How can cities and refugees adapt to each other?

What can design do to improve the lives of urban refugees? This is the starting point of the “What Design Can Do Challenge”, a challenge aimed at creatives all over the world and of which STBY is the research partner.

Over the past weeks, STBY started a collaboration with the organisation ‘What Design Can Do’ to create design briefs that would inspire and empower designers to come up with daring and innovative ideas that would help refugees and cities adapt to each other.   

Identifying and researching the core issues wasn’t an easy task: rules and legislation in Europe are still adapting and differ per country, language barriers make interaction with refugees difficult and obviously the topic is very complex and sensible. The research entailed a lot of trials and unsurprisingly, some failures as well. Amongst other things we set-up an auto-ethnographic research using the app “ExperienceFellow” which allowed refugees to share their stories and experiences with us, we also set-up a blog to collect and share all these stories, flyers were designed and using our (international) network of associates we spread these flyers to reach even more people. At the same time we interviewed refugees and experts in one-on-one interviews, visited refugee shelters and organised a co-creation workshop to prioritise and discuss our findings with refugees and experts.

expert workshop WDCD

In the resulting five briefs, we put a lot of attention in presenting our findings in a way that is not a simplification of reality, but does right to the complexity of this topic. We made materials that help designers tune in with this extremely complex, continuously changing situation. The briefs contain stories and perspectives of refugees, citizens, social workers, policy makers and many others involved. We do not just attempt to provoke empathy for migrants, we also address the concerns of their future neighbours. And more importantly: we highlight opportunities. On the 19th of February of 2016 the challenge was launched during the ‘Democratic Design Days’ in Zurich and the first concepts were created in a workshop.

HANDOUT - Scenes during the IKEA workshop with the what design can do challenge, on Saturday, February 20, 2016 in the villa dobler in Zurich. (PHOTOPRESS/IKEA/Samuel Truempy)
HANDOUT – Scenes during the IKEA workshop with the what design can do challenge, on Saturday, February 20, 2016 in the villa dobler in Zurich. (PHOTOPRESS/IKEA/Samuel Truempy)

The ‘real’ work however only starts now: we encourage creatives thinkers of all disciplines to take a look at the brief and the materials and come up with game-changing ideas for accommodating, connecting, integrating and helping the personal development of refugees.

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