On the heels of their flat-pack refugee shelter being named 2016 Beazley Design of the Year, IKEA have pledged to make an even bigger impact in the lives of poor communities the world over. In partnership with Jordan River Foundation, a non-governmental organisation established by Jordan's Queen Rania, the Swedish furniture giant plans to open production centres in refugee camps in northern Jordan as part of a long-term plan to create employment for thousands.
To be located in camps strung along the Syrian border, the IKEA social sustainability drive plans to eventually provide employment opportunities for 200,000 underprivileged people across the globe within the next 10-15 years. Taking their lead from a range of similar social entrepreneur-led projects in similar areas, they will work alongside social entrepreneurs to tackle social problems through business solutions - starting in the Middle East.
Employing 100 people to start with IKEA plans to increase this to 400 within two years. Half of them will be refugees and the other half will consist of local workers. From training that will enable them to contribute in the manufacturing of the company’s signature woven products like cushions, rugs, and bedspreads, they’ll also receive valuable grooming as future entrepreneurs.
"We offer a business model, learning opportunities, simple skills around how to plan production and set yourself up for export," Jesper Brodin, head of IKEA’s range and supply, explained to Dezeen. "Those things are part of the package."
Not yet certain of the kinds of bespoke products they hope to produce through the initiative, IKEA plans to send a team of designers to Jordan in the next few weeks to define this. Brodin estimates the centre will be operational by August 2017.