Who is behind the Refugee challenge?


Three Partners, One purpose

The What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge is a joint initiative of design platform What Design Can Do, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and IKEA Foundation. 

What Design Can Do (WDCD) is a design platform that advocates the social impact of design, centred around a two-day conference in Amsterdam, NL. Get tickets to our next event, on 30 June – 1 July 2016, here.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.

IKEA Foundation
The IKEA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the IKEA Group of companies, and aims to improve opportunities for children and youth in some of the world’s poorest communities.
  IKEA Foundation & UNHCR Partnership
Since 2010, IKEA Foundation has partnered with UNHCR to help create better lives for thousands of refugee families and children in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 
In 2015, the UNHCR, IKEA Foundation and BetterShelter launched the so-called “flat-pack refugee shelter”, a safer, more durable emergency shelter for refugee families, which has received widespread attention for its innovative design.
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The Art of Impact
The Art of Impact is a research and incentive program for existing and new creative projects with a clear impact on a social, cultural or environmental issue.
BankGiro Loterij Fonds
BankGiro Loterij Fonds (formerly Stichting Doen) is a fund supporting cultural and creative initiatives in the Netherlands.
Triodos Bank
Triodos is one of the world’s most sustainable banks. They are active supporters of many ecological, social and cultural initiatives.
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Arup is an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. Arup’s aspirations to shape a better world puts the firm at the very heart of communities around the globe.
Montpelier Foundation
Montpelier Foundation provides grants and investments to organisations that give the world’s disadvantaged the skills and resources to improve their lives.
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Research partners


STBY is based in London & Amsterdam, and specialises in creative design research for service innovation.
Vluchtelingenwerk is an independent, non-governmental organization that defends refugees’ rights to a fair asylum procedure.
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RefugeeChallenge x SingularUniversity
What Design Can Do is joining forces with Singularity University the Netherlands, which recently launched a challenge calling for ideas that leverage exponential technologies to create a better life for refugees. We invite all the tech minded participants of the WDCD Refugee Challenge to also take part in the SingularityU competition. Together we can maximize the efforts to create game changing solutions to improve the wellbeing of refugees. Besides, participants make a chance at winning the prize in both competitions!
RefugeeChallenge x ADCN
ADCN (Advertising Design Creativity the Netherlands) and What Design Can Do joined forces for the ADCN Talent Awards 2016. Together with Jonge Honden and various academies, we invited all creative talent in the Netherlands (younger than 30 years, all disciplines) to enter their ideas before the 1st of April. A special jury composed of ADCN Board members, and WDCD Challenge partners judged the entries and presented the winners with their ‘Lamps’ during the ADCN Awards Ceremony in Paradiso on the 12th of April.
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RefugeeChallenge x VANBLEND
VANBLEND initiated and organized Design For Humanity – The Refugee Hackathon at Dutch Design Week ’16. Some 100 designers realized >150 concepts to create better solutions for refugees and EU citizens. Currently we are working to get a range of these smart concepts to the prototyping and realization phase. We believe in the power of collaboration, so we let designers work in teams to iterate on existing ideas from our hackathon. This way, we make full use of both initiatives and realize our key objectives: innovations that add value for humanity and meaningful employment for designers.
RefugeeChallenge x AUTODESK
Autodesk Foundation joins the Refugee Challenge as a supporter and collaborator in the Accelerate phase of the challenge. The Autodesk Foundation invests in the most impactful people and organizations using the power of design to create a better world. It is the first foundation to focus investment exclusively on the people and organizations using design for impact. The foundation calls them “impact designers”— they are the catalysts of the design-led revolution now underway.



Exclusive media partner

Dezeen is one of the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazines, and the winner of numerous awards for journalism and publishing. It’s mission is simple: to bring a carefully edited selection of the best architecture, design and interiors projects from around the world. Dezeen was launched at the end of November 2006 and has grown rapidly ever since, attracting over 1.75 million unique visitors every month. Dezeen will also host a breakout session at WDCD Live in Amsterdam.
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Top photo: ©Better Shelter