The best of the What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge 2016 has been announced!  Over the past month, a committee of over 30 creative professionals and humanitarian experts selected 25 of the total 631 entries for the shortlist. On 30 June 2016, the The Refugee Challenge international jury met in Amsterdam for a live session to determine the 5 finalists. Their names were announced during WDCD Live Amsterdam 2016, by none other than the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders. 

All the jury were hugely impressed with the scale of involvement that the challenge inspired. The staggering number of 631 entries came from mixed teams most of which had engaged meaningfully on the Challenge. Literally thousands of people had worked together and the developed thoughtful conversations on ways to add some design value to the complex issues at the heart of the Refugee Challenge. This in itself was an achievement and all the entrants are to be congratulated!

The Shortlist of 25 was full of inspiring ideas and the Jury want all these teams to recognise that it was a considerable achievement to be selected. It was a very tough task to whittle this down to five projects as recipients of funding and support. Ultimately, the jury were looking for projects that could make a difference, were scalable, achievable and brought a fresh approach. It was also key to see evidence of a team with the energy and commitment to develop their ideas to the next stage.

All five projects are worthy winners and the jury was delighted and unanimous in its decisions. Congratulations!

Next the challenge will embark on an ‘Accelerate Phase’ where each of the five finalists will receive a grant of up to 10,000 euros to develop their proposal into a working prototype, supported by a business plan. Read more about the process here. Want to view all the ideas? Visit the challenge platform, or learn more about this Challenge, and our partners UNHCR & IKEA Foundation by getting to know the challenge background.

A member of the press? Download all the relevant material here.


AGRIshelter is a solution for the shortage of refugee shelters that considers social, urban, environmental and economic factors. It is built of biodegradable, zero-km materials, which are durable, provide good insulation and are readily available in every city. The whole 35-m2 unit can be erected in a few hours by people with minimum skills. Read more


The Welcome Card is issued to everybody who applies for asylum in a EU country. Radio-frequency identification technology (RFID) enables refugees to check their application status when the card is paired to a reader. It offers a way to display one’s asylum application status, while providing official information from relevant immigration agencies and related organizations. The temporary identification card also provides details about language courses, transport and relevant events. Moreover, it gives holders peace of mind and dignity as they plan their lives. Read more


Food is an excellent catalyst for acquaintance and cultural exchange. Eat & Meet uses food to foster relationships and warm hearts, presenting refugees as an indispensable part of modernity. The project turns renovated city buses into food trucks where refugees can cook and sell food from their culinary tradition, with proceeds going to the workers as well as integration projects. Read more


Makers Unite connects refugees and EU locals by co-designing engaging products and narratives, starting with upcycling life vests and boats collected on Greek shores. The platform offers the first steps for refugees to regain dignity, to connect with locals, to build new networks and to restart their lives. It enables newcomers and EU citizens to develop meaningful relationships while creating products that support the circular economy. Read more


The photos of refugees shown by mainstream media all look the same and, more importantly, only present refugees in desperate and helpless situations. The digital platform Reframe Refugees helps the world realize that refugees are people with the same dreams and ambitions as everybody else. Reframe is a photo-based platform where refugees, 90 per cent of whom carry a smartphone, can share their side of the story and show us what they want us to see. Read more