It’s done, the public vote for the WDCD Refugee Challenge has ended. Today the committee of 30 design and humanitarian experts will decide on the final shortlist. Give us four days to arrange everything for a glamorous announcement of the 20 to 30 entries that made it to the shortlist. In the meantime read what Bas van Abel, founder of Fairphone and member of the international jury that will choose the five finalists on 29 June, expects to find among the nominations.

What made you decide to join this challenge as a jury member?
Bas van Abel: ‘The refugee crisis is one of the most relevant issues of today. I always like the “strategically naïve” approach design can have towards complex issues. Matters like the refugee problem need a well thought through approach, however the challenges have become so complex and political that we tend to get stuck in discussion and debate itself. A design challenge is a good way to create an entry point for solutions and drive systemic change. I’m looking forward to get inspired by a diversity of ideas.’

What are you looking for in a winning idea?
‘I would like to see designers create tangible solutions on a human scale, without losing the bigger context, so that these solutions can create an entry point for moving forward with the debate. This way you can create a ripple effect and move towards systemic change. This requires a very open and vulnerable approach from the participants, who should welcome critique as a catalyst. Their challenge will be to combine the shared knowledge and ideas from all stakeholders into solution oriented designs, without oversimplifying things. I’m also hoping to see some designs with strong opinions and standpoints towards the crisis.’

What do you consider to be the most challenging issue design should solve for refugees?
‘The most challenging is the social political context that creates the current situation. Design has traditionally been seen as solution oriented, though I believe we shouldn’t underestimate the political impact it can have on different levels of society.’


Top photo: Bas van Abel, Fairphone founder and CEO, photo by Frank Bauer