of the skills and attitudes nurtured through meaningful cross-cutlural engagement: "If you can walk into a room and communicate and collaborate with someone from a different country, culture, socioeconomic background, you are very powerful." Ultimately, the goal is for virtual exchange to become a norm in education; to, as Wendy Kopp stated, "reach the point where teachers connecting their kids across borders using virtual means is part of our everyday;" and for the transformative impact of an international experience to be felt by a greater number and diversity of youth across the world.
The full panel discussion can be viewed here. The Aspen Ideas Festival, presented by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, is a week-long event in Aspen, Colorado, that brings together leaders from diverse disciplines to address timely issues and challenges related to society, art, politics, science, and philosophy, among others.