The story of the Ideas Box begins in 2010. Our team was building libraries in Haiti when a devastating 7.0 earthquake hit the island. We prepared to leave so that humanitarian aid and reconstruction efforts could begin. However, our local partners asked us to stay and help them create information and cultural access points in the settlement camps where tens of thousands of Haitians were forced to live in the aftermath of disaster. While we respected our local partners’ wishes, we wondered if this was the right time to build libraries and other learning spaces; not everyone had food, water, or shelter — did they really need books and internet?
At the insistence of our partners, we began working in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP). It was in these places where we witnessed firsthand the importance of information and cultural tools in disaster relief efforts, particularly in the lives of children. Our team on-the-ground watched the books they provided help children heal from trauma, counter the boredom of being without school or structured activities, and develop resilience.
This experience compelled us to collaborate with the French designer Philippe Starck and the UNHCR to create a pop-up multimedia center and portable library that could withstand the most difficult circumstances: the Ideas Box. The Ideas Box is an innovative tool that expands access to information, education and cultural resources to places that desperately need them — refugee and IDP camps, rural and isolated communities, and underserved urban spaces or indigenous communities around the world.
The Ideas Box is highly-durable, easy to set-up and energy-independent. Within twenty minutes of unloading the box, users will have access to a satellite internet connection, digital server, a power generator, 25 tablets and laptops, 6 HD cameras, 1 large HD screen, board games, arts and crafts materials, hardcover and paperback books, and a stage for music and theatre. Our expert team also ensures that each Ideas Box is customized to meet local needs by collaborating with organizations, leaders and members within the community.