real-life solutions to global problems

The Refugee Challenge is an international competition that took place between 2015 and 2017. It was developed with funding from UNHCR and the IKEA Foundation as a response to the increased numbers of refugees fleeing desperate conditions their home countries in search of a better future.

The objective of this challenge was to call upon creative thinkers to use the power of design to come up with real life solutions to global problems. Our aim was to demonstrate the potential impact that design can have on our lives, and to encourage designers to use their skills and creative thinking to embark upon political activism. Furthermore, we wanted to engage in a social and political debate to help build a more positive narrative around refugees. This involved encouraging compassion around how we can achieve better mutual understanding and integration. We received a staggering 631 entries from teams from 70 countries around the world.

We led extensive research into the problems refugees face, such as health, mobility, education, finance, integration, and connection to home. After having identified the various obstacles and opportunities, briefs were created for the participants to choose from.

The open call was supported by an online social media and PR campaign. The refugee challenge received mass media attention, with articles published in De Volkskrant, DeZeen, Ikea and Yahoo amongst others. Workshops were held around the world from Stockholm, to Zurich to Istanbul to generate more submissions for the challenge. A website was designed to offer advice and support to participants.

The jury of experts from creative and humanitarian sectors selected 25 projects, these projects were published online, in the media and in exhibitions. 5 winners were chosen and were announced in Amsterdam by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders.

The winners won a grant of 10,000 euros each and joined a 5 month acceleration programme which was specifically tailored to their needs. The acceleration programme helped them develop their concepts into working prototypes and business plans.

Today the participants continue to develop their ideas further, with some ideas already in production.


Case movie Refugee Challenge