What Design Can Do for Refugees

“A challenge too big for governments and NGOs alone”. This thought sparked the WDCD Refugee Challenge, a collaboration of What Design Can Do, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and IKEA Foundation.

Also Home Away From Home, the open call by COA (Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers) in collaboration with Rijksbouwmeester Floris Alkemade (chief government architect) addressed the issue of refugee housing and integration. Both creative competitions generated a massive response: the WDCD Refugee Challenge (international scope) received 631 entries from 70 countries; Home Away From Home (national focus) received 366 proposals.

These are very lofty achievements, however the initiatives were also met with some skepticism: Are we not overestimating the role of design in seeking solutions for refugee crisis? And are creative competitions effective tools for engaging designers in urgent societal issues?


Marcus Fairs (founder and editor in-chief Dezeen)

Contributors/ speakers
WDCD Refugee Challenge: Dagan Cohen (Challenge Leader), Richard van der Laken (founder/director WDCD), Corinne Gray (acting co-lead UNCHR Innovation), Jonathan Spampinato (Head of Marketing & Strategic Planning IKEA Foundation).
Home Away From Home: Floris Alkemade (Rijksbouwmeester), Carolien Schippers (COA)
Critics: Ruben Pater, Joris Landman, Harry Bloch

Sign up for our newsletter