This week, What Design Can Do is proud to launch the Redesign Everything Challenge in partnership with the IKEA Foundation. With this global design competition, we are seeking creative solutions to address the climate crisis and kickstart the transition to a fair and circular future. From now until 13 March 2024, changemakers everywhere are invited to submit ideas to radically redesign the world we live in — our products, materials, stories, systems, services and spaces — through a circular and regenerative lens. At the end of the open call, at least 10 winning teams will enter an international accelerator programme to strengthen and scale their impact.
Why this challenge now?
At WDCD, we believe that designers have a meaningful role to play in climate action. Since 2015, we’ve organised global challenges around different social and environmental issues, from clean energy and pollution to the health and health and wellbeing of refugees. In that time, we’ve learned that many of the problems we face are deeply interconnected, whether we are talking about plastic waste in Kenya or the housing crisis in the Netherlands. Fortunately, the same holds true for our solutions too. In this light, tackling the climate crisis is a matter of not just working smarter or harder — but together — and applying pressure from as many different angles as possible.
That is why this year — as the planet enters an era of global ‘boiling’ — we’re throwing the door wide open and launching our most expansive challenge yet. “Redesign Everything is first and foremost a call to action,” explain WDCD co-founders Richard van der Laken and Pepijn Zurburg. “It’s also an invitation to think laterally about how our world should be redesigned, in ways both big and small. Now, more than ever, there is an urgent need for inclusive, circular and regenerative solutions, and for the transformative, disruptive and healing power of design.”
One of our previous Challenge winners is Modern Synthesis, a biomaterial start-up working to reimagine textiles in fashion. Photo c/o Jen Keane.
Liz McKeon, Head of Planet at the IKEA Foundation, says: “In the face of our planet’s greatest challenges, design emerges as a powerful catalyst for change. The What Design Can Do challenges that we’ve supported have ignited innovative, design-focused solutions led by the creative community themselves, in addressing issues such as climate change, health, well-being, and social equity all around the world. This demonstrates that designers can become the architects of solutions, building a bridge between imagination and impactful change, and have the transformative ability to shape transformation towards a sustainable future.”
Now, more than ever, there is an urgent need for inclusive, circular and regenerative solutions, and for the transformative, disruptive and healing power of design.
Where can designers make the biggest difference?
Tackling the climate crisis means changing how our economy works (and how it doesn’t). No sector can do this alone — but designers can make an impact by shifting from linear to circular ways of making, using and living. Next to this, the most important role of design is that of radical imagination: seeing what does not yet exist, making ideas real, and forging ahead with optimism. That is why for this competition, we are looking for creative climate solutions that cut across various sectors and disciplines. This includes new and existing enterprises that address issues like waste and pollution, as well as conceptual proposals for how we might transform our key industries: from food, fashion and packaging, to consumer goods and construction. If it sounds like we’re asking to redesign absolutely everything — that’s because we are. With so much at stake, nothing less will do.
Another previous Challenge winner is Xicoténcatl Park, a spatial project working to reduce waste and restore Tijuana’s urban landscape. Photo by Gabriel Félix.
With the help of partners from Brazil, India, Japan, Kenya, Mexico and the Netherlands, we’ve put together some useful resources and research around the greatest climate challenges and opportunities facing communities around the world. This content will be published on the Redesign Everything Challenge platform, and is set to include deep-dives into 8 key strategies for change that designers should consider. Some are more practical — and focus on how we might prevent waste and pollution by reducing, repairing, refusing and recycling. Others will push you to think about climate action on a different level: looking at how we might completely reframe the problem, restore our relationship with nature, reconnect different groups of people or reimagine alternative visions of the future. All are needed in order to make redesign a reality, and to deliver impact where it is needed most.
What Can You Win?
Next to €5.000 in project funding, winning teams will gain access to an accelerator programme offered by What Design Can Do which will kick-off with a week-long bootcamp in Amsterdam. Here they will receive the expert mentorship, training and tools they need to scale their ideas and expand their impact on the world. All winning teams will also gain valuable press and publicity and get the chance to present their projects during a WDCD Live event in Mexico or Amsterdam. Finally, they’ll join a growing community of WDCD Challenge winners, which includes 50+ impact start-ups from around the world.
Another previous Challenge winner is Reparar.org, a platform engaging people in Latin America with recycling and repair. Photo c/o Club de Reparadores.
Ready to apply?
The Redesign Everything Challenge is open for submissions from 17 January to 13 March, 2024. Read up on our extended design brief and dive deeper into the research behind the Challenge by visiting our platform. In February, we’ll also be hosting an online webinar to help you make the most out of your application. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to follow along as the competition progresses, and check out our Instagram, X or Facebook to take part in conversations about design and circularity.