Why you should put your design skills towards humanitarian causes

Each generation likes to believe that its problems are unique. That’s not true, of course, but this suspicion could nevertheless cross your mind when you read the apocalyptic statistic that 60 million people have been forced to leave their home, according to UN refugee agency the UNHCR. Never since World War II has there been a greater number of refugees looking for a safe place to stay.

In February, the What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge was launched – which calls on the global creative community to submit ideas to improve the lives of refugees in urban areas – with support from the UNHCR and IKEA Foundation. Since doing so, some designers have asked whether this competition raises false hope. After all, the crux of the refugee problem is political,  and nothing to do with experimental design ideas.

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Richard van der Laken is founder and director of What Design Can Do, an annual conference held in Amsterdam that focuses on the social impact of design. Discover more at www.whatdesigncando.com.