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Sleeping bag for the homeless and refugees

Our goal is to make the best use of Nike Grind materials to make sleeping bags for the homeless and refugees.

Photo of Kaiwei Cheng
25 18

Written by

Our product - sleeping bag - uses several recycling materials such as rubber, leather, textile, and foam. As we all know, most of the materials are quite soft, which supports the feature of the sleeping bag and no big change in the materials should be done. As the picture shows, this sleeping bag has three layers: 

1. Mixed textile. This is the layer that would touch human’s body, so it should be comfortable enough. 

2. Footwear fiber. This is the thickest part of the layer, which is made up of recycled fiber. It supports the weight of the human being and makes them feel soft when they sleep. 

3. Foam. Foam is set to help to refresh the air in the bag, it keeps people from sweating during the sleep and also provide a comfortable “environment”.


The main purpose of sleep bags is to provide people warmness and comfort when they are in a limited environment. As the number of homeless and refugees are constantly increasing, we believe that by using Nike Grind materials, a well-designed sleeping bag can fulfill their basic needs. Thus, in these situations, warmness, comfort, convenience, and safety are the highest criteria. The sleeping bag we designed is quite tight, it could wrap a person up to provide maximum protection and warmth, or can be used as a mattress and blanket. What’s more, thanks to the high-quality Nike Grind materials, the sleeping bag will be light enough for being carries around. 

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

NYU - Team Greenhouse

Which Nike Grind materials will your idea utilize?

  • Rubber Outsoles
  • Rubber Flashings
  • Rubber Granulate
  • EVA Foam Injection Scraps
  • EVA Foam Flashings
  • EVA Foam Sheets & Blocks
  • EVA Foam Components
  • Laminated EVA Foam
  • Laminated PU Foam
  • Mixed Apparel Textile
  • Mixed Footwear Textile
  • Footwear Fiber "Fluff"
  • Full Grain Leather Scraps
  • Split Leather Scraps Coated
  • Synthetic Leather

How specifically will these materials be incorporated into your solution?

The materials we will use are mostly textile and foam. The Textile - Mixed Apparel and Mixed Footwear – will be used as the shell fabrics of our product as it contains cotton, nylon, and polyester. Footwear fiber “fluff” will be used for filling the sleeping bag. Thanks to the texture, this element is perfectly light and soft and it fits the needs of our product. For the back part of the sleeping bag, EVA Foam will be used as an internal matter. Thanks to its softness and flexibility, this layer will be adjusting to the body shape, providing a comfortable support. Furthermore, EVA foam has strong breathability and it avoids the formation of condensation in the sleeping bag layers.

Please include a visual (can be either 2D or 3D) representation/prototype of your concept. (required)

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

Our main target will be people in need, namely homeless people and refugees. In January 2018 in NYC there were 63,101 homeless people, including 15,553 homeless families with 23,309 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Regarding the refugees, UNHCR declared that in 2017 there have been 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

How will you scale your idea? Please describe in detail your plan to scale your concept.

There are non-profit organizations that are working in providing first aid kit to refugees and homeless. Our idea is to develop a collaboration with these organizations to provide our product starting to the main city in the US.

How is your idea innovative?

In technical and design aspects, we are trying to make maximum Nike Grind recycled materials to not only make a sleeping bag but also design it considering the end user as well as the potential client. We use different layers of mixed textile to control the temperature and maintain freshness inside the bag. We also apply foam to design more ergonomic sleeping bag. A human-centered design sleeping bag made from Nike recycled materials to solve real social issue will have a positive impact.

What inspired this idea?

When we walk on the street in NYC, there are thousands of homeless just sleeping on the floor or a corner on the street. They feel cold, unsafe and either generate the sense of unsafety to the passers-by. Thus, we came up with an idea of an easy-carrying, warm and comfortable sleeping bag.

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

We are a student team from NYU, and we are all having the class called design thinking. All of us are graduate students and focus on different majors.

In what city are you located?

NYC

In what country are you located?

