Lego offers £100m to find innovations tackling ‘global childhood crisis’ | Children

Lego is launching a £ 100 million competition to find solutions that will have a positive impact on children’s lives in response to what the toy maker has called a “global early childhood emergency”.

The Lego Foundation, a non-profit organization that owns 25% of the Danish company, is offering a prize fund of 900 million Danish kroner (100 million pounds or $ 140 million) to help children in crisis and eliminate the loss of access to services and support accelerated by the pandemic. .

According to the World Bank, between March 2020 and February 2021, 167 million children in 196 countries lost access to early childhood care and education services. The pandemic has closed childcare and early childhood education facilities, meaning educators have taken full responsibility for meeting all of their children’s developmental needs.

“Parents who struggled to keep a roof over their heads were stressed, working at home, perhaps managing more than one child, had less time,” said Professor Paul Ramchandani, a child psychiatrist and head of research at Cambridge University in Hygiene. . The role of play in child development.

“But the most important thing for the healthy development of children’s brains is interaction with adults,” says Ramchandani, “so we see that children’s social and emotional learning has stopped.”

Two recent studies have shown that cognitive development in early childhood is reduced: in children born during a pandemic, IQ decreased by 22 points, and loss is more pronounced in children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

“We live in a world where early childhood development is at a crisis point,” said Anne-Birgit Albrektsen, CEO of the Lego Foundation. “She had neither the investment nor the political attention she deserved. So, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Lego brand, we make a statement. ”

Anne-Birgit Albrektsen, CEO of the Lego Foundation.
Anne-Birgit Albrektsen, CEO of the Lego Foundation. Photo: Kristy Sparow / Getty Images For Global Citizen

Albrektsen hopes that the Build a World of Play Challenge Foundation will attract proposals to address emergencies as well as promising projects. “It could be a technological innovation that will improve the health of families with young children, or a plan to make cities safer, greener, more sustainable, more playful; or ideas to reduce stress among caregivers; or help with equal access to education for girls, or for children with disabilities, or for children with different neurons ”.

The Lego Foundation will evaluate each work for impact, opportunity, sustainability and impact on the community and plans to work closely with successful grantees.

Five works with ideas for the greatest impact will receive grants, three will receive 200 million Danish kroner (22.6 million pounds), and two – 100 million Danish kroner. In addition, the 10 finalists will receive 6.5 million Danish kroner each to strengthen their plans and create a team to implement their innovation.

Less than 3% of all humanitarian aid is invested in education, and only part of that in preschool education, said Gray Rollins Westin, president of Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. “At first we thought kids weren’t as vulnerable to Covid-19, at least in terms of disease. But over time, we’ve seen how much the pandemic affects children, “she said.” For a significant proportion of children under five, that’s all they ever knew. “

According to OECD reports, the Lego Foundation is already a significant investor in early childhood charity spanning 62 countries. So why not quietly continue? “Because it’s a crisis,” Albrektsen said, “if we give money to ordinary suspects, we won’t make that impact.”

Westin said the foundation’s new award was “daring philanthropy.” She added: “In the humanitarian space, the focus of Lego’s investment will attract other investment, highlighting the void and creating an opportunity to really change the situation.”

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