People sitting around a long table with scattered sketches and paperwork.

Taking on off the grid

All over the world people lack access to the common water, energy and communications grid, which in many cases are key to make life work. IKEA decided to do something about it and is now setting out on a workshop tour with the aim to find solutions together with some new friends.

Knowing that more than one billion people around the world lack access to electricity, IKEA decided to explore independent off the grid solutions that allows people to be less dependent on existing systems. The actions needed are huge, but IKEA will not be alone on the journey. Why? Well, everyone’s invited to participate in working on the projects together.

Marcus Engman, Head of Design at IKEA, explains: “We asked ourselves, what’s a really big problem of today? Looking at the facts around off the grid we thought it’s time to offer some good, affordable solutions and I believe IKEA can contribute here. But it’s a huge undertaking which we cannot take on ourselves. We want as many creatives as possible to partake in this work.”

So, what are the dimensions to off the grid? Besides the big number of people who lack access to electricity, housing, water and plumbing, there’s a growing need for solutions for people who have access but choose a different path.

“With urbanization, even more people will be dependent on a flawless infrastructure in big cities. But with catastrophes linked to climate change, this infrastructure is being challenged. Just look at the recent hurricanes that hit the Caribbean earlier this year.  Alongside this, there is a growing number of people that want to be independent, be self-sufficient, explains Marcus.”

“Accessibility is of course an important part of this work, to find ways to make these solutions available in parts of the world where the needs are greatest.”

So how will it work? Together with WIRED UK, IKEA will arrange a number of workshops around the world during the coming months, inviting creatives and local communities to work together on off the grid solutions focusing on energy, water and communication. IKEA has already held a couple of workshops with the most recent one in London. For that workshop IKEA gathered students from Royal College of Art around the topic water. After a day of inspirational talks, facts and coaching, the students presented their initial ideas.

A piece of cardboard with the words


A desk covered in office accessories and odd objects.



Focusing on water

“A lot of the discussions were around awareness of water consumption, how we can increase the knowledge of how much you consume when taking a shower or doing the dishes. There should be solutions to support this which will save water. But we also worked on ideas that with small means and simple solutions can make better use of grey water and use it again within the household, says James Futcher, creative leader at IKEA.

This project just kick-started and next in line for workshops are Stockholm, Shanghai and Berlin. The next exciting step will be the Democratic Design Days in Älmhult in June 2018, where IKEA and WIRED UK will choose the best ideas and turn them into a completely new collection for IKEA which is planned to launch during 2020.

Besides finding the best solutions, IKEA also need to figure out how to make the products available in parts of the world where IKEA does not yet have any stores. “Accessibility is of course an important part of this work, to find ways to make these solutions available in parts of the world where the needs are greatest”, Marcus ends.



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