New VR programme uses embodiment to end discrimination

Users will build empathy by better understanding the experience of discrimination

A new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training programme will help users understand unconscious bias, microaggressions and discriminatory behaviour through the power of Virtual Reality (VR) technology.

The ‘Amplify Empathy Training’ programme, which is available to firms across the US and Europe, harnesses VR and the ’embodiment experience’ to help users understand and empathise with the discrimination felt by workplace minorities, to devise better equity and inclusion strategies.

Created by DEI consultant Vivian Acquah and IBIAS VR director Anita Abaisa, the programme puts users in “the shoes of others” who will experience their ‘lived experience’ for five minutes. The training also can be personalised to specific workplace environments and scenarios.

Virtual Reality has already been proven to be an effective learning retention tool. A PwC report entitled “The Effectiveness of Virtual Reality Soft Skills Training in the Enterprise” found that ‘V-learners’ were 2.75% more confident to act on what they had learnt. They were also four times more focused than e-learners and 3.75 times more emotionally connected to training utilising VR experiences.

Abaisa said: “The current DEI training on offer is simply not changing the experiences of minorities across the globe – because if you haven’t experienced it for yourself, how can you challenge your behavioural responses and those of others? Virtual Reality is a superb tool to put you in the shoes of others, as you embody someone else and see what they see.

“You unlock a part of the brain which is a realistic ‘experience’: for 5 minutes you can understand what it is like to be viewed as a woman, a Black man, a non-binary individual or someone neurodivergent challenged – then understand the consequent responses from peers that gaslight or undermine the individual’s experience. The classroom training thereafter takes on a new meaning, as we explore appropriate and unhelpful methods of support.”

Acquah added: “Some 40% of the global workforce are considering leaving their employers; consequently, employers need to listen and act on the needs of their employees to retain talent. Addressing DEI is key to retention, and training needs to be given to those across the employment spectrum, from experienced C-Suiters through to new starters.

“When developing this programme in combination with the technology, central to our thinking was to create an opportunity for people to experience what people unlike them experience on a day-to-day basis. By providing this experience, we unlock emotions and empathy in a way that you simply cannot do in a presentation setting. The immersive experience of seeing and feeling triggers a part of the brain which generates empathy which is essential to activate change.

“Harnessing this experience, we can then go on to have a frank discussion, address the uncomfortable topics and create sustainable pathways to solving the issues. As part of our training, we revisit the cohort to see in practice what they’ve learnt and how things have changed.”

For information about the Amplify Empathy Training programme, click here.

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