Visions of the Future: Better Shelter
June, 2015, Älmhult, Sweden: Another day, another deluge of stories about a world in desperate need of aid. Whether you open a newspaper or your Facebook newsfeed, the crises, the calls for assistance, seem unending.
You’ve had visions of their present: hunger, displacement, the fragmented feelings of fear and frustration, the whine of a drone in their sky.
You’ve seen the figures: over 65 million refugees, one of the worst humanitarian crises since the end of World War Two. For 2.6 million of them, that displacement has been ongoing for over five years.
Governments have tried, desperately, to mitigate the crisis: policy is produced, diplomacy descends, and the calls for help, for home, continue.
The world seems paralysed by the scale of the disruption. But what, you think, if help were simpler? What if some assistance, some relief, could be provided in the form of something as small, as inconsequential, as an Allen key?
Your company might be short on diplomats, you think – but you’re not short of Allen keys. Your company might be short of policymakers, but you don’t lack inventiveness, innovation, initiative. Let’s put them together.
January, 2017, Baghdad: Another day, another deluge. Iraqi weather can be challenging at the best of times, for the most fortunate of people – but, for the displaced, the difficulties are difficult to contemplate, to negotiate.
In the summer, humidity and heat makes a tent unbearable. When the winter and spring come, they bring with them torrents of rain. Water, a foot high. Unclean, each deluge brings the risk of disease, of diarrhoea.
It’s not just the elements that cause such trouble. In a place where desperation and devastation are so common, the prospect of being protected by nothing more than tent walls left you fearful each night.
Today, however, the risk and the rain are unlikely to trouble you, at least for the time being. Four short hours ago, you were facing the prospect of another night in the tents, with their fragility and flimsiness.
Four short hours ago, you were offered an Allen key, and you and your family opened two boxes containing the IKEA Better Shelter: a lifeline, and a security. Solar panels that offer light for four hours, making the darkness less daunting. A stab-proof steel frame, allowing you to sleep more easily. USB ports for mobile phone charging, allowing you to access family, help, information.
You stand up, key in hand, and hold it up to the light. Around you, sixteen Better Shelters stand, secure, stable, strong. Not quite a community – but the closest thing you’ve had to it since you were displaced.
January, 2017, London: Another day, another deluge: five thousand kilometres away, January in London is proving as wet and windswept as ever. However, the rain’s not troubling you: you’re receiving the Beazley Design of the Year Award, with your company lauded for the work you’ve done to bring shelter, privacy, safety, and order to those who need those things most.
Your work, you hope, will inspire other companies to turn a product into protection; to recognise points where the private can fill gaps the public can’t; to adopt an active role in tackling need and negligence; to find those moments where your work becomes a social enterprise.
IKEA’s Better Shelter is one of the finest examples of corporate social responsibility made manifest. It combines altruism and innovation; it unites new technology with sensitivity to the needs of those using that technology; it finds a niche for itself where public policy is inefficient, or delayed. A Better Shelter costs double what another emergency tent might do, but the benefits – security, insulation, stability, three years’ use – make it a vastly-superior source of shelter. And, requiring nothing more complicated than an Allen Key, anyone can put it together.
From Facebook’s attempt to provide internet to some of the world’s most remote inhabited places using drones, to Google’s decision to become one of the world’s leading corporate purchasers of renewable energy, to IKEA’s belief in the power of something as small as the Allen Key, every company has a solution to offer – and a story to tell.
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What story will move you and the people around you to do great things in 2018? Share your story with us.