A Public Engagement Campaign

for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees

A creative project to boost interest in a global crisis

KeyWords: Design Strategy, Teamwork, Ideation, Thinking Outside the Box

Tools & Techniques: Brainstorming, Prototyping, Illustration, Social Media Marketing, A/B Testing, Research

KeyWords: Design Strategy, Teamwork, Ideation, Thinking Outside the Box

Tools & Techniques: Brainstorming, Prototyping, Illustration, Social Media Marketing, A/B Testing, Research

The Situation

In 2015, the number of refugees seeking asylum worldwide rose to unprecedented numbers. Over 4 million from Syria alone are fleeing war, and millions more from Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations around the world. These people face heavy restrictions on entry from the EU, United States and elsewhere around the world, due to religious differences, misconceptions, fear caused by recent terror attacks, and distrust. While these people represent all walks of life and every social class, the misconceptions that they are universally without means, candidate terrorists, or bound to remain outsiders and social burdens persists in many nations. Thus millions remain waiting in refugee camps or other halfway situations for approval to enter countries, where they are at high risk for assault, starvation and disease.  


The United Nations High Commission on Refugees is particularly focused on bringing aid to those affected by this crisis, however money alone isn’t enough to help. The understanding and support of leaders around the world, as well as the populations that elect them, are also crucial elements in helping ease the crisis. In 2014, Kickstarter reached out to the UN with an offer to conduct Kickstarter’s first ever purely donations-only campaign, which raised over a million dollars. This is terrific, but the next step is to produce a campaign which will have lasting impact in the lives of those in a position to help.


The Process

I am currently working with the UN to plan a project that will be focused not only on raising money, but on changing minds. Engaging with the public is of prime importance, because the crisis is largely due to misunderstandings and fear. The goal is to raise the number of people directly engaging with the UN to help solve the issue, by reaching out to unreached audiences with a creative project that appeals to them. Where to find unreached audiences, and how to put creative skills to use in communicating the issue to them, and also how to communicate the issue in a way that remains engaging without being disrespectful, are some of the challenges we are confronting.


”The main drive of the project is to find untapped audiences, and get them engaged with the issue.”


Our current idea for a creative engagement campaign began with conversations between myself and members of the UN. Over a series of meetings, I met team members and was informed about the crisis, how the UN approaches the crisis, and what they have been doing up till now to build audience engagement around the issue. I listened to the High Commission’s ideas about possible projects they have been discussing, which included games, comics and adult coloring books. I then helped work out a proposal for an activity book for adults, similar to “Wreck this Journal,” which would provide a wide array of interactive experiences, and then follow-up with social media campaigns to get the audience to share their work and collaborate with others. Our intention is to cultivate a community around the activities which, as a result of the book and their collaborations, would be informed about the crisis, interested in helping, and creatively attuned to generating ideas. 


”The result has to be both “not a complete downer” that would turn away those who’d otherwise engage, but also not come across as inappropriately upbeat.”

The social-media follow-up phase of the project will be important, because that will bring people out of the book and into the wider sphere of people interested in the project. I drew inspiration from the Shutterstock Napkin Sketch Contest, which took place on Twitter in 2015 and encouraged people to submit their drawings on napkins for a prize. Imagining the breadth of activities that could be contained in the work is one part of my contribution to the project. We have also started imagining the ways each of those activities could expand into online follow-up initiatives. The question to be answered next is how to organize these boundless possibilities into directives that will turn otherwise passive, uninformed individuals into engaged and invested members of an audience. 


Projected launch date: TBA


Design Strategy, Teamwork, Ideation, Thinking Outside the Box


Tools & Techniques

Brainstorming, Prototyping, Illustration, Social Media Marketing, A/B Testing, Research

Related Projects:

© 2016 by Kathleen Kralowec

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