A win-win situation with Funka's empathy exercises

Funka has conducted empathy exercises as a part of the competence development program Win-Win in the county of Östergötland in Sweden. Empathy experiences, where participants experience how to deal with disabilities in an urban environment, are very popular.

Linköping municipality has been active to promote gender equality, diversity and accessibility for a long time. A successful initiative is the Win-Win program, which is a collaboration between 12 municipalities. The aim is for employees to gain competence development and become ambassadors for these issues in their workplaces, through education and experience exchanges that affect attitudes, approaches, working methods and awareness. During the two-year program, there are lectures on legislation, approach, language, culture, communication and organisational development, in combination with practical exercises and discussions. The course modules are continually evaluated to maintain a high quality.

Previously, the courses consisted mostly of theoretical elements, but there was a demand from the participants to also have practical elements, to get an increased sense of participation. With recommendations from the Swedish Agency for Participation, Funka got assigned to conduct empathy exercises. The participants can experience how to try to get around in urban environments with severe visual impairments or as wheelchair users.

Our empathy exercises usually work as an eye-opener," says Joakim Centervik, trainer at Funka. Because we give the participants new conditions as they move in well-known environments, they are naturally aware of the difficulties that exist. But it's not only problems they find but also things they usually do not use to orientate and move, but as it turns out that they benefit greatly from under changed conditions.We give the participants an opportunity to get new perspectives.

Through the empathy exercises, the participants get the chance to experience and feel what it may mean to live with one or more disabilities. Funkas’ empathy exercises are a very popular feature of the Win-Win program, which so far has received very high ratings in all evaluations made.

Some voices from participants:

It is useful to experience some of the difficulties that people with disabilities face in everyday life
We need to get business owners to think about these issues when something changes with construction work, reconstruction, change of interior, etc. The sidewalks are also full of billboards and signs that make it difficult for the visually impaired, wheelchair users and others.
The experiences were very rewarding! It is good to get a perspective on how to deal with different disabilities. It became very clear that this is an area of improvement in society.

It is an important and exciting challenge to work with accessibility issues, says Faiz Jaber, HR strategist at Linköping municipality and responsible for the Win-Win program in the county of Östergötland. We need more knowledge, increased awareness and more opportunities to embrace the reality and situation of other people. This is a long-term process, in order to truly integrate accessibility issues into our activities, continuous repetition and dialogue regarding which kind of values that is the basis of our decision-making is needed.

Stockholm City chose Funka for empathy exercises