The Nordic Match creative community came together for a five-day think tank in Helsinki right before Easter. The Empathy Movement team at the Finnish Refugee Council was excited to start the cooperation and see what new and creative ways we could discover together to support the empowerment of migrants and to bring more empathy into the world. The effort was certainly worthwhile. In addition to concepts we can continue to develop for Helsinki Design Week 2019, we got plenty of insight into how design and art are all about revealing what it is that makes as human, how empathy is based on interaction, and how we can try to build the perfect circumstances for it.

Empathy Movement was launched by the Finnish Refugee Council in March 2019. The aim of the movement is to address the polarised public debate and attitudes surrounding refugee and migration issues in Finland. These discussions often lack the willingness to put oneself in others’ shoes. Empathy has always been key in building Nordic welfare societies, and its role continues to be as important as ever when building diverse societies that value equality.

Empathy and creativity are similar processes in many ways. Both require passion, the ability to question the mainstream as well as the ability to transform feelings into actions. Nordic Match brought together five wonderful creative participants: Inanna Riccardi (Denmark), Leiry Seron (Iceland), Alberto Juarez (Norway), Julia Zachemba (Sweden) and Natalia Villaman (Finland). Many of these empathic creatives have an immigrant background, reflecting the richness of contemporary Nordic culture.

After a busy week of work and fun, the participants presented their proposals in a networking event at Villa Hakasalmi in Helsinki. The presentations were inspiring and proposed multi-channeled approaches on how to put the Empathy Movement in practice during Helsinki Design Week and Habitare exhibition in Helsinki in September 2019.

We had many aha! moments along the way.  One of them was the realization that the Finnish way of experiencing and expressing empathy might have some cultural characteristics that we need to keep in mind. Finns are very empathic, but we are also a bit shy. We are experts in listening, but not very showy when it comes to putting the empathy we feel into action. It takes courage to have empathy, and this will be one of the core missions of Empathy Movement in the future: encouraging people to be radically empathic and to take action.

After an inspiring week it is now time to reflect on and further refine the creative ideas. We would like to extend a warm thank you to the talented Nordic Match creatives, Nordic culture point, Måndag and the local creative hosts that accommodated and entertained the guests!

You will be able to explore our empathic creations at the Habitare exhibition in Helsinki on 11–15 September 2019.

Meanwhile, stay kind and follow us @empathymovement and

Linda Lehto
Special Advisor, Fundraising. Finnish Refugee Council