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    The year 2015 confronted the world with heartbreaking images and stories of hundreds of thousands of refugees packed into unseaworthy boats, trying to reach safer shores across the world. In most cases, for those who made it, the journey overseas was just the beginning of a long trek overland, pictures of which have also touched us. 

    In 2015, UNHCR revealed that the number of global forced displaced people topped nearly 60 million for the first time since the World War II. Tens of thousands of newly arrived  refugees wandering across Europe, moving from one border opening to the next, triggered numerous volunteer efforts and citizen initiatives aimed at providing immediate relief. 

    Yet a willingness to provide long-term help is tempered by concern about the impact of mass immigration. Caught between showing solidarity and acknowledging public anti-immigrant sentiments, the European Union and individual countries are struggling to find answers to the refugee crisis.

    These problems are clearly too complex for one institution  alone to address. Bold and innovative ideas are needed for enduring solutions. What can designers and other creatives do to help both refugees and cities to adapt to the new reality? This is the central question behind the What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge, for which we are calling on the global creative community to make a difference. 

    © UNHCR / Achilleas Zavallis 

    • Around 60 per cent of the world’s 20 million refugees live in urban areas, and that figure is set to rise. Both the receiving cities and the incoming refugees have to adapt to this new reality. Bold, innovative solutions are needed for challenges related to housing, healthcare, education, work, cultural integration and many other areas.

    • We are looking for game-changing yet feasible ideas which might be products, communication campaigns, services and/or technologies. The judging criteria are: creativity/originality, relevance, feasibility, scalability and potential impact.

    • By joining in the effort to improve the reception and integration of refugees in urban areas, you will not only help to ease the lives of refugees but also contribute proof of the power of design for social renewal. 
    • The WDCD Refugee Challenge engages creatives from all disciplines and foster collaboration with refugees, NGOs, and national and local authorities to identify needs, come up with responses and test solutions.

    • With the support of UNHCR and IKEA Foundation the WDCD Refugee Challenge is offering participants a platform for collaboration and assistance to get the best out of their ideas. You will be part of a global creative network and can benefit from its combined knowledge, creativity, and media exposure.

    • Five finalists will receive a grant of up to 10,000 euros, as well as the opportunity to join a special design lab with renowned designers to help develop the ideas further.

    The What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge is a joint initiative of design platform What Design Can Do, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and IKEA Foundation. 

    What Design Can Do (WDCD) is a design platform that advocates the social impact of design, centred around a two-day conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

    The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.

    IKEA Foundation
    The IKEA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the IKEA Group of companies, and aims to improve opportunities for children and youth in some of the world’s poorest communities.

    IKEA Foundation & UNHCR Partnership
    Since 2010, IKEA Foundation has partnered with UNHCR to help create better lives for thousands of refugee families and children in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 

    In 2015, the UNHCR, IKEA Foundation and launched the so-called “flat-pack refugee shelter”, a safer, more durable emergency shelter for refugee families, which has received widespread attention for its innovative design.

    The challenge is also supported by Art of ImpactVluchtelingenwerkTriodos Bank and BankGiro Loterij Fonds