Libraries Without Borders (LWB) has partnered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and creator Philippe Starck to create the Ideas Box. A portable toolkit, the Ideas Box equips vulnerable populations with customized technologies and programming to access critical information and to produce culture in different media. Humanitarian crises create urgent needs for food, shelter, healthcare, and clothing. At the same time, refugees are deprived of information, culture, education, and professional training, and they suffer from trauma, boredom, and loss of hope.
The Ideas Box provides individuals and communities isolated by disaster the tools to read, write, create and communicate. Each box unfolds to create a customized library and media center, with internet access and its own power source. Easily transportable, sturdy, and simple to set up, the Ideas Box empowers communities to construct an informed civil society and to pave the way for a self-reliant future.
Empowering vulnerable populations through access to information, education, and culture
Capacity building through education
The Ideas Box provides tools to complement overburdened schools. It supplements existing schools with new pedagogical methods, including digital learning. For adults, the Ideas Box offers tools for literacy workshops, professional training, and self-education.
Through internet access, the Ideas Box connects displaced communities to the outside world, enabling refugees to access vital information and knowledge. Refugees acquire the capacity to access limitless resources for professional training and self-empowerment.
Building resilience, building futures
The Ideas Box supports the rebuilding of lives and communities, giving people the means to produce their own cultural creations (photographs and videos, artwork, writing, blogging, and more). In refugee camps, the Ideas Box contributes to cognitive development, supports the struggle against boredom and alienation, helps build resilience from trauma and grief, and fosters reconciliation.
Meet the Box
The six fundamental principles of the Ideas Box
- A standardized and clear service for donors and humanitarian actors.
- A highly scalable content-model based on the needs of diverse cultural and linguistic areas and populations.
- A device that is easy to transport and deploy on the ground, even during emergency situations.
- A tool with an easy learning curve, simple enough for library facilitators to use after an initial training session.
- A robust device with minimal energy needs, integrating low and high tech, adaptable to all situations and conditions anywhere in the world.
- A controlled price based on economies of scale and the use of free technology.
Four dimensions for an integrated approach that takes into account the unique cultural characteristics of the implementation area
World renowned creator Philippe Starck has generously accepted to design the Ideas Box without seeking compensation.
In their transportation configuration, the Ideas Box fit onto two standard European pallets (80*120*160 cm / 31*47*63 in.) for a total weight of approximately 800 kg, or 1800 lbs.
Once in the field, the Ideas Box can be unpacked in 20 minutes by a team of 4 trained-staff. Each module includes wheels to facilitate its transport. Light furniture, including tables for computer consultation and mats for reading or watching films are integrated.
The manufacturing materials have been selected to limit the weight of the device and ensure its strength and durability, as well as its ability to be sealed and secured. All materials are in accord with sustainable development guidelines.
The box also includes a storage space for equipment such as ropes, tarpaulins, a generator and a battery system so that it can be used autonomously. The integrated circuit allows for simultaneous charging of all electronic devices.
When one has lost everything and there is nothing else left, the only thing that cannot be taken away is the ability to dream.
There are more than 46 million refugees and internally displaced persons in the world today.
Our objective is to bring the Ideas Box for the most vulnerable populations. Implementations are ongoing in the African Great Lakes region (Burundi and Rwanda) and in the countries neighboring Syria (Jordan and Lebanon mainly). Other implementations could be undertaken in the near future in the Central African Republic, The Philippines, Palestine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Darfur.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and we are open to propositions about other deployment zones from partners. Please contact us for more information.
LWB at a glance
Created in 2007 by historian Patrick Weil, Libraries Without Borders (LWB) is one of the leading international organizations working in culture-and knowledge-based development around the world. In both development and humanitarian contexts, LWB’s aim is to provide access to information and culture for all by providing support to libraries in France and in 20 countries worldwide. Since 2012, LWB has been developing several digital content projects in both educational sectors (MOOCs, collaborative learning, etc.) and professional fields (specialized digital libraries, etc.).
LWB has supported more than 300 libraries throughout the world since its inception.
Libraries Without Borders responded to requests from Haitian institutions and sent an emergency mission to the country. LWB was able to contribute to the ongoing reconstruction of the country by providing rapid access to books, information, and culture. In the weeks following the earthquake, LWB set up 30 tent libraries in internally displaced camps before being solicited by UNICEF to deploy 300 library kits for children among the displaced communities. In all, more than 100,000 people benefited from LWB’s contributions.
Intent on making access to information, books and culture for displaced populations a priority for international aid organizations, LWB followed its intervention in Haiti by launching the international campaign “The Urgency of Reading” in November 2012. This commitment to fostering the intellectual needs of individuals in humanitarian crises has earned the support of numerous writers, intellectuals, and public figures around the world, among them 8 Nobel laureates. The Urgency of Reading campaign reached its climax with a two-day conference that took place in Paris, in the fall 2013. The first images of the Ideas Box were revealed during this event. To learn more about the conference and the international call to action, please visit www.urgencyofreading.org.