Mary Gordon is the Founder, President and the inspiration behind Roots of Empathy and Seeds of Empathy
Mary Gordon is recognized internationally as an award-winning social entrepreneur, educator, author, child advocate and parenting expert who has created programs informed by the power of empathy. In 1996 Mary outlined the initial curriculum of Roots of Empathy and began piloting the program in Toronto. In 2000 she established the national and international organization Roots of Empathy, which now offers programs in every province of Canada, New Zealand, the USA, the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, and Germany. In 2005, Ms Gordon created the Seeds of Empathy program. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and an Ashoka Fellow.
Ms Gordon is also the founder of Canada's first and largest school-based Parenting and Family Literacy Centres, which she initiated in 1981. They have become public policy in Ontario and have been used as a best practice model internationally. Ms Gordon speaks and consults to governments, educational organizations, and public institutions. The Nelson Mandela Children's Foundation brought Ms Gordon to South Africa to share her parenting expertise. Ms Gordon has also presented to the World Health Organization, the Skoll World Forum, and the United Nations, among others.
Ms Gordon is the recipient of several prestigious awards recognizing her contribution to innovation in education and international social entrepreneurship, including the Manning Innovation Award, an award for being the top social enterprise in Canada. In 2009 she received the Public Education Advocacy Award from the Canadian Teachers' Federation.
Ms Gordon has had three dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama: First in 2006, at the Vancouver Dialogues, and then in 2008, in Seattle, Washington, as part of the Seeds of Compassion event and in 2011 at the Delhi Dialogues. The Dalai Lama has expressed that programs like Roots of Empathy will build world peace.
In 2008, Roots of Empathy was one of three winners in an international competition from Changemakers for programs that help youth at risk. Also in 2008, National Chief Phil Fontaine and the Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution to support Roots of Empathy and Seeds of Empathy in First Nations schools across Canada. Ms Gordon is one of the social entrepreneurs featured in Beverly Schwartz’s 2012 book, Rippling – How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World. She is featured in the documentary Who Cares? by director Mara Mourão, now playing in theatres.
In 2002, Ms Gordon was named the first female Canadian Ashoka Fellow, recognizing her as a member of an international circle of social entrepreneurs who have the creativity that enables them to envision new and better ways to address persistent social problems and the entrepreneurial skill and determination required to bring their ideas to fruition. In 2011, Ms Gordon was named an Ashoka Globalizer, joining a select group of Ashoka Fellows supported in extending their message and impact to the global level. She is a member of the Global Executive Board of Directors. Her book, Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child, is a Canadian bestseller.
Mary Gordon introduces us to the wisdom of babies and shows us how they can teach us - and our children - what it is to be human. Over a lifetime, I have learned that the human capacities for empathy and respect must be fostered from earliest childhood to reduce violence in the world and build a truly civil society.”
- The Honourable Landon Pearson, Canadian children's rights advocate and retired Senator