The deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees approached Tino Cuéllar, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, to form a collaboration between Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) and the UNHCR that would explore ideas to better protect and support more than 42 million refugees, internally displaced and stateless people worldwide.
These early discussions led to a multidisciplinary partnership involving CISAC, students from across the Stanford campus and at the Hassno-Platner Institute of Design. Professors, professionals and NGOs such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Asylum Access, as well as architects with Ennead Architects have all been volunteering their time and expertise.
The project took on even greater meaning when students from Cuéllar’s Law School class, “Rethinking Refugee Communities,” traversed the globe to test out their technology and design theories in Ethiopia and Rwanda. Representing teams from the class co-taught by Leslie Witt of the Silicon Valley global design firm, IDEO, some 25 students spent the 2013 winter quarter consulting and brainstorming about ways to advance camp communications; food security and economic self-sufficiency; local community relations; and the complicated process of setting up camps for thousands of exhausted and heartsick refugees.