Mary Gordon is the Founder, President and the inspiration behind Roots of Empathy and Seeds of Empathy
To book Mary Gordon for your event, please contact Leah Starrett, Manager, President’s Office
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 she created the Roots of Empathy program in Ontario. Her not-for-profit organization offers programs in every province of Canada, New Zealand, the USA, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and Costa Rica. In 2005, Ms. Gordon created the Seeds of Empathy program for 3 to 5 year olds in child care.
She 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 is a recipient of the 2018 Governor General’s Innovation Award – one of six national winners – and the only social entrepreneur. She is a Member of the Order of Canada, the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, the recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee Medals. In 2002 Ms. Gordon was named Canada’s first Ashoka Fellow, recognizing her as a member of an international circle of social entrepreneurs who have the creativity and skill to envision and bring new ways of addressing persistent social problems. In 2011, she was named an Ashoka Globalizer, joining a select group of Ashoka Fellows supported in extending their message and impact to the global level.
Ms. Gordon is the recipient of several other 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 2004, she was awarded the Ontario Teachers Federation Lifetime Fellowship Award and in 2009, the Public Education Advocacy Award from the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.
In 2018 and 2019, Roots of Empathy was selected by the Finnish organization HundrED as one of the 100 most inspiring educational projects in the world. Roots of Empathy was also chosen as one of the world’s top two best practice children’s organizations by the Klaus J Jacobs Foundation and furthermore won an UpSocial global competition of evidence based programs that address the challenge of children at risk of social exclusion – “Accelerating Change for Social Inclusion.” Read more about Roots of Empathy’s awards.
Roots of Empathy is recognized as one of the top evidence-based social and emotional learning programs by the George Lucas Foundation’s Edutopia. Having reached close to a million children, Roots of Empathy was described by Roman Krznaric, cultural historian and founder of Empathy Museum London, as “the world’s most effective empathy teaching program”. 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 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 consulted with and presented to the World Health Organization, the Skoll World Forum, and the United Nations, among others.
Ms Gordon is one of the social entrepreneurs featured in Beverley Schwartz’s 2012 book, Rippling – How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation throughout the World. She is featured in the 2012 documentary Love Hate and Everything in Between by director Alex Gabbay and has been featured in other films on bullying and social innovation. Both Ms. Gordon and the program have been featured in the New York Times, the LA Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, Time Magazine and in features on PBS, CNN and the Huffington Post. Her book, Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child, is a Canadian best seller and is available in multiple languages.
Mary Gordon’s book, Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child, is available in multiple languages. Chapter 1 of the book is available online.
Mary Gordon was one of six winners of the 2018 Governor General’s Innovation Awards in May. She attended the award ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Canada. She was the only recipient to win for a social innovation. Credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, OSGG
In 2018 and again for 2019, HundrED.org, a not-for-profit organization based in Finland, has selected Roots of Empathy as one of the most inspiring innovations that are changing the face of K12 education today. Ms. Gordon was invited to speak at their conference in Helsinki.
As a leading expert on empathy, Ms. Gordon has had public dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama: First in 2006, in Canada, then in 2008, in the USA, and in 2011 in India. 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 and endorse Roots of Empathy and Seeds of Empathy in First Nations schools across Canada.
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.
Mary Gordon with: Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary, Sakena Yacoobi, founder and CEO, Afghan Institute of Learning, a women-led NGO in Afghanistan, His Excellency, Governor General David Johnston, Margaret Trudeau
For information on booking Ms. Gordon for speaking engagements, please contact
Leah Starrett, Manager, President’s Office
Follow Ms. Gordon on Twitter @MaryGordonROE