Blog Post 3: Emergent Practices and how they Influence Social Change


‘Reframe Refugees’ by Marie Louise Diekema and Tim Olland. (What Can Design Do, 2016)


What Design Can Do Challenge is a worldwide annual design competition that showcases design as a catalyst for change and addresses complex societal problems. This year, the challenge had a specific focus on design solutions for refugee issues, in particular the accommodating, connecting, integrating and settling refugees in urban areas.

One of the five winners of this competition was the project, Reframe Refugees designed by Marie-Louise Diekema and Tim Olland. This is a digital platform that allows refugees to upload photographs of themselves and their lives for newspapers and media outlets to purchase.

“The photos of refugees shown by mainstream media all look the same and, more importantly, only present refugees in desperate and helpless situations. The digital platform, Reframe Refugees, helps the world realise that refugees are people with the same dreams and ambitions as everybody else. “

Reframe is compatible with smartphones making the platform user friendly and accessible.When people upload, they have the opportunity to personalise their photographs with descriptions and the stories behind the images. These are quality checked and then offered for purchase to media companies. The payment for the photographs goes directly to refugee services and charities.

I found this project interesting as it raised similar concerns that arose for me when I was researching for my image bank. The manner in which refugees are represented in the mainstream media is extremely impersonal and in many ways dehumanises them and makes them seem like ‘others’. Through primary research and interviews, it becomes clear that the treatment of refugees by mainstream media and government has lead to a sense of complacency about refugee issues within the general public. One of the issues I’m looking to focus on is how to shift the media narrative about refugees in an attempt to make the general public less complacent and more aware about the human stories behind these issues.

Below is a the explainer video that Marie-Louise Diekema and Tim Olland made for Reframe.



What Design Can Do 2016, Winner 5: Reframe Refugees, viewed 22 August 2016,


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