I. Opportunity Identification
The current global refugee crisis, the mass exodus from the Middle East and North Africa and the prolonged displacement of refugees, has evidently strained the accommodative capacities of host countries. As a result, refugee livelihoods in transitional settlements have become a crucial topic in contemporary geopolitical relations. A significant issue is that most inhabitants rely on humanitarian aid and cannot fully exercise their agency and skillsets within the stifling context of refugee settlements. In addition to serving as a nucleus of communal interactions, a marketplace can empower refugees by fostering economic autonomy. Through trade, refugees are able to connect with the world and a future beyond their transient settlements.
II. Innovative Experimentation
Through Place and Displacement, Ideation Social Innovation Lab challenges architecture and public administration students and young professionals to formulate a marketplace proposal for refugee settlements in the Middle East (Zaatari, Jordan), Africa (Kakuma, Kenya), and Europe (Berlin, Germany). The competition will award a total of $30,000 in prizes. As of now, we have received 230+ applications from over 40 countries. Our eminent 34-member jury of leaders and pioneers in their respective fields of architecture, public policy, academia, and civil societies will judge submissions and determine the winners based on a diverse set of criteria.
As our focus is interdisciplinary collaboration, we formed a jury of 34 experts ranging from leadings architects from Cooper Union, Harvard, Oxford, MIT, and Yale, to high-profile policy makers such as diplomats from seven UN missions and World Bank economists. In addition, our jury includes directors and executives from various refugee-focused NGOs and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
To engage the innovative young minds around the world, we used our social media pages to attract over 4.2K likes and an average of 3,000 reaches per week. In addition, we are featured on 100+ architecture and policy school newsletters, as well as top architecture platforms including ArchDaily, designboom, e-architect in English, Mandarin, Spanish, and Russian. The hundreds of teams registered for our competition come from over 40 countries and 180 universities and institutions.
We have established a partnership with UN-Habitat, the UN program dedicated towards promoting sustainable human settlements development with operations in Zaatari and Kakuma, to co-host the competition. UN-Habitat has chosen to focus on mass migration and refugee settlements in 2017, and will contribute to the competition through its first-hand research data and webinars hosted by its field officers. We are currently in discussion with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to evaluate the implementation potential of the competition submissions. In addition, we are consulting with Yale Macmillan Center on the future initiatives of the refugee settlement marketplace competition.
4. Public Discourse
The three most innovative and well-researched proposals will be presented at the symposium to top policy makers, architects, academics, and philanthropists on April 1, 2017 in New York City. To raise public awareness, we plan to invite an audience of 100 to 150 attendees. Each panel will critique the winning proposal, discuss a country-specific refugee livelihood topic, have a Q&A session with the audience. After the symposium, we have tentative plans for a follow-up event at the UN Headquarters, co-hosted with the UN missions and other partners.
III. Our Goals
The competition aims to
1. Foster collaboration between the field of architecture and public administration through this social innovation competition;
2. Engage with refugee inhabitants of these settlements through direct or indirect communication, research, and experiential learning;
3. Work towards implementing the winning proposal by networking with policy makers, architects, academics, NGOs, and refugees, and obtaining sufficient funding.