Hosan Lee

Hosan Lee, Ceo and Co-Founder

“For me, empathy is a developable skill set that enables people to take each other’s perspective and begin the process of listening to each other. That is just the beginning. It’s not an aspirational value goal like l-o-v-e, it’s very different than that. It’s very functional and tangible.”

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers.

Hosan’s work focuses on building empathy. She is the CEO and co-founder of a startup currently emerging from stealth mode which will launch in beta just in time for GOTV, ahead of midterm elections. Hosan’s broad interests include reimagining the ways we interact with each other, our communities, and our local ecosystems. She is passionate about bridging networks across silos for the purpose of advancing collaborative and inclusive innovation in cities.

Over the past few years, Hosan has leveraged her background in design, media, and advertising in order to study how empathy can facilitate difficult conversations about race, towards more social cohesiveness. Her last org was TABLETRIBES, which Hosan has described as an information-sharing platform “facilitating opportunities for more meaningful and productive relationship-building efforts.” In a sense, TableTribes provided her with empirical evidence for her current venture, which is more granularly focused within the civic space. Hosan is currently an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Civic Hall and a Fellow and Ambassador of the RSA [Royal Society of the Arts]. (For those unfamiliar with the RSA, imagine the TED conference, but with not only Hawkins as a member but also Darwin and Dickens.) She is also on the Steering Committee of the DC Civic Innovation Council and a member of the Advisory Council of The Social Justice School. While Hosan is heads down in preparation for her launch, she did remark that reading Sanda Balaban’s Civic Hall profile inspired her to re-download the Hamilton lottery app. Proving that she is truly an optimist. You can connect with Hosan via Twitter and via email.

What Does She Do?

Hosan specializes in building intelligent technology solutions that systematically create empathy feedback loops at the intersection of digital and physical engagement. After years of study and research, she published this precis on the utility of empathy – which also serves as a blueprint for her vision. Her new offering was specifically created to facilitate connections within the moderate and progressive communities, which has seen its share of rifts.

To that end, Hosan is CEO and co-founder of a soon-to-be-announced community intelligence platform which facilitates and maps networked face-to-face conversations.

“Our focus is on large national partners with large membership bases who have a vested interest in local mobilization – like an ACLU, for example, which has local chapters each trying to mobilize in-person, and on the ground. We want to work with partners whose members are already motivated — they know what the issues are — and give them more frequent opportunities to connect with the people around them.”

Hosan and her co-founders want to focus on voter turnout. “We know that a lot of campaigns focus on the last three weeks before Election Day.” For the launch she is focusing on three sites: Houston, Atlanta, and NYC — hoping to bridge online mobilization efforts, bring these down into the real world, and then move them back online.

How Did She Get Into This Work?

“My social justice awareness and awakening is relatively recent. My true north, my purpose, what drives me is finding ways to scale empathy — the mechanics of empathy activation as a skill set. I did not grow up with a lot of awareness, or much empathy in my family. As a result, I know that it can be learned. I went through the process; I am going through the process. I myself am on a journey learning relational skills; learning the impact of interpersonal thriving, and how that can awaken you into larger purpose-driven work and connect yourself to the rest of the world.”

Hosan describes her upbringing as leafy, upper-middle-class, and “oblivious.” Slowly, she recalls that the relentless death toll from gun violence put her on a path towards purpose-driven work. She began to see a lack of empathy as a root cause to much of our societal problems today. (Sociologist Sarah Konrath found that we’ve seen a 48% decline in empathy over the last 40 years). “By 2011 or 2012 I thought that I had the answer, or at least an inkling of an answer.” She then ran several experiments before honing in on building a consumer tech solution — which was TableTribes. Her first beta tests were around difficult conversations on race.

What Project Is She Working On?

Hosan and her co-founders are focused on launching a beta effort in time for the final stretch before midterm elections, where they think they can add the most value.

“So much civic engagement is people talking to people. It’s peer reinforcement of ideas. For this round, we want to bring those who come from different perspectives and backgrounds to talk with one another. Just between progressives and moderates, there’s enough of a huge gap. We need to be able to get on the same page.”

“Part of what holds us back as a collective force is this fragmentation. Let’s strengthen our own house and move towards the aspirational goal of one voice of a country. Before we can do that, there are little steps that we need to take to bring us together and build bridges.”

Via a mobile app and working closely with their partners, they will be constructing a set of topics, content, discussion guides, and a call to action. “All of this knits together into an experience. Once people come in we’ll connect them with 3-5 people around them and they’ll talk about issues more deeply, go through this experience together. We’ll capture results of these questions and conversations into collective network maps and we’ll start to see where they fit in the ecosystem for these three cities across America. Sample questions could include: “What does it mean to be an American? What does “community” mean to you?” We’ll capture insights – and learn whether we get the same or different responses between Atlanta, Houston, and NYC.”

How Did She Come to Civic Hall?

A year ago Hosan was standing on a drink line at the Business Innovation Factory Summit in Providence. There she had a good fortune to meet Civic Hall member Marya Stark, founder of Emerge America and Civic Hall Organizer-in-Residence. Marya became a friend and mentor to Hosan and encouraged her to apply to our Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program.

What Is Her Ask of Civic Hall?

Given that “Empathy + Tech” is in Civic Hall’s DNA, as well as the core of Hosan’s work – how does she define empathy?

“For me, empathy is a developable skill set that enables people to take each other’s perspective and begin the process of listening to each other. That is just the beginning. It’s not an aspirational value goal like l-o-v-e, it’s very different than that. It’s very functional and tangible.”

Ahead of the mid-term elections, Hosan will be deploying her solution to a very specific type of org: She’s looking to work with coalitions of coalitions. National orgs that have a local presence in NYC, Atlanta, and Houston. Depending on the size of the partner, she will be generally offering a trial-based fee for September through November.

Her product is not designed to scale high-touch human connection, but to facilitate the logistics of bringing people to the table. Many civic tech projects that have come out of Civic Hall are human capital intensive. “Where time and geography are concerned, this is where tech can step in. We can help scale these efforts.”

Beyond the mid-terms, there is a long game: “Building out community infrastructure. Strengthening those bonds. Finding the broadest umbrella. It’s not necessarily about issues first. The entry point has to be broader: “What are your hopes and fears for your community?”

“We want to see change that moves ALL of us towards a future of empathy, diversity, and acceptance – both socially and politically. So many of us, and members of our organizations are currently motivated to show up as a voice in our communities. To do it in a way that amplifies beyond our individual efforts into a powerful collective, we need all of us to open up our individual and organizational borders in one coordinated action.”

If your work is about building coalitions of networks and mobilizing them on the ground for deeper engagement and relationship building around the issues (e.g. ACLU People Power, Women’s March Huddles), Indivisible Groups), contact Hosan if you’d like to be part of her fall beta on voter turnout.

“Please get in touch; let’s make this happen.”