Created by Libraries Without Borders as a humanitarian response device for access to information, education and culture, the Ideas Box is a learning center in a kit that unfolds on 100 square meters and accomodates 70 people at a time. It is fully furnished, weather proof and ergonomic, with its own energy source, and it provides tools for learning, playing, connecting and creating. Its contents and resources are tailored to the needs of its users.
The Ideas Box is a transformational technology: a “pop up” multimedia center, unpacked in twenty minutes, that is fully autonomous, portable, and durable. Designed by Philippe Starck, each unit contains a satellite and a server, a generator, 25 tablets and laptops, a cinema, games, arts & crafts, and a stage for music and theatre. LWB works with local partners to customize all the Idea Box’s contents (including paper books and 50 e-readers with over 1000 books, and dozens of educational apps). Each Ideas Box, serving 10,000 people, quickly becomes a fully adaptable learning center, a library, or a community hub.
Beyond a toolkit, the Ideas Box is a revolutionary intervention in humanitarian response. It helps reduce the vulnerability of people and especially children facing humanitarian crises. It gives them agency, through access to education, to design solutions appropriate to their needs. It gives children the means to develop new livelihood skills, to learn, and to create. And it provides for psychosocial well-being, child protection, and community engagement, creating a safe space in the camps, supplying children the means to heal from trauma and displacement.
What Evidence do you have that your Innovation works?
After almost three years of experimentation in the humanitarian context, qualitative and quantitative evaluation studies demonstrate the impact of the Ideas Box in education, community building and psycho-social support. An observational study conducted in Burundi in August 2014 showed successful uptake of the Ideas Box by users: the first two units registered over 24,000 visits in 3 months, and nearly 3,300 unique users. These observations guided the design of summative evaluations:
A qualitative study (April 2015) highlighted the psycho-social impacts. Focus groups and interviews with refugees demonstrated reduced post-traumatic stress symptoms, reduced community tensions, and prevention of tensions linked to the dissemination of false information.
A quantitative study (April 2016) assessed the educational outcomes of the Ideas box, through a RCT. It showed a 23% higher average academic improvement in the test group compared to the control group, as well as increased levels of curiosity and participation.
Assessments conducted in the Ideas Box projects implemented around the world (currently 70 projects on 5 continents) show consistent results in the enhancement of the quality of education, child protection and community building.
Access to the internet or educational resources alone does not seem to improve learning (Glewwe et al., 2004, 2009) ; however, coupled with enhanced teacher preparation, an interactive and rich learning environment can dramatically improve student performance. Evidence from the IRC in MENA suggests the need for integrated solutions that enable the psychological and social wellbeing of children.