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Empathy and Emotion in Policymaking

Key information

Subject area:

Public Policy, Politics & Security

Course type:

Executive Education

Credit level:


Credit value:



4 weeks

Available course dates:

From: 02 July 2024 To: 26 July 2024
Application deadline: 04 June 2024

Course overview

Policymaking is about devising solutions to help society and make people’s lives better. Yet often it can be disconnected from the lives of people it is meant to serve. We can often overlook valuable insights, perspectives, and worldviews that might yield more responsive, inclusive and comprehensive approaches.

In recent years, there has been evidence of what can happen when there is too great a disconnect between governments and the people at local, national and international levels. Elections have revealed a sense of marginalisation among sectors of the population in countries including the UK, US, and Sweden. Growing protest movements highlight the significance of listening to other voices, and the ways in which structural inequalities and limitations can impede societies from achieving their full potential. Moreover, the rise of technology, automation, and communications means the imperatives to engage with people will continue to increase.

Against this context, this module sets out ways in which policymakers can engage more with a diverse range of voices. It will enable you to foster a connection with citizens across the country through a greater appreciation of empathy, emotions, and the very human dynamics of policymaking.

We will explore the meaning of empathy and emotions and their role in policymaking. The module draws on a range of national and international case studies and will encourage you to reflect on your own personal and professional experiences. Successively, we will connect these experiences to wider debates about what empathy means in the real-world and analysing what they look like when applied to policymaking, through practices, communications, mindsets, and cultures. And, finally, we will examine the limitations and challenges that empathy presents in order to more fully equip students with a nuanced and considered appreciation of the concepts.

What does this course cover?

Week 1: Empathy and emotion in theory

In this first week, we will focus on the concepts of empathy and emotions. How they are defined, what they look like and why they matter. The objectives for this week are to provide a theoretical and conceptual grounding in the ideas and themes we will cover over the course.

Week 2: Empathy in organisational practice

This week we will turn to how these theoretical ideas and concepts translate into practice.We will look simultaneously at empathy as something that can help within the work place and aid the process of making policy. But, also, how it can help communicate and engage with diverse audiences about policy.

Week 3: Navigating the politics and limitations of empathy and emotion

The final week will centre on the nuances of empathy and emotions and identifying the challenges and constraints on incorporating them into policymaking practice. This week is designed to lean towards the philosophical and political, encouraging you to consider how the ideas we have discussed and studied so far translate into your professional environments.

What will I achieve?

Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Examine how emotions are a feature of politics and policy making.
  • Compile a set of practices and develop a professional toolkit to incorporate empathy more effectively into policy-making.
  • Analyse the potential political implications and limitations of empathy in policy.
  • Evaluate the diverse ways in which empathy can inform policy

Who will I learn with?

Olga Siemers

Olga Siemers

Senior Lecturer in Public Policy

Who is this for?

This short course is for mid-career professionals. Standard entry requirements are a 2:1 degree plus 3 years of relevant work experience. Applicants without a 2:1 or higher degree are welcome to apply and typically require 5+ years of relevant work experience.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment: One written assignment, plus participation in webinars and discussion forums.

Our modules offer high levels of interaction with regular points of assessment and feedback. Each four week module is worth five Master's level academic credits and includes three webinars with a King's lecturer and peer group of global professionals.

What is the teaching schedule?

Format: Fully online, plus 3 x 1-hour weekly webinars

This module has been designed specifically for an online audience. It uses a range of interactive activities to support learning including discussion forums, online readings, interactive lectures videos and online tutorials.

Fees and discounts

Tuition fees may be subject to additional increases in subsequent years of study, in line with King’s terms and conditions.

Further information

Module Creator

Dr Claire York, Kissinger Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University. Claire’s research explores the role and limitations of empathy and emotions in international affairs and diplomacy. More broadly, her research interests include the conduct and theory of international relations, grand strategy, international security,conflict resolution, negotiations, and literature.

Please note that this is only indicative information. Lecturers and course content are subject to change. Please contact us directly for the most recent information.

Course status:


Full fee £950


Discounts available

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