USA

25 comments

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Comment
Photo of Dahalia Jackson
Team

This is an awesome idea. Just last week I visited NYC and my daughter pointed out that even in the daytime the people who are homeless were sleeping on the concrete with cardboard boxes and little or no covering from the elements. Your idea in collaboration with other organizations will surly have an impact on addressing common global issues.

Photo of Lauren Ito
Team

Hi Kaiwei Cheng ,

A reminder that the ideas phase of this Challenge closes in less than one hour, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Please have your submission updated by this deadline with content to all proposal questions complete.

Excited to have you in the Challenge!

Photo of Clélie
Team

What a wonderful idea and project supporting such an important cause!

You explain in your presentation that your target market is people in need, homeless and refugee mainly; but this population probably cannot afford such product. Have you thought about partnerships with organizations such as the United Nation, or the European Union for instance? I know that reception of refugees is an important issue for them and that they are constantly looking for innovative and cheaper solutions like yours.

Just one more question: what would be the price of such a product? What is your added value compared to existing products on the market? Is it in terms of heat capacity and quality or is it in terms of quality-price ratio? We already have some very effective products on the market; but not affordable for homeless and refuges, nor for NGOs that work with them.

Excited to learn more about your company and product!

Photo of Kaiwei Cheng
Team

Dear Clelie,

You are exactly right. Our users and customers are different. The homeless and refugee would be our users, while those organizations like NGOs would be our customers to pay for that bag. Thank you for mentioning this point. And we are still thinking about the price, the added value would be like, our users feel more comfortable and warm when they sleep on the street, and those refugees may have more power to achieve something in his life. Thus, this value would be considered as a power to changing someone's life. We are still prototyping and try to figure out the best deliverable. One thing is we are using recycling materials, more Eco-friendly and apply circular design concepts. we have the advantage of lower price, not only concerning about the human community but also the environment. Will keep you updated. Thank you for your comment!

Cheers,
KC

Photo of Naman Mandhan
Team

Hi Kaiwei Cheng !

Great idea, and for such a wonderful cause! I'm excited to see this idea continue to evolve!

To offer some added inspiration, here's a non-profit organization within the city of Detroit that uses upcycled materials to construct a product that can be used as a coat, sleeping bag, and over-the-shoulder bag - http://www.empowermentplan.org/the-coat

Hope this offers some inspiration as you go about further developing your idea, and offers thoughts around partnerships that can be fostered around your idea.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Hi Kaiwei Cheng and team great idea indeed! And that will clearly help others.

The coat program that Naman Mandhan is mentioning is the one we discussed tonight. Really worth looking at their idea and see how you could be inspired by this idea. Maybe also contact them to understand if they would be interested in exploring using Nike Grind.

As I was searching for other similar ideas I also found this: http://www.thesleepingbagproject.org/about/about-us/

This project that turns a sleeping bag into a tent is worth reading: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/21/portable-shelter-homeless_n_6517138.html

I found this project by MIT students that focused on refugees also very relevant: http://news.mit.edu/2017/mit-students-design-and-donate-travlerpack-sleeping-bags-to-syrian-refugees-0918
And this RCA students project is inspiring too: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2016/jan/21/wearable-dwelling-coat-tent-sleeping-bag-refugees-royal-college-art-london

So a lot to read about and look up. I would recommend in the coming weeks just looking at homeless in NYC and see if they have a sleeping bag. Maybe you can also make a donation, chat with them and ask them if they have a sleeping bag and / or would need one.
I'm also happy to put you in touch with the organization I mentioned today: https://www.hakook.com/

You might also want to check Aakar Mehra idea on bedding: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/nike-design-with-grind/ideas/make-you-own-bedding
The focus is somewhat different but his idea is really well developed and could inspire you. The 2 ideas are nicely complementary.

Really looking forward to how your idea will evolve in the coming weeks.

Photo of Naman Mandhan
Team

Hi Kaiwei Cheng !

I would be happy to connect you with folks at The Empowerment Plan if you'd like to get in touch with them!

Photo of Yunfang Shi
Team

Dear Naman Mandhan,

I am Gabi from Kaiwei's team. Thank you so much for the kind offer! We would be really grateful if you can help us on connecting with The Empowerment Plan. As we are moving forward of building our idea, that would be very helpful. We are currently in prototyping and testing phase to figure out the design of the sleeping bag.

