The Future of Humanitarian Design (HUD) is a research project exploring how emerging technologies, processes of aesthetic design, and engineering insights can be combined with knowledge from political science to tackle the crisis facing humanitarianism.
HUD is a four-year Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) funded project focused on the challenges facing humanitarian action: war, refugee flows, forced displacement, etc. These humanitarian challenges are worsening. Contemporary conflicts are more frequent and protracted, refugee flows are rapidly destabilizing geopolitical structures, and humanitarian actors are under growing threat. In light of these dilemmas, HUD explores how emerging technologies, processes of aesthetic design, and engineering insights can be combined with knowledge from international relations to tackle the crisis facing humanitarianism. To do so, the project is constructed around a form of experimental action research in which International Relations scholars will collaboratively work alongside architects, engineers, and others to lead the co-design of three technological innovations designed to improve humanitarian practice and conditions. In this, the goal is to 1) explore how we might better integrate ‘high theoretical’ and ‘critical’ social scientific concepts and theories into the world of practice (humanitarian and beyond), 2) to see how social science can be more closely ‘bridged’ with engineering, architectural, and design practice and knowledge, and 3) therein, take up the urgent task – especially in the light of recent geopolitical events – of working collaboratively across the sciences to improve the conditions of some of the most vulnerable populations in the world.
To achieve this, HUD is a collaboration between the Geneva Graduate Institute, the University of Copenhagen, the Art and Design School in Geneva, and the EssentialTech Lab at EPFL Lausanne. The project will involve three Ph.D. researchers, three Postdocs researchers, and two Research coordinators. It also integrates high-level policy practitioners as project partners based at organizations including Médecins sans frontières (doctors without borders), Terre des hommes, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, alongside partnerships with research institutions in Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Timeline: September 2023 - August 2027.