Design Thinking for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Impressions of a 10-day journey

Have you ever been in a refugee camp?

Can you imagine what it means to live in a country where 30 % of the inhabitants are refugees? 1.5 million displaced Syrians live in camps in Lebanon, most of them below the poverty line. Twelve students, Prof. Gilbert Beronneau, Prof. Katrin Androschin, Prof. Julia Leihener and Frank-Alva Buecheler took on the challenge to develop ideas for improving their living conditions. In a collaborative project with Alba, the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts and the NGO URDA we worked in Beirut, using the Strategic Design method of design thinking. Our mission was to create a community space for the Al-Yasmine refugee camps in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley, 15 kilometers from the Syrian border. The camp consists only of tents, and the inhabitants of the camp have no other place than the living quarters to play, to learn and to get together. In ten days of intense work, we ran through a whole cycle of the design thinking process:

We fully emerged in the lives of the refugees, stayed in the camp for two days and conducted human-centered research. We analyzed and synthesized our findings, came up with ideas and created a prototype for a multi-functional community space, involving the inhabitants in the creation of it (participatory design). The concept developed has the potential to not only be implemented in Lebanon but to be applied and scaled globally in temporary refugee settlements.

This project shows how Design can be applied in social innovation and has the power to engage in severe humanitarian issues.