Thank you again and please let us know if you have any other great suggestion.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Naman Mandhan thank you for offering the connection to Kaiwei Cheng Yunfang Shi and their team!

Photo of Aakar Mehra
Team

Hi Kaiwei Cheng and team,
Great to see this idea! As Anne-Laure Fayard  mentioned, there is some relation to our projects, but we are looking to solve the same solution in two different ways. Reading your brief, my mind started going towards what are the exact issues that homeless people or refugees face on a daily basis. Finding a place to sleep that is warm, cozy and safe is up there on the priority list. I think we should think about how we can help them find such product. Has your team looked into interviewing or talking to people on the street to get their opinion or feedback?

Along with making the product human centered, this challenge has made me think about circular design! https://www.circulardesignguide.com/methods Have you guys looked into creating a product that can fit into the economic or sustainability circle? I think if we can start to put these pieces together, we would be able to create a really good product out of the Grind material.
Naman Mandhan , I would appreciate if you could look at my ideas and give me some feedback. Also, I would be interested in talking to The Empowerment Plan organization for my idea. If you could help me get in touch with them, I would love to share my ideas with them and get some user feedback. Thanks!

Photo of Yunfang Shi
Team

Thank you Aakar Mehra for the comments. When we developed our idea we were thinking of circular design concept. As we are targeting this product to homeless and refugees, economic concerns and sustainability are in our top list.

We haven't talked to any people on the street yet but we will try as the idea develops. I agree that our ideas have some kind of similarity, maybe by combining both, we could design a kit for those in need.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Aakar Mehra thank you for your feedback and suggestions to the team!
Yunfang Shi I think you should go and do some interviews (or intercepts - short in situ interviews) in NY. Nearby Union Square, Penn Station and Grand Central, you will (unfortunately) find a lot of homeless people. If you see anyone with a sleeping bag, you should definitely ask them but you should also ask them if they don't have a sleeping bag (at least a visible one). You can explain that you are students working on a project (of course plan to have a small donation too).
Check this blog on the issue of staying warm when homeless: https://guide2homelessness.blogspot.com/2004/10/staying-warm.html
I would encourage you also connecting with local NGOs like Coalition for the Homeless: https://guide2homelessness.blogspot.com/2004/10/staying-warm.html

https://www.hakook.com/ (this was started by an NYU alumni. I can connect you with him).

You could also connect with this organization https://choose.love/ to ask them for feedback!

Have a look at all the inspirations I shared and see how they can help you refine your idea. One way to share your ideas with organizations might be using a storyboard: http://www.designkit.org/methods/35

You can also develop a user experience map (it can be useful to help you think about different questions you need to address; or it can also be a good way based on the feedback you received to articulate your idea): https://d3gxp3iknbs7bs.cloudfront.net/attachments/5c28e26a-ba7f-44f4-859b-e82658264287.pdf
Good luck!

Photo of Yunfang Shi
Team

Dear Anne thank you for all the suggestions! We gonna use this Tuesday to do develop our ideas on rapid prototyping and interviews, observations. I'm also thinking contact an interview with a social worker to talk about this homeless people issue in NYC.
Thank you for sharing the links and I will share with my teammates.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Thank you Yunfang Shi I think that interviewing a social worker is a great idea if it's someone working in an organization (like Coalition for the Homeless) working with homeless people. Check this article (the numbers are scary!) as it lists a lot of organizations you could contact: https://ny.curbed.com/2018/2/5/16972144/homeless-shelters-charities-new-york-housing-outreach
With the snow today in NY, your idea seems even more meaningful. I wonder if you could think of warmth but also water proofing.

Photo of Kaiwei Cheng
Team

Thank you Naman Mandhan, glad to see you like our idea!

Sorry for the late reply because I am in China right now (Internet block you know).

I have checked the link you shared with us and Professor Anne-Laure has mentioned that before in class. Gabi is the cheif designer in our team and she has a lot of great and creative ideas. We really appreciate your help and support! It is our honor to have the connection with the folks in the Empowerment Plan.

