Since 2012, Libraries without Borders has partnered with UNHCR and creator Philippe Starck to create an innovate device that will deliver access to information for people emerging from humanitarian crises. Refugees have immediate pressing needs for food, shelter, health care and clothing. Once these priorities have been met, they need a way to forge social ties, rebuild an informed civil society, and develop resilience for the struggles that lay ahead. Too often, the tools needed for this vital work are lacking.
The Ideas Box fills this void, giving people who have been thrown into chaos the means to read, write, create and communicate. By providing access to the Internet, books, educational resources, theatre, and films, the Ideas Box empowers individuals and communities to begin to reconstruct what has been lost.
Promoting access to education, information and culture for populations in emergency and post-emergency situations.
Empowering through education
Although the Ideas Box does not replace schools, it introduces new resources and educational methods (digital learning, in particular) that enhance the learning process and improve the quality of education and the academic development of children. For adults, the Ideas Box incorporates a variety of training resources and provides the tools needed for literacy workshops and other professional training.
Reconnecting refugees to the world
By providing Internet access, the Ideas Box enables refugee populations to reconnect with the world, access information, and freely communicate with others. Access to quality information strengthens the capacity of individuals and groups, and reinstates them into the global community while providing limitless resources for local training and empowerment.
Building resilience, building futures
The Ideas Box is a toolbox for rebuilding lives and communities. One of the project’s most important objectives is to offer populations the means to create their own contents (films, drawings, writing, maps, blogs, etc.) and thus to promote cognitive development and individual and collective empowerment. In chronic humanitarian situations, the Ideas Box will contribute to struggling against boredom, building resilience and helping individuals cope with trauma, grief, and 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.