Climate change is already wreaking havoc around the world, and it’s happening faster, harder, and in more terrifying forms than anyone predicted. Hotter temperatures are causing droughts, heatwaves beyond the limits of human tolerance, and rising seas that will submerge many of the islands, cities and countries that we live in today.

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but a global crisis. We can’t afford to wait for further destructive consequences before we call for action. This is why What Design Can Do in partnership with IKEA Foundation and Autodesk Foundation has committed to focusing on adaptation for this Climate Action Challenge.

Now is the time to join forces and with all the skills and resources the creative community has on offer to adapt our societies to what climate change is going to bring.




While mitigation is essential, we must also find ways to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Following this, our challenge’s focus is two-fold:

1. We have to adapt to more frequent and intense natural disasters, as well as weather patterns that we’ve never had to cope with before. We also have to deal with the effects: food and water shortages, homelessness, ill health, mass migration, and conflict.

2. We have to adapt to a new energy reality. We depend on energy for our food and water supply, housing, clothing, medical care, and transportation — from the basics to relative luxuries. We have to change our ways in order to survive beyond the age of fossil fuels.

The Challenge

The Climate Action Challenge is a global design competition calling on the creative community to submit bold, innovative solutions to combat the impacts of climate change.

It runs from May 2017 to May 2018 and was open to three categories of entrants: students, creative professionals and start-ups. The Climate Action Challenge is initiated by WDCD in close collaboration with its main partners IKEA Foundation and Autodesk Foundation. In May 2018 What Design Can Do will launch the second Climate Action Challenge.


In September, WDCD received 384 entries from 70 countries. Out of the 384 entries the selection committee nominated 35 projects. Subsequently, the nominees were given the opportunity to improve and re-submit their proposals based on the feedback of the selection committee and the challenge committee. An international jury of experts in design, social enterprise and climate sciences then judged the refined proposals in November. The winners – who were announced on the 23rd of November 2017 at WDCD Live in São Paulo – share an award package of €900.000, including an acceleration programme tailor-made by Social Enterprise NL.


Aimed at making the winning concepts and startups ready for market and investment, the five- month acceleration programme includes workshops, trainings, expert consultancy, networking events, inspiring talks, visits to peer entrepreneurs and webinars. Each winner will work on the building blocks of the social business model and be guided through the programme by their own personal mentor. Consisting of two intensive bootcamps in Amsterdam, the first starting on the 15th of January 2018 and the second on the 12th of March, the programme will also involve online sessions and preparation for Demo Day.


On the 24th of May 2018 the winners will show the result of the acceleration programme during the What Design Can Do conference in the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam. During this demo day the prototypes and accompanying business plans are presented.