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Principles & Values
The importance of empathy
The Importance of Empathy
Empathy must be the shared value that underpins lived experience co-design and engagement for everyone involved. Without empathy as a core principle, meaningful collaboration with people with lived experience is simply not possible. This principle is centred on the ability to understand and share the feelings and experience of another, in this case people with lived experience. You must consciously have the capacity to deeply consider what someone has experienced, along with their perspectives, thoughts, and emotions.
Many of the issues that arise in inadequate or problematic engagements can be traced back to a lack of empathy. Conversely, good co-design and engagement rests on embedding empathy at the heart of a project and ensuring that it flows through into project planning and execution. It is crucial to often ask yourself empathy-based questions such as:
How would I feel being in their shoes right now or more generally?
If I were them, would I feel like I am being treated as an equal partner?
Would I feel like I am empowered, respected, cared for, and supported in this?
Would I feel like what we are doing is positive and meaningful?
If you cannot co-design from start to finish due to the nature of the project, set out the scope of the project in partnership with lived experience advocates and/or map out as many aspects as possible where decision-making can be an equal partnership.
Promote a co-design or engagement team culture that is compassionate, accepting, and honest – in which people’s input is respected and differences are celebrated.
Develop new ways of doing business – long meetings and bureaucratic procedures can be very draining and alienating, not only for people with lived experience.
You can find a number of empathy-based co-design activity templates (such as storyboards, journey and system mapping, concept exercises, and more) to utilise in the Centre for Social Impact’s ‘Co-Design and Action Kit’ in Part 7 under resources.