Circular, sustainable schools in conflict affected areas and in developing countries

Achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven tools for sustainable development. The Maggie program helps to achieve this goal.

Fabric support for Maggie Program

Sioen supports the non-profit organisation “Maggie Program”, a circular, sustainable and inclusive concept of pop-up schools for children worldwide. The NGO aims to roll out small-scale construction projects with innovative and sustainable solutions in hard-to-reach or conflict-affected areas, more specifically in developing countries, for refugees and underprivileged people.

Many years ago, when the Maggie Program was just a faraway dream, Sioen and DMOA architects crossed paths. The design of the Maggie shelter was in its final stage. Partners were found to sponsor the first project in Cameroon. The only thing that had to be done was manufacturing the shelter. Here, Sioen technical textiles offered the solution. Since then, Sioen is happily engaged in the hands-on approach of the non-profit organisation Maggie Program.

The problem

Access to education (knowledge and skills) is a basic right for everyone and offers perspective to people living in difficult circumstances. Yet, never before, there have been so many children (and uneducated adults) in the world who do not have this access. That is why there is a need for innovative initiatives that have a significant, fast and sustainable impact.

The Maggie Program solution

The Maggie Program provides access to education for displaced and disadvantaged people by building schools in developing countries. Fundamental in the approach is the stimulation of local labour and materials and knowledge transfer to the local community so that they are able to autonomously set up new projects themselves.

Sioen technical textiles is used to manufacture the Maggie shelter, a structure that looks like a tent, but that has the advantages of a real permanent building. By filling the double-walled structure on site with local materials (sand, insulation and even plastic waste) and with the help of local manpower, a sustainable, circular and ecological infrastructure is created that will last for at least 15 years.

According to Benjamin Denef, founder and inspirer of The Maggie Program, “the Maggie is a game changer that can meet the wedge between urgency and long-term development, making humanitarian aid cheaper with a lower footprint. Maggies' unique qualities allow to quickly build a quality space in a temporary context where permanent buildings are not feasible (politics, practicality, speed, ...).”

What’s in a name

Denef and co named their tent the 'Maggie', after Maggie De Block (Open VLD), who was State Secretary for Asylum and Migration when they developed the tent. The Belgian government itself already makes use of the shelter: in Steenokkerzeel, unaccompanied minor refugees are taught in a multi-purpose Maggie.

Benjamin Denef: “We took the Maggie to the Venice design biennale, won the Henri Van de Velde design award, and international organisations are showing a lot of interest. The sector is crying out for innovation, but is also under pressure now that the United States is cutting off the money for development cooperation. As a small private player, we want to make our contribution.”

When visions meet

The visions of DMOA, The Maggie Program and Sioen are very similar. We all want to do business through innovation in a sustainable, inclusive and circular way together with our partners and based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Just like the DMOA architects, the inspirers of the Maggie Program, we believe in the potential of small, innovative hands-on organisations that, with focused know-how, high efficiency, decisiveness and a simple cost structure, roll out projects. This can inspire and challenge large organisations to push the boundaries in order to upscale this innovative vision and accelerate and increase impact.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. As a global industrial player, Sioen also wants to contribute to realising these goals.

By supporting The Maggie Program, SDGs 4 (Quality education), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals) are met.


DMOA is an architecture firm from Leuven specialising in sustainable and circular building in an innovative way. The firm recently won the prestigious Jo Crepain award for their social commitment and pioneering work. In addition to their architectural practice, they also organise humanitarian missions to developing countries and conflict areas. For this purpose, they founded their social enterprise Maggie Program, which builds pop-up schools for underprivileged people based on the Maggie shelter innovation. They developed the entire project under their own management from custom design, fundraising, logistics, on-site construction, delivery, evaluation to after-sales service. Each time in partnership with a reliable local actor who uses, maintains and reports on the schools.