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Action research shows benefits from “bubble-hopping”

Updated: Jun 9

Emma Stenström, co-founder of the Fikaproject, has done action research around bubble-hopping with students at Stockholm School of Economics. The aim is to invent an easy-to-use-method that makes it easier to understand ourselves and others.


In short, students at Stockholm School of Economics are asked to become aware of the bubble they are living in and deliberately step out of it, visit and connect on a deeper level with peoples in other bubbles.

So far, and as part of the research project, 410 persons have participated. After the hopping they have been asked to reflect on and share their experiences and learnings.

One clear result is that bubble-hopping is a appreciated method. The participants say that they learn both about themselves and how to communicate with people in other bubbles. Many emphasize that they would like to implement bubble-hopping in their future working life.


This is one student's reflection:


“A concrete plan of action for me personally is to actively expose myself to new bubbles and seek new perspectives at least once a month. I would have liked to see this applied to the macro level to a greater extent by, for example, companies deliberately exposing their employees to completely new perspectives on a regular basis.


For academic institutions, I think there are good opportunities for this. Why not, for example, on regular occasions have exchange days with other schools or start having individual mentoring days where young people from different parts of society can accompany a business student during a school day, which also allows ‘opposite bubble-hopping’. These kinds of initiatives can help counteract the negative trends that exist in society and instead increase understanding and empathy between social groups, reduce "we and them" feelings and help develop our listening. (...)

One thing that is certain is that continued polarization and contradictions between social groups will not solve the problems we face."


Benefits to be presented in summer 2020


The benefits from the bubble hopping are now being systematically sorted for research. Results will be presented in end of summer 2020.


This action research started in 2014. Students were brought to one of the less privileged suburbs. The school arranged meetings, walks, visits to local organizations, architectural tours, etc. Another action was to put together graduate students in business administration with circus artists, and let them explore, over a five weeks period, what they can teach and learn from each other.[2] In the spring of 2020 we participated in u.lab 2x in order to develop methods for bridging divides. We realized that bubble-hopping might be one of those methods. We started to refine and test bubble-hopping with students at Stockholm School of Economics.


The students got to choose for themselves which bubble to hop to. The idea is that their individual interest in other bubbles would increase the learning as well as open for more individual adaption. This is an easier and more effective way to arrange bubble hopping. In the wake of the Corona pandemic, online methods of bubble hopping are also being developed.


More tests to come


So far, most point to the fact that the bubble hopping-method can work in different contexts and formats. Fikaproject will move parts of the future action research outside the academic environment. The method will be tested within organizations, as a way to broaden perspectives, contribute to bridging divides well as open up for new ideas and innovation. The research will be done together with companies, governmental bodies as municipalities, media, conflicting interest groups, schools, and others.


Please reach out to us if you are interested in participating, emma.stenstrom@hhs.se


Instructions for Bubble Hopping in summary


Take a moment and reflect on the bubble you are living in. What does it look like?

Your task is now to step out of your ordinary bubble and visit another. You can do it alone or together with a friend, preferably live, but possibly online. Here are the instructions:


* Choose a bubble that you usually do not visit and that can give you new perspectives.


* Plan a visit, contact persons/organizations in advance, if needed.


* Prepare by thinking about/discussing:

What are you curious about?

What assumptions/prejudices do you bring?

What do you expect?

What can you contribute with yourself?

What questions will you ask?


* Write down your most important questions, but prepare to also improvise and let the talk unroll. It is not an interview; it is a dialogue.


* Bring all your senses with you and observe details.


* Don’t forget to listen carefully. Use the model below -


* Write down your reflections. Here are some examples of questions you can ask yourself: What did you learn about yourself? About others? About bubbles in general? What similarities did you see? How are you going to take your lessons further? What are your ideas on how to implement the bubble hopping in your organization or life in general?

Listening model (borrowed from Otto Scharmer’s Theory U)

Try to listen deeper and deeper, following these steps:


1) Confirming – what is confirming what you already thought?

2) Broadening – what did you not know?

3) Empathetic – what would it feel like to be in the other person’s situation?

4) Generative – what new ideas can you create together?

[1] About the attention economy and bubbles in general and about privileges, norms, and values. [2] Stenström, E. (2016) ”Send in the Clowns. What Business Students can Learn from Circus Artists”, in Wankel, C & L (eds) Integrating Curricular and Co-Curricular Endeavors to Enhance Student Outcomes, Emerald Publishing Group.

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