Anytime feel free to contact us.

Best,

KC

Photo of Kaiwei Cheng
Team

Hi Professor,

I as myself are thinking about interviewing some homeless in Beijing, China as to see if it works for them. I think there must be some common points and different ideas between the NY homeless and China homeless, maybe we could find something new to improve our prototype?

Cheers,
KC

Photo of Kaiwei Cheng
Team

Hi Aakar Mehra,

Thank you for your comment and support. I appreciate your idea but could you please explain the concept of economic or sustainability circle in details or giving some examples? I think as a Grind-Material-Made sleeping bag, all the materials are green and reusable. However, you have mentioned me, if the homeless and refugees reject our product or it was not used in the right way, how do we deal with these sleeping bags? @Anne-Laure professor do you have any ideas?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Kaiwei Cheng if you had the opportunity to use your stay in China to do some research and talk with some homeless people about their needs when it comes to sleeping outside. You could start by observing and then talk with a couple of them, and if they don't have a sleeping bag, ask them if they would use one. I am not sure how the homeless or refugees would not use them "in the right way". If they find a way to use it: to make a tent rather than sleeping in them, this is not "wrong". They reinterpret what you are giving them to fit their needs. This shows that "a roof" rather than a "blanket" is more important. As for your other question: what if they don't want it, well it means that your idea does not fulfill their needs and you need to experiment with other ideas. This is why rapid prototyping and user testing early on is so key: you don't want to develop a product that no one wants.

Photo of Kaiwei Cheng
Team

Dear Professor AL,

Thank you for your suggestion.

Right, the way you how you approach and ask those people are quite important to know their demand and what they really want. I will try to figure out how they sleep and how they view the way of having a "roof" or a "blanket", maybe the homeless in China prefer a blanket rather than a roof because they don't get used to a roof. Anyway, let's see how it would be and I will keep updating.

Best,
KC

Photo of Yunfang Shi
Team

Water resistance is really an important factor. During our rapid prototyping today we had made our first sleeping bag prototype. We've made several versions of different sleeping bag shape in order to offer maximum comfort and convenience to the uses.

We are also going to use User Journey Map to layout the whole experience and try to solve the pain points of potential users base on that.

Thank you for the information! We will start to contact some of them to see if there's potential collabrations. 

Photo of Naman Mandhan
Team

Aakar Mehra Feel free to send me a message on LinkedIn and I can make the connection!

https://www.linkedin.com/in/namanmandhan/

Photo of Yunfang Shi
Team

Thank you again Naman! I've already made a phone call with Cassie this afternoon. She really gave me some insights regarding how The Empowerment Plan get the materials and use them, and what's the business model. I especially like how the EMPWER Coat program is generating jobs for the local homeless.

We will definitely use the knowledge shared by Cassie to build this idea and to see if there are any potential collaborations. Our team had made our first prototype and will update soon these few days.

Photo of Naman Mandhan
Team

Absolutely! Can't wait to see what your team comes up with!

Photo of Chuck D
Team

Hi Yunfang Shi -- Strong, viable second-life opportunity for Nike Grind material in your team's concept! Echoing Aakar Mehra 's question about the circular economy: What can your team share about strategy for reclaiming your product at the end of its lifecycle for repurposing for third life, fourth life & so on?

Photo of Xinyu Wang
Team

Hi, all there:
I appreciate all the questions and suggestions above. I am Xinyu who is one of the team members in Greenhouse team. Our team did a simple prototype yesterday afternoon and I have some personal questions since there. Just like what Gabi considered, water resistance is quite of significance. But we could probably get the answers after talking to Cassie tonight who will help us with an empowerment plan working as an OpenIDEO Detroit chapter organizer with great working experience on this. I still have two questions for designers. (1)I am wondering what's the common budget or cost to make a sleeping bag usually? (2)And also our team would like to make it more multi-functional, can we build it not only like a blanket or a mat but also a backpack to carry around as well? Do you have some experts who can guide us on aesthetics?