If you are like me, when you read a headline like this, your mind begins to picture flat-packed furniture arriving in a refugee camp and people running around looking for the correct allen keys (or Hex keys) to assemble the bits and pieces. Just picture that for a minute, strange blue trucks arriving with boxes of flat-packed furniture requiring assembly…hilarious! Thankfully, Ikea has more sense than this. According to the BBC the money will be donated to UNHCR over the next 3 years to expand their work in the camp.

I find it interesting how there is little information about how the money will be used or if there will be any partnership work being done between UNHCR and Ikea. Unfortunately, it seems like it is just money being donated from the corporate to the aid community. Now, don’t get me wrong, money can be good and is needed as Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp (estimated at 440,000 people in it!), but money has been thrown at East Africa for years now with lack lustre results if we are honest. Ikea is an innovative company and a successful one and could the aid community and UNHCR not benefit from some of that innovation? Some of the skills Ikea has? Could there not be more than just money that Ikea could give?

On the Business Fights Poverty website, there is a blog post by Zahid Torres-Rahman who talks about the Ikea donation and suggests five ways to translate the good intentions into great impact – you can find the blog post here. It’s a good post with good ideas like learning from others and learning about aid effectiveness etc. There has been a lot going on in this space of the business community getting involved in humanitarian disasters – and a lot of talk within the humanitarian community about how to “capitalise” on this movement but also how to control it. I keep thinking there must be more that the business community can do besides give money…

I guess I wonder what would happen in Ikea’s logistics team would run distributions of aid to Dadaab – how would it look different? What kind of things would be returned and how would they deal with that? How would Ikea design a shelter for a family in the refugee camp? How would it be assembled? How long would it last? Would they serve swedish meatballs still? 🙂

The list of ideas can go on and on, but people sit in their corporate jobs and wish they could make a “positive” impact in the world – I hear it all the time. I wonder if we gave them clear problems to solve, what ideas would they come up with? Could we not give it a try as the humanitarian community seems to still be responding the same way we did 15 years ago…is it not time to change?


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