How should we be responding to the migrant "crisis"?

The movement of displaced and refuged humans across the world will surely define this decade. We ask prominent design thinkers their thoughts on how to help.
The movement of displaced and refuged humans across the world will surely define this decade. We ask prominent design thinkers their thoughts on how to help. Image: UNHCR/I.Prickett
The movement of displaced and refuged humans across the world will surely define this decade. We ask prominent design thinkers their thoughts on how to help. Image: UNHCR/I.Prickett

Europe isn’t a stranger to being divided – along racial, religious, belief, and educational lines. This week the migrant situation is further highlighting the diverging venom that’s once again filtering into Europe (and also the world). The US vs. THEM is becoming louder, with some nations like Sweden crying war and at the same time giving IKEA the go ahead to create easy to utilize housing. But to what end? What will the divide do to a collection of nations that is not homogenized and all have strong (some overly strong) ideas about belonging, safety and inclusiveness.

Christopher Peterka, the Chief Inspiration Officer at Gannaca Global (a Think Tank Group) shares his broader thoughts and some murmurings on the “crisis” and the creative world around it. First with some concrete ideas on the subject:

Peterka also contributes some concrete ideas on the acute migrant “crisis”:

- Express politically that this migration movement is the new normal for the next 50 years to come

- Change the language and get rid off the term “expat” or make every refugee an expat instead

- Personally portray refugees and introduce them as a welcome guest of honour to the specific community they're about to join

- Leverage peer-to-peer lending platforms by registering refugees and equipping them with micro loans directly without any bureaucratic red tape in between

- Define a global distribution quota for refugees per country in direct dependence to the countries economic weapons export volume (the more weapons you export, the more refugees you've got to take care of)

“I guess people in the first world are now starting to realise that a flip side to the market potential of ten billon people is migration”, says Peterka. He thinks that for years the economically-driven foreign policy of trade agreements has been artificially narrowed down to a “growth by globalisation” narrative.

“Living a life with a view onto others people's lives through social media it has become increasingly more likely that people with a minimum of self-efficacy make a physical move – other than liking a page on Facebook – to get what they feel they deserve” says Peterka.

Peterka believes that as long as “supposedly powerful politicians” still disregard the Internet as a medium for the youth or niche clientele rather than basic infrastructure in the year 2015 “it can't surprise to see them holding onto ideas of the nation state, borders or a social order” that have been overcome by some by not everyone.

Peterka feels that the innovation and design/creative communities of the world could spur on the tech world to assist. “In my opinion we should start doing so on a very personal level i.e. pay the true price of a product or service rather than buy cheap,” says Peterka. He thinks that is when people might “grow a scope of hope locally rather than project their hope to a place they'd have to migrate towards to”. It is here where the creative community can be called for a solution. “Just look at the ‘Amazonisation’ of e-commerce through ever more convenience and ‘zero-click’ shopping is the next level that awaits us in the short term data driven future and therefore creatives could fix this by combining convenience and fair trade,” says Peterka.

Peterka cites two examples:

“Gamificated Giving”

As the app “share a meal” beautifully demonstrates it is possible to successfully transform an established mechanism into contemporary design and technology. Help feeding children in Lesotho and celebrate your altruism with a leaderboard to show your friends who really cares? That's smart design today as it delivers the instant emotional – and shareable – gratification that is otherwise missing sending a donor check to some anonymous address.

“Radical Rethinking”

As long as the creative class uncritically acclaims Elon Musk for his Tesla achievements as “the next Steve Jobs” it's not doing good enough. Instead of praising the prolongation of private transport and preserving the status symbol mechanism of owning a luxury car truly responsible thought leaders might rather consider getting their brains around the benefits of self-driving cars for instance as they come along with a package that includes not only the reduction of human error in traffic but quantifiable optimisation of resource usage in all regards from the actual vehicle over to traffic ways to the life time spend otherwise commuting. 

Shifting a societal value set that might embrace such resource conserving innovations rather than decelerate or even fight them is a distinct responsibility for the global creative class in my opinion.

“The designers of this world all have a parental home and yet mostly are rooted somewhere upper class - with all attachments going along with this heritage (see above 'value set')” says Peterka. So he thinks that before one rushes into numerous activities without proper planning or preparation he believes it is worth finding a consensus about “what kind of settlement we envision for humanity” in the 21st century that doesn’t necessarily follows western/first world ideals of we might be calling “decent living”.

“It's that vicious circle that has led us to the situation that we find ourselves in today so it simply can't serve as the intellectual base for any more sustainable future whatsoever,” says Peterka. “In the Internet of everything, everything is design and so every experience is designed for a user but depending on one’s data profile the experience differs.”

“People who formerly kept up with the Joneses find themselves deeply troubled as the Joneses cannot be kept up with any longer due to their potentially drastically different data profiles i.e. your neighbour is offered a Weber grill for half the price you are yourselves as his social media influence score is significantly higher than yours,” says Peterka. And so Peterka thinks that people need to be educated in data and media science as well as digital culture otherwise they'll have “given away their democracies, civil rights and even natural resources to a very small group of private interest holders”.

Watch the Talk with Issa Diabaté