Designing an accelerator
The finalists of the Challenge will be announced on 1 July at the WDCD conference in Amsterdam. Each of the five projects will receive 10 000 Euros and enter an acceleration programme.
The 10 000 Euros is part designer’s fee, part production budget. But if a project is going to cost millions to develop, the idea is for the accelerator to help get the product or service to the point where it stands a chance. It’s where the hard work will happen.
The details of the accelerator’s location and format have yet to be revealed, but suffice to say Cohen is hard at work to make sure this supremely important phase of the Challenge achieves what it sets out to do, namely develop ideas into viable products and services.
The exciting news is that WDCD’s Refugee Challenge is a pilot project. How will the Challenge work? Is this the right model? In true designer fashion, the lessons learned this year will be fed back into the Challenge to make it better in the future. Which is not to say that they are going into this blindly.
“There are a lot of challenges out there. I studied them all. Obviously we’ll learn a lot, and we’ll probably change the model, but I’m sure that we’ll run a new challenge and I also think the accelerator is interesting.”
When asked what the submissions have been like so far, there is clearly enthusiasm in Cohen’s voice. There are entries dealing with digital services, events, programmes that aim to bring people together. But there are also “architectural entries”—shelters, modular homes, etc.
Further partnering with SingularityU, the University of Delft Industrial Design Department, and with Advertising Design Creativity the Netherlands (ADCN) has already helped bring in many interesting entries.
ADCN is the association for creativity in advertising and design in the Netherlands, and this year in order to win the prestigious young talent award, hopefuls had to submit an entry to the Refugee Challenge. Two projects have already been selected as ADCN winners and will be included in the pool of entries for the Challenge.
A challenge too big for governments and NGOs alone
Since we initially spoke to Cohen there has been criticism from certain circles implying that the Challenge poses a simplistic view of the issue. In his response, What Design Can Do founder Richard van der Laken concedes that designers are not about to solve the problems in the Middle East, but that the Challenge hopes to achieve “an improvement, however small, to the lives of millions of people.” He goes on to say that WDCD and the Challenge are “not about magic cures. It’s about an attitude.”
Cohen adds to this: “Of course designers are no magicians, but as ‘professional outsiders’ they can bring fresh ideas and unexpected solutions to table in a conversation with refugees, authorities, and humanitarian organizations. Our Challenge isn’t just a call for ideas, it’s a call for participation!”
The deadline to submit an idea to the Challenge is 20 May.