creative ideas

The Ideas Box: a challenge for access to education, information and culture


17 years is the average time a refugee spends in a camp. 17 years during which most of the time he will not be allowed to leave the camp, to work, 17 years without doing anything. This is what more than 50 million refugees or displaced persons are experiencing today as a result of conflicts or disasters around the world. C'is to reach out to vulnerable populations around the world that Bibliothèques Sans Frontières has created with Philippe Starck an innovative system of access to information, education and culture for isolated, vulnerable populations or those affected by a humanitarian crisis: the Ideas Boxes.

In order to respond to emergencies and give people the means to build their development, international aid naturally focuses first on food, care, shelter and clothing. Once these vital needs are met, however, something else is needed to enable everyone to have access to quality education, rebuild community ties, fight boredom and begin the process of resilience.
The Ideas Box was born to take better account of the intellectual dimension of the human being in danger and to give everyone the means to read, write and communicate. By providing access to the Internet, books, educational and multimedia resources, theatre and cinema, the Ideas Box provides individuals and communities with essential tools to better build their future.
Standardized in their container and finely adapted in their contents, they are easily transportable, energy self-sufficient, simple to use and robust. They can be unfolded and closed in less than 20 minutes and can be used in fixed or mobile configurations.

Offering services and content equivalent to those of a small public library, an Ideas Box can serve up to 5,000 users, but
can also be used on a smaller scale (within schools, for example).
The deployment of an Ideas Box follows a strict procedure, based on extensive field research and in close collaboration with partners at different levels - from national and international organisations (governments, UNHCR, World Bank, UNICEF) to international and local NGOs.
Once deployed, the Ideas Box is systematically transferred to a local partner capable of ensuring its long-term operation. Each implementation is spread over a period of 3 months, during which BSF supports and trains the local partner in charge of the Ideas Box, guarantees its proper installation and covers its operating costs. This transition period allows a progressive appropriation of the system by the local partner.

One answer: a revolutionary kit media library

It is on the basis of this observation that the "l'Urgence de Lire" Campaign was launched to take better account of the intellectual needs of l'human beings in danger. L'appel has been joined, and continues to be joined, by prestigious personalities from all over the world, starting with nine Nobel Prize winners including Toni Morrison and JM Coetzee and world-famous writers such as Stephen King or Salman Rushdie.

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In response, the Ideas Box was created with the French High Commission for Refugees and the creator Philippe Starck: a standardised, easily transportable and deployable media library in kit form in the field. A robust and energy self-sufficient device. But also a device that offers content that is finely adapted to the needs of populations, their language and culture.
The Ideas Box was therefore born out of this challenge for access to information, culture and education for refugee populations. But once it was created, the Ideas Box demonstrated all its capacities and its great modularity and very quickly, it was necessary to imagine its use and impact in other contexts, both in industrialized countries and in the developing world.

L'Ideas Box, a mobile and flexible tool, allows to reach populations far from culture, especially the most vulnerable: young people, precarious, migrants, rural populations, etc. Whether in rich countries or in less favoured areas, the L'Ideas Box can play a major role in the dissemination of education and culture and enable libraries to reach new audiences.

Building Resilience

A veritable toolbox for rebuilding lives and communities, the l'Ideas Box offers vulnerable populations the means to create their own content (films, drawings, writings, mapping, blogs, etc.). It thus encourages intellectual development and empowerment, both individual and collective. And when, as is all too often the case, a humanitarian emergency becomes permanent, the Ideas Box enables people to fight against boredom, overcome trauma and begin the long process of resilience, mourning and reconciliation.

Reconnect to the world

When a crisis occurs, access to traditional information channels (radio, newspapers, TV...) is often interrupted. The people directly affected by the events are often the last to have access to the information that is vital for coping with the hardships. Misinformation and rumours are then the breeding ground for community tensions.
The Ideas Box to transmit and access quality information.

International organizations such as the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its implementing partners rely on the Ideas Box to disseminate information and awareness-raising tools to reach individuals, families, including new arrivals, and to facilitate the integration, management and reception of refugees/displaced persons. Through Internet access, the Ideas Box allows fragile populations to connect to the world, to be informed and to communicate freely.


This access to quality information empowers and empowers individuals and communities, integrating them into the global community and providing them with infinite resources to learn and break their isolation.

Tailor-made content and equipment

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The Ideas Box offers a wide range of educational and entertaining content and seeks to stimulate the creativity of users by providing tools for them to produce their own resources and shape the box in their own image.

For each deployment, BSF teams work closely with partners in the field to identify the content and equipment that corresponds to the needs and expectations of the populations (language, culture, geographical context, etc.).

The Ideas Box is also completely energy self-sufficient thanks to the included generator.

L'Ideas Box includes several modules that allow :
- to connect to the world: satellite or 3G /4G connection, 15 to 20 touch tablets are provided, as well as 5 computers with an internal server ;
- d'learn: 250 paper books, 50 e-readers ;
- to play: 1 HD television for daytime projection, a video projector, a hundred or so documentary films but also board games and video games + a stage for music or theatre.
- to create: 5 HD cameras and software for graphic and video creation, about a hundred films and documentaries; d&#39 hardware; plastic arts and a scanner for digitizing the creations.

Robust and efficient design

The colourful and efficient design of the Ideas Box was graciously created by the designer Philippe Starck. The box is deployed in 20 minutes on the field, with a team of 4 people. Wheels can be fixed on each module to facilitate movement. The furniture, including tables for consulting computers, reading books or watching films on the shelves, is integrated into the box. The building materials are defined according to criteria of weight, security of contents, climatic resistance and transport.

The Ideas Box also includes storage space for equipment (cables, tarpaulins, etc.) and a battery system. The integrated electrical circuit allows simultaneous recharging of all the equipment.

Libraries Without Borders at a glance

Created in 2007 at the initiative of Patrick Weil, Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (BSF) is one of the leading NGOs for development through culture and knowledge in the world. For humanitarian or development purposes, BSF works to promote access to information and culture for all, by supporting libraries in France and 20 other countries around the world. Since 2012, BSF has been developing several digital content projects, for the educational world (MOOC, collaborative learning, etc.) and the professional world (specialized digital libraries, etc.).
Since its creation, BSF has supported more than 300 libraries around the world.
This is an important commitment for people in situations of humanitarian emergency.
Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (BSF) is a non-governmental organization registered in France, the United States and Switzerland, headed by Barbara Starck.

About BSF

In 2010, Libraries Without Borders intervened in Haiti after the earthquake, at the request of Haitian institutions, to contribute to
to the restructuring of the country by giving very rapid access to books, information and culture.
In the weeks following the disaster, BSF set up 30 tented libraries in camps for the displaced, before being approached by
UNICEF to deploy 300 children's library kits to the affected populations throughout the metropolitan area.
more than 100,000 people.
As an echo to its action in Haiti and with the will to promote a better consideration of the intellectual dimension of populations at risk, BSF launched in November 2012, the international appeal "L'Urgence de Lire" for access to information and culture in humanitarian emergency situations.
Very quickly, the appeal was joined and supported by more than a hundred international intellectuals, including 8 Nobel Prize winners, world-famous writers and humanitarian specialists.
The L'Urgence de Lire campaign reached its climax on 11 and 12 October 2013 during an international symposium on the issue which brought together at the Maison
from Latin America to Paris of information and cultural specialists, humanitarian and emergency workers, and donors. The first images of the Ideas Box were unveiled at this event.

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