Libraries Without Borders (LWB) has partnered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and 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 cause 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.
Six Dimensions of the Ideas Box
- Standardized and scalable technologies.
- Customizable contents adapted to specific cultural and linguistic communities.
- Easy to transport and set up.
- Simple to operate with minimal training.
- Robust and sustainable with minimal energy needs.
- Economical and cost-effective.
Hover over the icons below to learn more about the Ideas Box contents
Sharing the values of LWB, Philippe Starck contributed his vision, imagination, and resources to design the Ideas Box.
In its transportation configuration, an Ideas Box kit fits on two standard European pallets (80X120X160 cm / 31X47X63 in) with a total weight of approximately 800 kg (1800 lbs).
Once in the field, an Ideas Box can be set up in 20 minutes by a team of four trained staff. Wheels facilitate its installation on site. The box itself transforms into light furniture, including tables for computer usage as well as mats for reading or watching films.
Manufacturing materials were selected to limit the total weight of the Ideas Box and to ensure its strength, durability, and security.
The Ideas Box provides storage space for equipment, including ropes, tarpaulins, a generator, and a battery system to assure its stand-alone autonomy under changing weather conditions. The integrated circuitry of the toolkit allows for simultaneous charging of all its 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.
PHILIPPE STARCK, creator of the Ideas Box
There are over 52 million refugees and internally displaced persons in the world today, more than at any time since the Second World War. The average length of time in a refugee camp is seventeen years.
LWB's goal is to bring the Ideas Box to the world's most vulnerable populations. Implementations are ongoing in the African Great Lakes region (Burundi and Rwanda) and in the countries neighboring Syria (Jordan and Lebanon). Possible future implementations include the Central African Republic, the Philippines, Palestine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Darfur. LWB continuously assesses propositions from partner organizations concerning vulnerable populations around the world.
LWB at a glance
Created in 2007 by historian Patrick Weil, LWB is one of the leading international non-profit organizations working in culture-and knowledge-based development. In both development and post-emergency contexts, LWB seeks to provide universal access to information and culture. Beyond its work with libraries, LWB develops digital education projects (including MOOCs and collaborative learning.) and professional training.
Since its inception, LWB has created and supported over 300 libraries in more than 20 countries.
The Ideas Box Story
After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, LWB responded to requests from Haitian authorities and communities. LWB contributed to rebuilding affected communities by providing rapid access to books, information, and culture. In the weeks following the earthquake, LWB set up 30 tent libraries in camps for internally displaced Haitians. Impressed by LWB's success, UNICEF asked us to produce and deliver 300 library kits for children in the refugee camps. This LWB project benefitted over 100,000 Haitians.
Dedicated to the importance of literacy and access to knowledge for displaced communities, LWB followed its intervention in Haiti by launching an international campaign, The Urgency of Reading. in November 2012. Thousands of writers, intellectuals, and public figures around the world, among them eight Nobel laureates, have committed their support. Inspired by the success of the campaign, LWB partnered with Philippe Starck to create the Ideas Box, unveiled in Paris at a Urgency of Reading conference in October 2013. To learn more about campaign, please visit www.urgencyofreading.org.