Conference article

Integrating empathy and lived experience through co-creation in service design

Josina Vink
CTF - Service Research Center, Karlstad University; Experio Lab, County Council of Värmland, Sweden

Anna-Sophie Oertzen
Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Maastricht University, The Netherlands / KISD, Germany

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Published in: ServDes2018. Service Design Proof of Concept, Proceedings of the ServDes.2018 Conference, 18-20 June, Milano, Italy

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 150:37, p. 471-483

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Published: 2018-07-05

ISBN: 978-91-7685-237-8

ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


While empathy is often hailed as a central aspect of service design, there is a growing acknowledgement of the risks associated with an over-reliance on empathy in design processes. As such, there is increasing recognition of the need to integrate lived experience—the direct, first-hand perception of a relevant situation, condition, or identity in an everyday context. This paper reviews existing literature related to empathy and lived experience in co-creation, with particular attention to the associated risks of amplifying one over the other. From this literature, we highlight two different manifestations of the relationship between empathy and lived experience: “I—It” and “I—Thou”. We build an understanding of the interdependence of empathy and lived experience and argue for an integration of both to enable reciprocal co-creation. To advance the existing discussion, we highlight a number of important directions for future research in this area.


empathy, lived experience, co-creation, service design


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