Since winning the 2016 Refugee Challenge organized by What Design Can Do, UNHCR and Ikea Foundation, Makers Unite has experienced tremendous growth as a social enterprise dedicated to creating and empowering a network of refugee designers and locals working together to forge a more inclusive future. They work to empower newcomers to Europe by engaging their creativity to produce innovative products and fashion items. Examples include handbags made from recycled life-vests worn by refugees from the shores of Greece, and a collaboration between Syrian soap makers and a Dutch ceramic company Cor Unum.
Since its inception, Makers Unite has experienced significant growth. Commercial income increased five-fold in 2018, and the company now has 12 employees. The products of Makers Unite have been exhibited by the Stedelijk Museum and awarded by Dezeen as one of the top designs tackling the refugee crisis. They have earned revenue over 100,000 Euros to date and received major funding from Stitching Doen, VSB, Kansfonds, and the EU Commission. For more information please see their 2018 annual report here.
Potential refugee impact
To date, many refugee support programs are top-down and feature too-little input from those they are designed to help. Makers Unite centers refugees in their organization and their products to create a collaborative and supportive environment for newcomers to Amsterdam. Refugees work closely with the Makers Unite team and local designers to create products which speak to the refugees unique experiences and aspirations. To date they have created a network of dozens of refugees and local designers determined to create a more inclusive future. They have delivered thousands of hours of training development and other complimentary programs to refugees.
Thami Schweichler – Co-Founder & Managing Director
Hester Ezra – Creative Director
Makers Unite is a social enterprise based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.