Rotterdam – January 25, 2022 – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training is becoming commonplace amongst many multinational companies, but for Amplify DEI founder Vivian Acquah and IBIAS VR director Anita Abaisa, training ends just where it needs to begin: not only must we learn of diversity, equity and inclusion but we must unlock empathy through the VR experience – this combination is understood to be the first of its kind.

Together, Vivian and Anita have developed a diversity, equity and inclusion training program that explores unconscious bias, micro-aggressions and discriminatory behavior; utilizing VR and the ‘embodiment experience’ to help individuals understand through experience. By putting individuals in the shoes of others, they will be immersed in the ‘lived experience’ for 5 minutes – transforming their understanding of the problem and thereby aiding best practices of how to deal with the consequences.

Anita Abaisa, director of IBIAS VR explains: “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 behavioral 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” says Abaisa. “The classroom training thereafter takes on a new meaning, as we explore appropriate and unhelpful methods of support.”

In a report by PwC – ‘The Effectiveness of Virtual Reality Soft Skills Training in the Enterprise’, it found that V-learners were 2.75% more confident to act on what they had learned, as they were four times more focused than e-learners and 3.75 times more emotionally connected to training utilizing VR experiences.

Vivian Acquah, founder of Amplify DEI adds: “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. But it must not be a tick the box exercise, employers need to walk in the shoes of colleagues to transform behaviors and become a quality support and activate allyship.”

“When developing this program 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 learned and how things have changed” comments Acquah.

Following a successful pilot, this training is now available to companies across the Americas and Europe and has the opportunity to be personalized to address workplace environments and scenarios.

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Sean Earley is the Executive Editor of AR/VR Magazine & co-founder of RobotSpaceship Podcast Network. He is the Director of New Biz Development and Publishing at KEMWEB, a musician, producer & consultant. He loves guitars, VR and coffee.