The What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge is a global design competition in search of game-changing ideas to help refugees. David Kester, our founder and keen design evangelist, talks about why he is such a fan of this initiative and wants to spread the word.

I know it can be a little obvious when people say ‘I’m really looking forward to [insert blatant promotional plug for something]’.

The thing is, I’m going to say it anyway because I am really, really looking forward to something. And because I am very much trying to promote it, blatantly, with this blogpost. It’s a thing truly worthy of attention and I want to encourage people to get involved.

I’m looking forward to the What Design Can Do conference at the end of June and sharing the winning ideas from the Refugee Challenge.

The Refugee Challenge is the latest brilliant initiative from the WDCD team, who not only run one of the biggest and best annual design gatherings in Europe, but are also helping create a social movement.

Their design challenge asked for innovative ideas to solve issues refugees face, around accommodation, integration and personal wellbeing and development. The response to the initiative has been pretty remarkable. Designers and innovators from over 69 countries have sent in over 600 ideas.


The public can vote on which suggestions they think are best and I’m working with an expert jury to pin down the final selection. The winning five will be announced at the conference by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders. They will receive some seed money that will contribute towards further development, thanks to Ikea, UNHCR and other funders.

Please do get involved and help make a difference:

1.  Nominate you favourite entry to the Refugee Challenge here. There are some fantastically clever and diverse ideas.

2.  Come to WDCD Amsterdam Live on 30 June – 1 July 2016. Meet the finalists and hear from other great innovators and leaders from around the world, including diplomats, politicians, architects, design gurus like Peter Saville and a host of inspiring artists and performers (Like Officerfishdumplings – incredible name and musician):

3.  Tell your friends




One final plug – for Richard van der Laken who set up WDCD who is an extraordinary person and all round good egg. He has an amazing vision, is a brilliant orchestrator and he never gives up. His team includes Dagan Cohen who is leading the Refugee Challenge and a group of talented event-makers. I’m so lucky to be involved with what they’re doing. I’m really hoping that through their hard work we find some amazing ideas to help refugees and that the whole initiative will inspire other creatives too.

David Kester is founder of DK&A and co-founder and managing director of Design Thinkers Academy London. He is co-host of What Design Can Do Amsterdam Live 2016 and chairs the jury for the Refugee Challenge.

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