The conference has been postponed until further notice, as a result of efforts to curb the spread of COVID19.

1-2 July 2020

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Empathy in Practice: An International Conference

Call for Contributions

Submissions deadline - 30 March 2020

 “Our human compassion binds us to one another – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future” – Nelson Mandela.

Heartlines – in association with Ashoka, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch and Singizi Consulting Africa – would like to invite you to make a submission for our Empathy in Practice conference.

The goal of this conference is to share, learn and strengthen practices that promote the development of empathy.

The conference will draw on the experiences of practitioners working in the field
of empathy-promotion, the insights of academics and the views of leaders
and policy-makers, in a manner that seeks to support learning across sectors and

Our intent is to contribute to building communities of practice that support the
sharing of resources, tools and knowledge with participants and other parties
seeking to engage in social connectedness and social justice initiatives that support the building of empathy.

In doing this, we are exploring practices across multiple contexts – from classrooms to churches to boardrooms.

We hope that by sharing our discoveries, our journeys and our stories, that this conference will deepen our understanding of the role that empathy can play in bridging the multifarious divides locally and globally. The ongoing crisis in South Africa –  illustrating the violence of “othering” in xenophobic attacks and gender-based violence – sharply demonstrates the urgency of building understanding, respect, trust and open-mindedness.

Some of the specific issues to be discussed at the conference will include:

  • What is working in practice to promote empathy, and what can we learn from practices that may not have gained traction?
  • What best practices in empathy promotion can work across different sectors and settings?
  • How can we build communities of practice for empathy champions?

Conference Structure

The two-day meeting that will have plenary sessions, use open space technology to create spaces for sharing and learning on pressing issues, as well as practical working sessions. Furthermore, there will be an exhibition space for participants to present specific empathy-related activities, initiatives, campaigns or new publications.

Conference Fees

The conference fee is $100.
Please contact us if you would like to inquire about fee-related bursaries

Venue & Date

The conference will be hosted at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre in Johannesburg, Gauteng. The dates are 1-2 July 2020.


Heartlines was founded in 2002 by Dr Garth Japhet, a medical doctor driven by a passion to transform behaviour through storytelling. Working in Alexandra during apartheid South Africa, Garth realised that treating symptoms would never truly improve the health and quality of life of his patients. Together with some fellow doctors, Garth founded Soul City in 1992, an award-winning multimedia edutainment platform. It is still reaching millions today with easily accessible and contextual health and social justice messaging. However, many of South Africa’s health and social justice challenges stem from a moral or values breakdown. Heartlines was formed as an initiative of The Mass Media Project, a non-profit Section 21 company. The vision is to move people from professed values to lived values, in order to address key societal issues.


Ashoka is the largest global network of systems-change social entrepreneurs with over 3,500 Fellows in over 80 countries. Ashoka builds and cultivates a community of change leaders who see that the world now requires everyone to be a changemaker. Together, we collaborate to transform institutions and cultures worldwide so they support changemaking for the good of society.

Singizi Consulting Africa

Singizi Consulting Africa is a research and monitoring & evaluation organisation that focuses works in the areas of human rights and, inter alia, youth employment. Singizi uses a gender lens in its research, taking into account the power relations that exist, and the manner in which these impact on rights. It is committed to a participatory and developmental approach that ensures that groups that are often marginalised, such as women, youth, sex workers, and LGBTI people, have voice.


The FMHS offers a number of excellent academic training programmes, underpinned by research of the highest quality and supported by well-integrated quality assurance and academic administration structures and processes. These programmes provide for the needs of a wide range of healthcare disciplines. Over decades of dedicated and sustained work, the FMHS has built up an excellent reputation for research. We continue to perform as a leading research-rich environment with extensive international collaborations, in addition to national and local partnerships. A research agenda shaped by strategic research focus areas ensures that our research activities address the major health challenges facing the African continent.

This project was made possible through the support of a grant from Templeton Religion Trust. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors  and do not necessarily reflect the views of Templeton Religion Trust.