The Design Council launched a national early years Challenge, offering people grants of up to £180,000 to turn their bright ideas into reality. The aim of this challenge is to kick-start new products, services or environments that will radically improve the health and wellbeing of young children living in Southwark and Lambeth.
"If you want to make positive impact in the world, there is no better way than to support the youngest in our society, to help them get the best start in life," said Mat Hunter, Chief Design Officer at Design Council. "We are delighted to be kicking-off this programme which will enable designers, entrepreneurs and the families of Southwark and Lambeth to imagine and create better forms of support. I look forward to being amazed by their passion and inventiveness."
Design Council is inviting families, designers, entrepreneurs, early-years professionals, artists, businesses and charities to enter the open competition. The search for ideas, called the Knee High Design Challenge, is run by Design Council in collaboration with Guy's and St Thomas' Charity, who are the sole funder of the programme, and the London Boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth.
Working in partnership with the borough's Public Health teams, six months of research was undertaken with local families and professionals to identify where the greatest opportunities lay to make the most significant impact on a child's early development. Designers, early years specialists, and ethnographers engaged with over one hundred local families, following their daily routines and working collaboratively to spot and prioritise opportunities for change.
For example, many families became isolated when their children were born due to the anxieties and practicalities of leaving the home. Isolation and loneliness can cause serious and long-term effects on families' emotional and social wellbeing. The research found that many children also needed more opportunities to play and interact with others in the very early years in order to develop their early social, emotional and cognitive skills. It is important that this development happens early on as by the time a child is three years old their brain is already largely developed.
Design Council seeks to uncover radical new ideas to tackle these complex issues by putting local families at the heart of the change, and supporting innovative new start-ups.
The closing date for entries is September 30 with shortlisted entries to be notified by October 10, 2013.