What if Makers Unite would start growing food? The idea originated from the encounter of the Makers Unite team with IKEA’s future living-lab Space10 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Now, the two teams together will explore the possibilities of fostering social inclusion through new ways of food production.

Makers Unite is one of the five finalists of the WDCD Refugee Challenge. The project uses the power of making to connect newcomers and local makers, thus establishing dialogue and trust while creating real opportunities. The social inclusion programme is based on collaboratively creating sustainable products. While getting to know each other, participants discover their talents, ambitions and how to connect to local networks. Talents discovered in the programme are matched to Makers Unite’s expanded network of companies, educational institutions and organisations enabling participants to take further steps in their lives and careers.

Future living-lab

​As part of the Accelerator Programme of the WDCD Refugee Challenge, Makers Unite has been busy further developing and testing the project. Included in the programme was an encounter with Space10, a future living-lab founded two years ago by IKEA. The unit offers ‘a space for exploration and inspiration rooted in the idea that together we can co-create a better everyday life for the many people’.

One of the projects explored here is called The Farm, which looks into future forms of crop growing in controlled environments. Growing plants indoors under exact the right conditions helps reduce water use and waste production, while increasing the growth speed 4 to 5 times.

Empowering people

While Makers Unite has been focussing on the production of sustainable products, the teams discovered a common drive. ‘The basic mission that unites us is that we want to empower people and create a community through the act of making,’ Thami Schweichler of Makers Unite said. ‘The discussion with Space10 helped us understand that a single underlying vision can inform multiple — seemingly unrelated — contexts. Inspired by a project as The Farm, Makers Unite could for example experiment with the area of food production. This would still be developed according to our specific programme of social inclusion, however, the result being food instead of a textile product.’

And that is exactly what Space10 and Makers Unite will explore in the coming period. Schweichler: ‘The purpose of this exploration is to bring in newcomers to work with future food production while creating connections with the local community. At the same time newcomers can bring in their own expertise on how to cultivate and cook with their local seeds and species.’

No doubt that we will hear more of this on 7 March when the finalists will pitch their projects during the Grand Finale of the Refugee Challenge in Amsterdam.


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