Design Council backs 25 ways to improve children’s lives

The Design Council has awarded funding to 25 schemes which could improve the health and wellbeing of children under five as part of its Knee High Design Challenge.

The Knee High Design Challenge at research stage
The Knee High Design Challenge at research stage

The scheme launched in July 2013 on the back of research conducted with Southwark and Lambeth councils that found many children under five in these boroughs face social barriers preventing them from being ready to make a good start at school.

It aims to do this by combating isolation and stress in families and encouraging play and learning opportunities for children.

The Good Enough Mum's Club is one of the ideas being backed.
The Good Enough Mum’s Club is one of the ideas being backed.

The Design Council says, ‘The challenge aims to kick-start new products, services or environments that will improve the lives of under-fives in Southwark and Lambeth.’

Proposals were received from design consultancies as well as national charities, city farmers, local councils, entrepreneurs, nannies, theatre groups and families.

Ideas have included:

  • Apps for Dads by Best Beginnings and St Michael’s Fellowship: an app showing fathers how to be a Dad prior to and during the first six months of a child’s life;
  • Knee High Wearables, by Jen Lexmond and Cassie Robinson: digital clothing for kids to encourage play and boost interaction between parent and child; and
  • Kids Connect, by local entrepreneurial Mum Hannah White: a fully indexed and interactive on-line directory of children’s services in Lambeth and Southwark.
  • The Good Enough Mum’s Club is one of the ideas being backed. It proposes sharing stories of motherhood through musical theatre to inspire, empower and support parents health and wellbeing.

A range of products and services have been shortlisted under the categories tackling isolation, stimulating development, and alleviating parental anxiety. Click here for the full shortlist.

The Knee High Design Challenge at research stage
The Knee High Design Challenge at research stage

In this latest stage of the scheme The Design Council has shortlisted 25 out of 190 applicants for the Challenge, and is awarding each of the shortlisted teams £1000 for rapid-prototyping over the coming weeks.

Further rounds are expected to advance five or six of these prototypes before three are fully embedded and launched as start-up businesses, with final grants of up to £100,000 awarded in autumn 2014. These three will have been awarded £180,000 over the course of the project.

A total of £740,000 will have been donated by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity to support The Knee High Project from research to development over its lifespan.

A Design Council spokeswoman says that of the 25 projects the Design Council has ‘given a leg up to with funding’ she hopes they will all be inspired to succeed, possibly turning to backing from the private sector.

The shortlisting process at The Design Council
The shortlisting process at The Design Council

Design Council chief design officer Mat Hunter says, ‘We’re thrilled to have received such a huge and varied response. What’s great is that we will see designers working with families, large charities working with small businesses, and arts organisations working with communities.

‘This sort of collaboration could foster the kind of radical new ideas that will improve the experiences of under-fives. These years are crucial to a child’s development so formulating early interventions is vital.’

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