Published in


First Design for Humanity Summit Yearbook Release

“An unprecedented scale of suffering demands an unprecedented response… We are determined to leave no one behind, reaching the furthest behind first.”
Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason at Design for Humanity Summit

May 2nd, New York — Around the world, humanitarians face immense barriers to humanely respond to communities affected by conflicts and natural disasters. A rise in displacement is exacerbated by accelerated climate change, urbanization and population growth, causing unprecedented suffering for millions.

Humanitarian NGOs, private sector companies, and UN agencies embrace a collective mission to find more dignified solutions that “leave no one behind.” Leaving no one behind means not only responding to communities in need, but actively including them in the design of the projects and policies that govern their lives.

The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs and the International Organization for Migration launched the Design for Humanity (D4H) Initiative in 2018 at the first Design for Humanity Summit at Fordham University. More than 350 people gathered to learn from 40 innovators working at the humanitarian-design nexus. The event proved the hunger for and the possible impact of deepening the intersection between design and humanitarian action.

The newly-released Design for Humanity Yearbook chronicles the insights and ideas presented at the first Summit.

Download the Design for Humanity 2018 Yearbook Here

The Design for Humanity Initiative envisions a world where human-centered design is a public right extended to people affected by crises. When employed in situations of crisis, design can provoke change, foster dignity​, promote inclusion​ and curate memory​.

The initiative builds from the recognition that design methodologies can be incorporated within the norms of humanitarian action in order to compel more community-driven problem solving and locally-fabricated innovations designed from the bottom-up.

The circular design process, based on continuously iterating ideas and crafting solutions adaptable to user feedback and changing contexts, can lead to scalable solutions that address systemic challenges underpinning humanitarian response.

Design will not solve all the world’s crises, but it can amplify humanitarian efforts by giving agency to affected populations, supporting locally-adopted solutions to global problems and helping people sustainably rebuild their lives.

A design community of architects, urban planners, graphic designers, interior designers and others have also joined the charge. This community contends that good design is a public right deserved by all — especially those affected by injustices and crises. The role of designers, therefore, extends beyond meeting market demands to fulfill a commitment to social justice and equality.

“When design and humanitarian efforts come together, beautiful things can happen. And that beauty adds dignity to people. [Design] helps people see the power of their voice, the power of their community, the power of their lives. A reality very different from when they arrived,” Randy Fiser, CEO of the American Society of Interior Designers, told us at the Design for Humanity Summit.

This call for a design for humanity presents an opportunity that humanitarians and designers can jointly undertake. This Summit brought together more than 350 people to hear the insights of 40 innovators working at the humanitarian design nexus.

In her Welcoming Remarks, Ambassador Byrne Nelson encouraged designers and humanitarians to come together with “shared ambition and new hope” while reminding both communities that “we have no time to lose.”

But we also have no time to fail, nor to experiment on populations living through tenuous realities. The design solutions this initiative seeks, therefore, adhere to the most rigorous design standards and build on traditional humanitarian principles.

In the future, we envision a new charter for humanitarian design rooted in values of change, memory, dignity and inclusion — an ethical framework that guides future design interventions in humanitarian settings.

This book chronicles the expertise of humanitarians and designers who presented numerous ideas at the first Design for Humanity Summit on what such a framework could entail. We hope to move forward in a spirit of collaboration with these and other bright minds over the next few years to turn this vision to reality.

This article was written by Alberto Preato and Angela Wells, Coordinators of the Design for Humanity Initiative

About the International Organization for Migration
Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the fi eld of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. With 173 member states, a further 8 states holding observer status and offices in over 100 countries, IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants. IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people

About the IIHA
The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) prepares current and future aid workers with the knowledge and skills needed to respond effectively in times of humanitarian crisis and disaster. Our courses are borne of an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines academic theory with the practical experience of seasoned humanitarian professionals. The IIHA also publishes on a wide range of humanitarian topics and regularly hosts a number of events in the New York area, including the annual Humanitarian Blockchain Summit and Design for Humanity Summit.

For media inquiries please contact:
Camille Giacovas
Communications & Research Officer, IIHA

Angela Wells
Public Information Officer for the International Organization for Migration’s Department of Operations and Emergencies



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store