Equator and Lindsey Carr – Designing refugee education

October 6, 2017

How can you bring education to children living in refugee camps? Design agency Equator, and Senior Designer Lindsey Carr, took on that incredible challenge in 2016.

Lindsey previously set up a project called Creative Caravans with a friend, which included taking temporary homes decorated by artists to a refugee camp in Calais. A separate campaign also led to over 200 smartphones being given to unaccompanied children and young adults at the same camp.

Through that work she made contact with the Dunkirk Children’s Refugee Camp. “I was due to volunteer there shortly after Christmas when James Jefferson, Equator’s Creative Director, asked if Equator could work with me to deliver a bigger project which could make a significant impact,” she says.

“We knew the camp, and in fact, all refugee camps have an issue with education for children,” Lindsey adds. “After consultation and research Equator decided to build a classroom which could be taken anywhere, which didn’t need constant power and which could be updated remotely to suit the changing needs of the pupils.”

The design challenges faced by the team were considerable, from the huge number of different languages spoken by the children, crime within the camp, the lack of power, and the need for children to be able to learn without needing one-to-one supervision.

The classroom-in-a-box is a lockable flight case which is easily transported, containing tablet computers loaded with educational apps, and complete with enough wiring and chargers to allow everything to be charged by a teacher, away from the camp, overnight on just three plug sockets.

One major challenge which Lindsey had been made aware of was the effect of the trauma the children had faced, and the impact this has on their ability to concentrate and learn. “There’s no structure and as a result it is a long game of waiting for them to sit down and listen. I decided we needed to find educational games, something with a high feedback ratio to sustain attention.”

Lindsey admits that “what you think will work in a studio environment quickly gets out of control in practice”, particularly for the children with very limited attention spans. “However, there were some real successes,” she adds.

“For children who were more settled or interested in learning the language apps made a big difference. It allowed them to work away at their own pace without embarrassment if they made mistakes.”

For Lindsey, design is “the difference between success and failure”. She strongly feels that “the ability to learn basic languages, literacy and maths are all solutions that can be delivered digitally worldwide” through innovative projects like this.

We are delighted to welcome Lindsey to V&A Dundee’s Design Champions, on behalf of the whole team at Equator, for the inspirational work using design and digital technology to improve the lives of young refugees.

To find out more, please visit the Equator website.

The V&A Dundee Design Champions are inspirational designers creating high-quality work and helping to enhance people’s lives, or champions of the power of design to improve the world.

We will announce 50 Design Champions in the run-up to the museum opening on Saturday 15 September 2018.


V&A Dundee’s Design Champions project is working with Dezeen as its media partner.

Dezeen is the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazine, with an audience of 2.5 million unique visitors each month. 

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