Design Thinking and Collaboration to Change the World

Jordan Waid, VP, Brand Experience at FreemanXP on the agency’s work with The UN. 

I recently discovered a singular commonality between Albert Einstein, physicist and father of the theory of relativity, supermodel and designer Alek Wek, the renowned sculptor and artist Anish Kapoor, and singer and X-Factor host, Rita Ora.

This commonality manifested itself into a formula and a project we recently worked on with the International Trade Centre (UN).

Finding A Solution to The Global Refugee Crisis

A few weeks ago we were asked to collaborate on a UN project to help the organisation tackle one of its biggest challenges: that of the global refugee crisis. 

The project was part of the Hyper Island Masters programme curriculum, an educational institution and consultancy that champions the design thinking approach. They devised a 24-hour ‘sprint’ to come up with ideas to tackle a brief provided by the UN-ITC: “How do we enable refugees to utilise the Internet as a tool to make a living?”

Students came up with a number of interesting ideas over the 24 hours – including a statement on a sticky note that read “LinkedIn for refugees.” This manifested into a solution that capitalised on three key insights: refugees speak several languages, refugees work from their mobile phones, and refugees have an entrepreneurial mindset.

The final result was an app which connects skilled refugee linguists with businesses that need translation services. The app unlocks the potential of the world’s 60 million refugees and displaced, and enables them to build a new future. For companies, it provides a fast, reliable, and secure crowdsourced document translation service, and helps to meet the needs of the fast-growing USD $40 billion translation industry.

Enabling Refugees through ‘Uable’

Once it was agreed that an app was the way to go, we stepped in to create the brand identity and campaign for the idea.

My team and I wanted to do this as efficiently as possible, so we utilised our design thinking methodology and ran a series of two-hour sprints. Over those few hours, our six designers explored over 50 identities and variations of the name ‘You Enabling Work’ for refugees. As a collective, we agreed on the ‘Uable’ brand name and accompanying identity.

We came up with three criteria that locked in the identity: a ‘new word’ needed to be created with the name and enter the modern lexicon, it had to be friendly yet professional for both the corporate and refugee translator, and finally its identity had to embody the mobility.

The result: A white and orange logo and icon inspired by the slide switch on smartphone apps – the U is located in the indention of the slider and the ‘able’ can be seen to the right of it.

This process highlights the importance of design thinking, intersectional innovation, and creative collaboration — as we worked with teams in Manchester, Geneva and London to design the outcome.  We triangulate these philosophies into what we call intersectional design thinking, an elegant problem-solving approach with inspired and varying perspectives to ensure that a new idea is born, prototyped and tested to deliver beyond expectations.

The ‘Uable’ Awareness Campaign

We further applied our methodology to create an awareness campaign to change the inaccurate perception of refugees.  To do this we examined the intersection of the refugee crisis, public perception, and the contributions refugees have made to the world.

So many refugees are just like us, they work in the fields of marketing, education, science, the arts and more.  Many have made groundbreaking developments within their industry, contributed to society, and become leaders, influencers, advocates as well as Pulitzer, Oscar, Grammy, and Nobel Prize winners.

This is where the commonality manifests. Refugees are an extraordinary group of people that have contributed throughout history and are still making huge impacts today, including Albert Einstein, Alek Wek, Anish Kapoor, and Rita Ora as well as others like Anne Frank, Freddy Mercury, Madeleine Albright and Wyclef Jean. These people hail from diverse backgrounds, have amazing stories to share and have made brilliant contributions to society.

We have begun to create the awareness campaign around this through both print and film.  Our mission is to change common misconceptions about refugees, and instead focus on the fact that many of them are just like ‘U’ and me, with more to offer than we can imagine.

Next Steps

The first presentation was well received by the UN and the organisation is now laying the groundwork both within the ITC and UNHCR. As the initiative gains momentum we are seeing more and more businesses, private investors, and other aligned groups coming together to support the Uable mission of: “Get the job done. Change the world.”

We were fortunate to be a part of this rewarding and worthwhile project. The work represented many milestones for us at FreemanXP. It was the first pro-bono project for our London agency, a first in tackling a global problem with the UN, and our first contribution to making the world a better place. We plan to continue to work with the UN on this great cause, as well as devote our time to other pro-bono projects in the future.  

A special thanks to the UN-ITC and the Hyper Island graduate students Gabriela Triffiletti and Tom Anderson who made all of this possible. Please support, follow and spread the word about Uable and watch it grow.

Read more about the project work at The Drum, where Pablo LoMoro, senior adviser on strategy at the International Trade Centre provides his insight.

 

 

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