The five briefs for the WDCD Refugee Challenge: Brief 5

Find ways to break down barriers towards work

Published in Refugee Challenge by

The WDCD Refugee Challenge actually consists of five challenges! Each of the five briefs addresses a specific issue refugees encounter during the reception and acceptance procedure in the country where they have landed. The fifth brief asks What Design Can Do to maximize the potential of refugees.

Refugees arriving in Europe bring with them skills and professional experience. Large numbers of the refugee population are highly educated and possess valuable skills. However, this is not reflected in the integration of refugees who have been granted asylum in the labour market, where participation is still low. Some formal barriers like language proficiency, lack of diploma recognition and gaps in CVs exist.

But what is much tougher to deal with are the ‘informal’ barriers such as prejudices and the lack of a social and professional network needed to find work. This is a missed opportunity in both the short-term (refugees can positively influence their host community by bringing new skills and generating income), and the long term (refugees who achieve some degree of self-reliance during their asylum can be an asset to their war-torn homelands once they return).

How can European societies recognize and reap the rewards that refugees offer?

Tapping the potential

Discovering and creating value and meaning is key in many design professions. Designers excel at uncovering and tapping the potential that lies beyond the obvious opportunities that most people see. What skills, knowledge, capacities and capabilities do refugees bring? What could these contributions mean in the host country? Finding ways to empower refugees and showcase their talents and skills could benefit businesses and organizations, help combat prejudice and expand the professional network of refugees.

Best practices

In previous posts we’ve presented several cases that may offer inspiration for this brief, including  Studio Refugee, a Belgian project empowering refugees through design and craftsmanship, Cucula in Germany where refugees build design furniture, and De Voorkamer, a Dutch initiative for a platform that promotes the different personalities and talents of asylum seekers.

Download the full WDCD Refugee Challenge brief including background information and research material from and join the challenge.


Work at Studio Refugee

Work at Studio Refugee

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