Thursday, January 16, 2014

Shelter from the sky

To reinforce the powerful role innovation plays in transforming how people receive and perceive aid, I wanted to share another innovative idea that I came across in December. Industrial designer Adem ├ľnalan won the Red Dot Design Award (I'd never heard of it either...but apparently it's a big deal) for what he calls "Lifebox":
Photo: Fast Company / Co.Exist
Lifebox is the product of talking to survivors of disasters and relief agencies to better understand if there was a solution that could fill some of the existing gaps in the delivery of aid following an event. The result of those conversations coupled with Adem's creativity yielded Lifebox and its 3 iterations: Air, Land, Water. Air can dropped from a plane with a built in parachute that doubles as the roof of the shelter, Water transforms into a raft, and Land is a straightforward tent (with the added benefit of a foam floor) that can be connected to other Lifeboxes to form larger rooms. The boxes are designed with 2 weeks of supplies for 4 people to cover the gaps that become exposed when critical infrastructure and access to areas are hampered by a disaster. 
Photo: Fast Company / Co.Exist. Lifebox: Land
While I like the idea and the fact that it's more of a holistic solution to an immediate need taking into account different methods of delivery, I believe that its "out-of-the-box" nature could create challenges in ensuring its equitable distribution amongst vulnerable populations. I could see Lifeboxes being hoarded or sold in the chaos and confusion of early response activities. However, given the potential upside of the product, I'm confident that figuring out an equitable distribution model is something that bright minds can come up with fairly easily. I would also consider regionalizing the rations contained inside Lifebox to ensure that its culturally appropriate for the populations its helping.

But what I like most about the Lifebox is that it reminds me that just because things are the way they are...doesn't mean they have to stay that way. Change doesn't come easy, especially when people are comfortable in "the way it's always been done." There is power in innovation and sometimes all we need is a little nudge to get us headed down that path...I hope that "The First 72 Hours Challenge" and the uniqueness of Adem's Lifebox solution get your creative juices flowing to re-think how we do things and explore a the potential of doing things differently.

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