How the innovative start-up Occtopus playfully improves the future

Anja Höbel on Occtopus and the potential to reduce unconscious bias in children for more Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging.

In an interview with Anja Höbel, founder of "Occtopus"

Octopus
Source & Copyright by Octopus

Author: House of Eden

Questions surrounding diversity and inclusion are currently dominating both public and private discourse. The issue is which structures need to be created in order to anchor equality and equal rights holistically in society. But is it enough to introduce progressive formalities? Or is it also a matter of overhauling rigid structures as well as thought patterns in order to actually be able to initiate change? After all, many people still think in pigeonholes and pass on prejudices to the next generation carelessly and often unconsciously.

With Occtopus, co-founders Anja Höbel, strategy consultant and social and cultural anthropologist, and Emre Celik, DEI+ Advocate, want to break through precisely this reproducing system. The start-up offers a playful approach to reducing unconscious prejudices and stereotypes in children - before they become entrenched in their thought patterns and are ultimately passed on. This can create a culture of recognition and appreciation instead of one of discrimination. And because Occtopus establishes this already in early childhood development, the start-up creates a productive - and long overdue - foundation to enable the desired, forced and, above all, needed change in our society. In this interview, co-founder Anja Höbel shares how Occtopus is using games instead of rigid structures to advocate for a diverse and more equitable society.

Source & Copyright by Anja Höbel

"Diversity is a fact and inclusion is a choice, but belonging is a feeling that can only be created through a culture that we all proactively shape."

What made you decide to found Occtopus?

During a Corona winter walk in the Lockdown, Emre and I talked about the topic of diversity. We came to the conclusion that it makes sense and is important to train adults on the topic of diversity. However, the mindset has already been formed - greater learning success is achieved with children.

We were disappointed because the vicious circle of stereotypes and prejudices is always repeated: children perceive their environment, develop stereotypes, grow up and then pass them on to their children. That's why we came up with the idea of developing a game for children that breaks this vicious cycle.

octopus (2)

Source & Copyright by Octopus

How do you describe your vision and your mission?

Occtopus has set itself the goal of reducing prejudices and thus making the world a little bit better. We do this by making unconscious prejudices conscious with the help of our games. In this way we train the children's perception and at the same time we can also broaden the parents' mindset.

This is important because unconscious prejudices influence our everyday lives. When different types of people come together, entire worlds sometimes collide. We have all experienced this. This is exactly why we want to find ways to facilitate being together and to understand the communication of the other person.

How exactly does your business model work and what products do you offer?

Colorful Lego, Barbies with different skin colors, rainbow flags: All of this is already available on the market - but it does not have a learning effect on children. We want to change that: Our games have a learning effect and are sustainable, scalable and, above all, accessible. This means that it is close to our hearts to make it as easy as possible for everyone to access our games - free of detours and barriers. That's why we're offering our first game in the form of an e-book for download

We are also currently working on an online game that can be downloaded from our homepage in the form of an app, and are developing haptic games that will soon be available to order via our online store. This development is an important step, as we believe that children learn strongly through haptics. So there is something for everyone - whether haptic, e-book or online game.

What is behind the abbreviation "DEIB"?

DEIB means Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.

  1. Belongingin German, "Zugehörigkeit" ("belonging") arises when diversity ("Vielfalt"), inclusion ("Integration") and equity ("Gleichberechtigung") are well established in a system. A sense of belonging develops naturally when people feel safe and accepted. It's about being open to the unknown; not excluding anyone; and taking action. Above all, though, it's about having a common goal: Making the world a place where everyone feels welcome. That's what Belonging means.
  2. Diversity is the combination of everything that makes people different, such as skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, status, language, ability, age, faith, or political perspective.
  3. Equity means promoting impartiality and fairness. It doesn't mean that everyone gets exactly the same conditions, but conditions tailored to them that then give them the same opportunities. That is a very important difference.
  4. Inclusion is an outcome that ensures people from diverse backgrounds feel truly welcome.

In other words, diversity is a fact and inclusion is a choice (own choice of how much inclusion is enabled), but belonging is a feeling that can only be created by a culture that we all proactively create.

Why are companies that promote DEIB so relevant today?

In light of globalization, demographic change and also changing values, DEIB has become much more relevant in recent years, both privately and publicly. Prior to that, however, there has been relatively little engagement, which is why some generations simply lack education. Above all, there is a lack of companies or institutions that implement topics related to DEIB and present or offer them in a modern and playful way. Since children play countless games every day, this is exactly where we want to start - our goal is to package them in such a way that children find fun in the topics and expand their diaper of vision.

For what reason does it make sense for Occtopus to start with children?

The human brain is not designed to process each piece of information individually. It falls back on what we already know and creates pigeonholes, stereotypes and prejudices.

We may not be born with prejudices or stereotypes, but we are definitely born with the ability to learn them. We pick them up long before we understand what we are doing. Children learn which social categories are important by observing their environment and often being presented with a cognitive puzzle. By age 3, prejudices and stereotypes begin to crystallize. This is partly why it is so difficult for people to unlearn stereotypes. We've been absorbing them since our baby days. Some of them are even so deeply ingrained that we don't even realize they exist.

What methods do the games use to "make the unconscious conscious"?

We focus on dialog in our games. Parents play a big role in this - after all, the games only work if parents play them together with their children. That's why we ask them to ask their children questions, with no wrong or right answers. In this way, parents are also encouraged to question their own thought patterns.

octopus 2

Source & Copyright by Octopus

A study shows why developing this approach is particularly important today. It found that, to date, only 10 percent of parents talk to their children about diversity and prejudice. 35 percent rarely talk about it and 57 percent never talk about it. I think these numbers speak for themselves.

Which cross-industry trends do you expect with regard to DEIB?

DEIB will definitely get more attention. Both in the gaming industry and in corporate consulting, marketing and educational institutions. There is a change taking place in society at the moment that will run through many areas.

Many thanks for the interview Anja Höbel

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