Wanted: projects helping refugees/migrants for design acceleration

We need to become better at designing collaborative services. We dream of a welfare built and delivered by communities, alongside the state and the market. We all, at some point in our life, give and receive care. We are all citizen experts, with firsthand knowledge. The question is: how do we access that knowledge and turn it into action?

We asked Ezio Manzini, perhaps the world’s most senior academic designer for social innovation, to mount a workshop that does just that. Everyone is welcome. People who attend will use their experience of care to imagine and prototype ways that existing services could be improved. We decided to focus on services to refugees and migrants: we know several and feel for them, and there is a lot  of room for improvement.

A beautiful thing happened: people got in touch with us offering to help. We ended up with a dream team of designers: @Yara_Al_Adib, @Mousab_Alshikh, @Rand_Abu_Fakher, @Orwa_Isaac, @Vishall_Jankie@Stefanos_Monastiridis and @Gido_Van_Den_Ende. Four of them are from Syria, arrived as refugees; three are still in the process of obtaining refugee status. A lot of work is going on behind the scenes; and Namahn, one of Belgium’s leading design agencies, is strongly supporting the effort. We can promise a very, very good workshop.

Ezio and the team are adamant: no reinventing the wheel. We want to start from existing services, and look for ways that smart communities could improve them. We are in contact with several people who are running services and initiatives targeted at helping these newcomers (thanks Yara!), but we could use a few more (we’ll split into working groups). So, here’s how you can help:

  1. If you are involved in a project targeted at migrants or refugees, consider joining us as a case study. We will be respectful and absolutely not imply that you are doing things wrong. It's about learning, not judging. Just get in touch with me, or anyone from the team.
  2. If you know one of these project, consider being its ambassador at the workshop. Talk to them, get information, so that you are in a position to represent it.
  3. You can also participate simply as yourself, with no particular project to represent. There are still some places left. 

The workshop is free, but registration is required. Go here to register. There is also a Facebook page.

I would love for @Iriedawta to tell us about the “landing strip” for Syrian refugees in Armenia. And for @Medhin_Paolos to explain to us how the (community-delivered)  network of solidarity for Eritreans in Italy works. I am also personally fascinated by Freifunk and their wi-fi operation. Does anybody know Florian Altherr, or somebody in that space?


I’m in as I said before. Where am I supposed to register on the website you mentioned @Alberto? I’m already going on the fb page. Keep me posted.

Great! Register here:


A few words on what’s going on in Armenia would also be welcome. Please enter them as a comment to the event (same link as the registration). It’s perfectly OK to enter it simply as a link to some other web page. I imagine a sort of “landing strip”: when someone makes it across the border, they are somehow channeled into taking a series of steps towards safety first, and integration later. These steps are not obvious. My analogy is what happens in Milan to Eritrean newcomers: an informal network of people (many of whom Eritrean-Italians) takes newcomers in charge as they take the first baby steps. They need to be picked up at the point of entry (railway or bus stations): telling them “take the Metro Line 2 and get off at Lambrate” is not going to work, even if you have a common language to communicate in, because they do not know how to use public transport. So, people call each other to go pick up complete strangers at 5.00 in the morning, ask friends for spare beds and couches as newcomers take aim for the next step, which in Italy is typically trying to get to Sweden/Germany/wherever. I know this from @Medhin_Paolos, herself part of this network.

@Iriedawta smiley

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Done! Well, your example from

Done! Well, @Alberto your example from Milan is just great but it is far from what we deal with in Armenia. The society here has lots of local problems and the last thing on their mind is to self-organize and help the newcomers settle. There are the organisations dealing with it but it’s not effective at all. So yeah, the main issue is to bring awareness to the locals so that they can unite and help the refugees as we can not count on agencies to solve this issue. You can find more info on my event page.

Read it

But it actually says that civil society does this sort of thing: that would be you (and presumably others) “acting as a social worker”. What am I missing?

I work for a non-profit social enterprise alliance that employs different strategies aimed at improving the lives and well-being of the thousands of Syrian-Armenians impacted by the ravaging war in Syria. Basically this is a link with the Diaspora Armenians that takes care of fundraising to partially fund the budget for rental subsidies of the refugees in Armenia(together with UNHCR and other donors).

I’m the only representative of the platform in Armenia and I multitask(social housing project in Dilijan, independent social workers’ unit in Yerevan, writing blog posts, helping some extremely vulnerable families to integrate, etc) and volunteer as much as I can.

The ‘go here to register link’

Send me here: http://support.refugeesemancipation.com/en/

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thanks, fixed it now


Came across another cool project to build on!

@zoescope you wouldn’t happen to be involved in this or know about it? I would love to set something like this up in Brussels. For selfish purposes mainly: Tailored is just better and more creative than buying some ready made off the shelf stuff!

yes, it’s my collective Serpica Naro organizing the event

It’s a very local event.

Noor is a refugee, waiting for a permit and he’s collaborating with us in the Serpica Naro Lab and soon also at Wemake to use industrial sewing machines. Buttons were created with the lasercut here at wemake.

He’s not producing the shirts during the event. He’s taking measurements and orders. He will then produce the shirts in the next weeks.

We can think of involving him during the consortium meeting in Milan :slight_smile:




Ping @Ezio_Manzini @Yara_Al_Adib.

Resources pool

I have been working in several projects with refugees at the local level. One of the issues emerging was a strong need to was to facilitate the coordination and distribution of resources, which at the moment runs in a very centralized way - through institutions or small, voluntary coordination groups (which usually create a bottleneck).

We (Transition Town Witzenhausen, Ecobytes, local Refugees working group and coordination) have started a project to provide a resource pool, where not only institutions working on refugees support, but also the refugees themselves and other individual citizens can use to exchange and connect directly what they need or have to offer.

The project has gotten some funding from a German Ministry and resulted in the teilink platform, currently a standard Sharetribe marketplace, which we are self-hosting and plan to further develop/extend in exchange with the institutions on our network during this year (and depending on financial resources we manage to get for it).

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Can anyone attend?

Nice work, @gandhiano. Can anyone attend the workshop?  

Maybe. When exactly would it be and could travel costs be covered? I would ask my colleagues for interest/availability, possibly could myself go there during LOTE5, especially if it could bring value to other running projects (site development).

I just saw you also have freifunk as an interest for this. We also have a local group in Witzenhausen and got recently a small fund for providing Freifunk to refugees accommodations.


The workshop is on the 26th of February. We have a community fund with some travel support.