IKEA designs flat-pack houses for refugee camps

Smara refugee camp

How’s this for a needs statement to define a public services marketing need? According to the IKEA Foundation website,

“Many of the current shelters used in refugee camps have a life span of approximately six months before the impact of sun, rain and wind means it needs to be replaced, yet…on average, refugees stay in camps for 12 years.”

According the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, at the end of 2011 there were 9.8 million refugees worldwide. In other words, imagine that all the housing in the city of London, England consisted of drafty tents that fell apart every six months.

The IKEA Foundation is designing a better house for refugee children and their families. It is distributed in IKEA’s recognizable flat packaging, can be assembled by hand with minimal tools, features insulation and solar power, and lasts three years in the elements.

As explained in the video, the designers looked at the various problems around refugee shelters such as shipping to remote locations, assembly, daily use, and durability. The video also describes prototype testing of the shelter, a crucial step in product marketing.

This is a great example of marketing addressing public needs. What other public challenges could benefit from the ingenuity of IKEA design?

(Thanks to Public Interest Design for exposing me to this story)

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