TOP 10: DESIGNS TO IMPROVE LIFE FOR REFUGEES

The refugee crisis is one of epic proportion that will require time and a series of far-reaching global efforts to solve. But, we can all make a difference right now by developing and supporting temporary solutions to help the displaced. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of incredible designs to improve life for refugees – some are already making a big impact and others have great potential. Here are our top 10 picks…

BETTER SHELTER HOUSING UNIT (INDEX: Award 2015 finalist) – Currently making a huge difference in Greece, among other locations, the Better Shelter housing unit is a temporary home of proven quality. The shelter offers safer and much more comfortable living for users, than many other shelters currently used, and can be produced in high volumes at very low cost. What makes the unit different from others is the modular design. Developed in conjunction with real users, the design meets the social and cultural needs of the inhabitants for improved quality of life.

WELCOME SUITCASE (Elsinore’s Design to Improve Life Challenge winner) – Featured at New York Design Week, the Welcome Suitcase is a solution designed by a class of Danish first graders. The empathy-driven design is a small suitcase containing handmade games, folding books and puppets for role-play; all made to help refugee children learn the local language in a fun and interactive way. Although not all of the designers –aged six to eight– can read or write yet, they all helped design the solution to help refugee children live a new and fulfilling life in Denmark.

REFUNITE (INDEX: Award 2011 finalist and 2017 nominee) – Millions of displaced people lose touch with their families and friends when they’re forced to flee their homes amid war and destruction. To help reunite broken communities, Refunite is a web/mobile phone system that allows refugees to create and search profiles to find their loved ones. It allows users to not only search using general information, such as name or D.O.B, but with also identifying and more personalised characteristics. Refunite have already assisted with over nine million searches – check out how it works below.

LIFEHACKET TRIO (INDEX: Award 2017 nominee) – As more and more refugees make the perilous journey across the sea, thousands upon thousands of lifejackets are piling up on Greek and Italian beaches. Lifehacket Trio is a brilliant design that repurposes these discarded lifejackets into a trio of useful products for refugees and irregular migrants. It includes a backpack for storing life’s essentials, a pillow made from used foam inserts and a simple belt to make ill-fitting trousers fit. It’s designed by an impressive team including INDEX: Award finalist David Swann.

MESHWAR (INDEX: Award 2017 nominee) – Once arriving to a new country, understanding your rights and finding a way to apply for asylum is a often a complex and difficult task. Meshwar is a mobile app that aims to make this process much easier by providing a forum where refugees can ask each other—and experts—questions about the new society or the asylum cases. Refugees can also give feedback in the app so local governments know what immigration processes and facilities need improvement.

REFU.RENDUM (INDEX: Award 2017 nominee) – Refugees often end up in camps where democracy is still limited, that’s why Refu.rendum wants to empower them with more choices when it comes to their living conditions. With the app/online platform, refugees are able to vote on what a camp needs—from better sanitation facilities to more playgrounds for children. “Every practical question has a direct impact on the life in the camp, meaning the camp will use the results in handling their resources,” explain the designers. “The progress of the implementation will also be documented online.”

TECHFUGEES (INDEX: Award 2017 nominee) – We all have different skills that have great potential to help those in need. Techfugees, now with over 2,000 members, is a tech-savvy community using their knowledge and networks to tackle the refugee crisis. Their international non-profit events are designed to bring tech engineers, entrepreneurs, startups, NGOs and other agencies together in an effort to generate practical tech-based solutions to help refugees.

WEARABLE SHELTER (INDEX: Award 2017 nominee) – Many fleeing war-torn nations arrive to safer shores with nothing more than the clothes on their back. To provide immediate aid, design students from the Royal College of Art in London have created a coat for refugees that can be reconfigured into a tent or a sleeping bag. It’s large enough to fit an adult and one child and can be quickly and easily mass produced.

HEX HOUSE (INDEX: Award 2017 nominee) – The Hex House is another top-notch shelter designed to be affordable, sustainable and easily deployed. But what sets it apart from other emergency shelters is it’s ‘long-term’ potential – meaning it looks and feels more like a permanent structure. “The basic building components are galvanized tube steel for the base, structural insulated metal panel for walls, floor and roof and can be customises with conventional interior and exterior finishes,” according to designers Architects For Society (AFS).

COLLAPSIBLE REFUGEE SHELTERS (INDEX: Award 2015 nominee) – Although not implemented yet, this fantastic concept shelter design includes essential amenities such as a water supply and renewable electricity. The collapsible shelter is comprised of a structural woven fabric that expands to create a private enclosure, which can then be easily contracted again for mobility. The outer fabric absorbs solar energy that is then converted into usable electricity, it also features a water storage tank and a simple drainage system.


Do you know of a design that could improve life for some of the world’s most vulnerable? Nominate it for INDEX: Award 2017 now!

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