New fund for health and wellbeing innovations for under-fives

Design Council launches the Knee High Design Challenge to commercialise bright ideas for products, services or environments for young children in Southwark and Lambeth

The Knee High Design Challenge hopes to find innovations that will enhance the health and wellbeing of children in Lambeth and Southwark

The Design Council has this week announced a national innovation challenge offering people grants of up to £180,000 to commercialise bright ideas for new products, services or environments that will radically improve the health and wellbeing of young children in Southwark and Lambeth.

It is inviting families, designers, entrepreneurs, early years professionals, artists, businesses and charities to enter the open competition, known as the Knee High Design Challenge.

Our investment and partnership will bring a community of talented people, networks and organisations together to support the formulation of early interventions that improve the health and wellbeing of children under five years of age

Run in collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and local authority public health teams in the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, the launch of the competition follows six months of research among local families and professionals to identify where the greatest opportunities lie to make the most significant impact on a child’s early development.

Designers, early years specialists, and ethnographers engaged with more than 100 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.

The 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. Following the research phase, The Design Council has created three briefs to guide and inspire people to come up with great new ideas that will have a significant impact. The three briefs call for ideas that will:

  • Connect more families to the people and places beyond the boundaries of their homes
  • Make it possible for more young children to learn and develop in their everyday lives
  • Alleviate the stress, anxiety and depression experienced by parents during the ups and downs of everyday family life

The winning teams will be selected in October and will receive funding and mentoring from The Design Council to develop and rapidly prototype their ideas. The new products, services or environments will be launched in autumn 2014. The teams behind the winning ideas will also receive support from an advisory board of entrepreneurs, designers, psychologists, and healthcare professionals convened by The Design Council. The total grant fund available through the Knee High Design Challenge is £740,000 which will be awarded to successful teams through a four-stage competition and selection process.

Mat Hunter, chief design officer at The Design Council, said: “If you want to make a 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.

If you want to make a 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

“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.”

Peter Hewitt, chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, added: “The charity places the highest priority on health improvement and radical healthcare innovation of benefit to our local population in Lambeth and Southwark. Our investment and partnership with The Design Council through Knee High will bring a community of talented people, networks and organisations together to support the formulation of early interventions that improve the health and wellbeing of children under five years of age.”

And Dr Ruth Wallis, joint director of public health for Lambeth and Southwark, told BBH : “This work with the Design Council is both exciting and interesting. In partnership with local families and professionals, The Knee High Project is bringing valuable new insights to improving health and reducing inequalities.”

For more information, click here.

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