As a collaboration between What Design Can Do, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and IKEA Foundation, The Refugee Challenge asks designers and artists to improve the lives of refugees in urban areas. Five finalists will receive €10,000 ($11,275) to develop their design. Amsterdam-based What Design Can Do is a design platform that pushes for the social impact of design. “The current refugee crisis is one of the most urgent issues of our time that needs all the creative problem solving we can mobilize,” says the organization. “The WDCD Refugee Challenge appeals to designers of all kinds to make a difference for refugees, specifically refugees in cities, as 60 percent of the world’s 20 million refugees live in urban areas.”
Marcus Engman, head of design at IKEA, says, “Design, for me, means changing things for the better.... I think that designers can do a lot for refugees, even if it just means thinking about what a home means for somebody forced to live in temporary surroundings.”
In addition to Engman, the competition’s judges include Sonia Ben Ali (France), founder of the organization Urban Refugees; author and Arabist Petra Stienen (Netherlands); graphic designer Michael Johnson (U.K.); Ravi Naidoo (South Africa), founder of Design Indaba; Robin Cohen (South Africa), professor, Oxford Diasporas Program; Bas van Abel (Netherlands), inventor of the Fairphone; and design theorist David Kester (U.K.).
The challenge is “an amazing opportunity,” says the Dutch minister of culture, Jet Bussemaker. “Come up with that solution that nobody has thought of yet, one that improves the lives of so many people.”