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HDI in the news: On the cover of the Älmhultsbladet

We made this week's cover of the Älmhultsbladet, the co-worker magazine for IKEA since 1975. In his cover model debut, Tom spoke with Jon Thunqvist about our Bootcamp experience and our vision for improving accessibility in employment.

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Gone camping - the IKEA way

They have gone where no man, or woman, has ever gone before. Huddling in the basement offices at IKEA of Sweden, the first batch of bootcampers are more than half-way through their course and obstacles that once may have seemed unsurpassable are being ticked off, one after the other.

We caught up of with two of the ten startups, where we learned how to make "nutritious" gingerbread cookies - the secret is to exchange some of the flour for protein powder made from fruit flies(!) - why there are so many positive reasons to employ people with disabilities, and how urban dwellers can grow eggplants in their tiny city apartments. Strap up your boots and come along for the ride.

Bootcamps for startup companies have been around for several years in different forms. The underlying philosophy is to help nurture good ideas into viable businesses, and hopefully make them into profitable enterprises.

For this particular Bootcamp, IKEA is cooperating with Copenhagen-based entrepreneur cooperative Rainmaking, which was founded in 2008, and has since helped hundreds of aspiring business owners realise their dreams. Once the bootcamp starts so does the hard work.

"It is intense the participants are expected to finish one year of work in three months," says Karin Blomqvist, Program Director at Rainmaking who, together with Marketing Lead Pernille Spang Lyndegaard, is on hand in Älmhult to oversee everything, from booking lecturers and finding IKEA mentors to a ing culture days and making sure the cabins at the Sjöstugan Camp site are up to par.

All efforts and all the hard work of the participants will be on display in Älmhult on the Demo Day, 5 December. "That is when everyone is expected to be ready and have something that they can showcase," says Pernille.

At a desk scattered with samples in the Bootcamp office, Yoram Yerushalmi shuts his laptop and greets Älmhultsbladet with a big smile. The Israeli is an entymologist and co-founder of Flying Spark. He has no doubts about what the world needs if it is to sustain its quickly growing population.

"There will be 10 billion people in the world by 2040-2050. They need protein, but they can't all eat meat, se we must find an alternative," says Yoram. That alternative, according to Yoram's company Flying Spark, is fruit flies.

Anyone who has ever left a bowl of fruit unattended can testify that Yoram is right when he says that fruit flies really do multiply in no time and, given an overripe banana, have no problem in taking care of themselves.

Also, since the flies are dried and ground into a powder, the so-called yuck factor" doesn't apply as it would confronted with six-legged or crawling fare. "In the US they prefer crickets, while European companies are focusing on worms. Everyone is breeding Black Soldier flies but because of the strong taste, those are mostly used for animal feed," says Yoram.

So where does IKEA, and more specifically the IKEA restaurants, enter into the equation? Well, according to Flying Spark, IKEA should of course be up there alongside other food giants, like Mexican pastry maker Bimbo that is interested in creating healthier snacks for kids, like fly protein donuts and fly protein cookies.

"IKEA is global player. If it signs up to serve insects at the restaurants, it would be a very strong statement," says Yoram.

Among the 1,200 startups that applied for the IKEA Bootcamp, a small London-based outfit made the very narrow final cut. Tom Casson of How Do I? is no stranger to Sweden having made several study trips here while working as a special needs teacher in Britain.

The company's business idea is to make workplaces more accessible for people with disabilities. An ingenious solution that involves a sticker and a mobile phone with Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities can help explain how most entry-level jobs should be performed. Just hold the phone against the question-mark sticker and short video will start playing on the screen.

Älmhultsbladet tested it on a pallet truck and quickly learned the actions involved in operating it.

People with disabilities stay three times longer at a job so it makes perfect sense to invest a little extra in them," says Tom Casson. "There are many entry-level jobs that they can perform, but it is very difficult for them to even get a chance to prove themselves."

Tom and his two colleagues all stay in Älmhult for the programme. Not only is it "a nice retreat from London" it is also a chance to shadow the co-workers in an IKEA store to find out how How Do I? can be applied in a real working environment. "I'm really happy to be here and work with IKEA. The philosophy of "the many people" is very including and close to what we are trying to accomplish," he says.