Twenty One Toys 2017 Year in Review


Ilana Ben-Ari — Founder, CEO

This year, Twenty One Toys turned 5 years old (and had a stellar party).

To mark that, we made a commitment – to make 2017 a year for empathic leadership.

My 2017 Highlight:

Thanks to a ton of hard work, a bit of luck, and a team that won’t quit, we were able to do just that. We’re happy to share that, thanks to the progress we’ve made over the last 12 months, we will officially be embedding the Empathy Toy into the leadership programs of one of Canada’s largest banks — reaching over 20,000 of their leaders. At the same time, we will be building out our 21Leaders Program online — bringing empathy directly into classrooms around the world thanks to our surprize moonshot prize win.

Thanks my team, our community, and our supporters 2018 will be the year we launch Empathic Leaders.


Ryan Burwell — Director, Training & Facilitation

One of the many, many reasons it’s so amazing to lead Empathy Toy workshops as the Director of Training & Facilitation, is because of the all the participants we get to meet – the workshops we delivered around the world in 2017 gave us the chance to get to know 11,904 people! In order to keep up with all of these workshops, we were able to hire from our community to grow our crew of passionate facilitators from 2 to 12.

My 2017 Highlight:

When we were in France back in April, we were able to take 9,000 high school students through Empathy Toy exercises as part of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge! Then in November, we employed our entire roster of facilitators in a single, exhilarating day of workshops to play with 800 staff members from Education First.

“I just wanted to add my thanks and congrats for the amazing work you guys led in Toronto! I heard nothing but rave reviews from our colleagues and the reflections about the activity continued throughout the weekend. I know my mind is spinning about all of the ways the Empathy Toy lessons are valuable – professionally and personally!”

– Kathy Welling, Executive Director, Global Education and Strategic Initiatives EF Education First


Sarah Cuddie — Community Manager

I was thrilled to join the Twenty One Toys team this year as the Community Manager. I get to connect with thousands of empathic leaders all over the world, including with more than 6000 of you on Twitter where I run the Twenty One Toys account. In the past 6 months, I’ve sent about 1400 emails to our community, and met dozens of you at our in-person training sessions and events.

My 2017 Highlight:

It was hard for me to choose a highlight this year since I have the privilege of seeing amazing play and acts of empathy every day from our online community. But as an avid bookworm, it was really special seeing the Empathy Toy featured in Amanda Lang’s book The Beauty of Discomfort.

“To my surprise, the kids couldn’t get enough of the game. They vied for the chance to be not only the builder but also the observer, since putting the toy together even without a blindfold on is a creative, fun endeavour. Interestingly, the kids were considerably better at being the observer than the adults were […] Amazingly, our screen-obsessed kids didn’t mind sitting quietly and watching two players talk each other through a complicated construction.”

Amanda Lang, The Beauty of Discomfort

Looking ahead to 2018, I’m so excited for us to shift our in-person training to online training, which will allow us to reach more of our global community members with better resources, and to share more of the successful ways that the Empathy Toy is being used in libraries, makerspaces, and job interviews. I can’t wait to see this community continue to grow!


Miguel Sánchez, Operations Assistant

This year, I have been thrilled to join the 21 Toys team as the Operations Assistant! Not only do I fulfill and ship all our toy orders, I have been fortunate to work on putting together and taking care of the Empathy Toy Library – our reserve of over 4,000 precious toy pieces and 1,000 blindfolds that made dozens of workshops and trainings possible.

My 2017 Highlight:

In 2017, I fulfilled hundreds of orders to over 45 countries, continuing to help develop the growth of hundreds of extraordinary people around the world. A favourite was when we shipped 60 Empathy Toy Teacher’s Kits all in one day!

I also had the immense privilege of becoming a part of the Twenty One Toys Facilitation Team – a community of empathic leaders, promoting 21st century skills!


Joi McConnell — Creative Technologist

As the Creative Technologist at Twenty One Toys, I have the enviable role of playing with pixels, punctuation, and percentages all day — aka web design, coding and copy, and data analysis. The websites are my world, and since joining the team 5 years ago, I’ve been so proud to see Twenty One Toys’ online presence grow by leaps and bounds!

Though it was technically at the very tail-end of 2016, it’s only been 14 months since we branched our online shop into two – twentyonetoys.ca to serve our Canadian neighbours at home, and twentyonetoys.com for international orders to send the Empathy Toy all around the world. Add that to empathytoy.com – our online portal for resources, community stories, and all things Empathy Toy – and we’re now up to three websites to better reach our global community of toy educators and facilitators.

My 2017 Highlight:

In 2017 we began talking more publicly about the things that matter to us, because we’re learning that they matter to you too! Radical ideas like teaching empathy as a key 21st century skill, and preparing our schools and offices for the future of work, aren’t just what guide us as company – they connect us to a whole community of warriors in the learning revolution! This year, our community spent well over four-thousand hours on our websites, learning about our company, our toys, and our passion for the ideas that influence our mission and values. That’s more than 172 full days! And in an era where time always feels in short supply, that means an awful lot to us and for the work we’re doing.

What will 2018 hold for Twenty One Toys? Well for one thing, we hope you’ll be seeing more of us in your inbox! Join our newsletter below to find out how together we can make 2018 the year for launching Empathic Leaders.

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