Ilana Ben-Ari, Twenty One Toys, PlayGrounding Podcast

The Toy Revolution: Teaching Empathy, Innovation & Creativity through Play

Ilana Ben-Ari’s startup, Twenty One Toys, is part of a revolution. A toy revolution. On their website they ask: “Our revolution demands answers: Where are creativity, play, teamwork and empathy in our classrooms, our boardrooms or the public square? More importantly, how do we teach these critical skills?”

In school we learn to compete, to win, to make the highest marks and try to become the best. But how do we teach future generations – and even our own generations in the workplaces and political discussions we engage in right now – the skills we desperately need to thrive in the 21st century? How do we teach things like empathy, creativity and how to handle failure? Ilana’s answer – with toys of course!

Ilana Ben-Ari is a multiple-award winning industrial designer, TEDx speaker, and Ariane de Rothschild Fellow. She has been featured in the Guardian UK, was Independent UK’s small business person of the week, and winner of C2MTL’s emerging entrepreneur award. She has been working at the intersection of design and social innovation for over 7 years at studios in Montreal, Helsinki, London, and, most recently Toronto, Ontario.

Ilana is best known as the founder, CEO and lead designer of her first startup – Twenty One Toys. She transformed her thesis project into the company’s first product, The Empathy Toy. Originally designed for visually impaired students and their sighted classmates, it is now used as a tool to teach Empathy to anyone and everyone. Already in 43 countries, over 1000 schools, 30 post-secondary institutions, 100 offices, and even 3 MBA programs, it was featured in TIME magazine as “one of six new technologies shaping classrooms of the future.”

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