Lego launches global competition to tackle early years development

Published on: 17th February 2022

The Build A World of Play Challenge, launched in The Lego Company’s 90th year, seeks ideas for solving the biggest global challenges facing kids – and is offering $143m in grant money.

The Lego Foundation has announced a $143m global challenge to uncover bold and impactful solutions focused on early childhood in what CEO Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen says will address a ‘global early childhood emergency’ characterised by a loss of access to services and support, exacerbated by the global pandemic.

Launched by The Lego Foundation, the Build A World of Play Challenge will enable any organisation capable of making a positive impact on young children anywhere in the world to bid for a portion of the $143m grant. The amount is equivalent to 900m Danish Kroner, reaffirming the Lego Foundation’s commitment to ensuring children across the globe are given opportunities to learn through play. The company says the grant money will be used to support kids’ early learning and the development of holistic skills, ensuring children everywhere thrive and reach their full potential in life.

Grants will be awarded to those exploring evidence-based innovative solutions to the biggest problems of today, including: access to quality early childhood education and care, adequate nutrition, eradication of toxic stress in homes and communities, reduction of violence in homes and communities, protection from pollution, and social and emotional family well-being. The solutions should make a substantial contribution to the lives of children from birth to six years old, and spark a global movement to prioritise early years development.

“All children have the right to feel safe and have access to quality education and healthcare,” said Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, chair of the Board of Directors at The Lego Foundation and the fourth-generation representative of the Lego-owner family. “But to date, early childhood development has been not just under recognised, but grossly underfunded. Children are the builders of tomorrow. If we do not invest in the youngest children in our society, we do not invest in our collective future.”

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen added: “We are currently facing the biggest global early childhood emergency that the world has ever seen. The quality of experiences in the first few years of a child’s life, when brain development is in its most adaptive and rapidly developing state, provide the foundations for learning, health and behaviour in the long-term – investment in which we know improves educational outcomes, develops holistic skills, and enhances quality of life. Providing whole-child support through early childhood development interventions is one of the most powerful and cost-effective equalisers we have at our disposal. Through the Build A World of Play Challenge, we want to join forces with others to urgently address the biggest challenges societies globally face, with creative, actionable ideas that put children at the centre of global decision making. We must start building a world that puts the youngest in society first: building cities, education systems, healthcare systems and solutions to save our planet, at the forefront. This competition is an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of the youngest children.”

The grant will be available to the five winning organisations globally: there will be three grants of approximately $30m each and two grants approximately $15m each. In addition, the 10 organisations selected as finalists will receive $1m each to strengthen their proposed plans, start building their team, and skill up to successfully implement their innovation. Potential applicants must register by 7th April 2022. The deadline for submissions is 17th May 2022.

All entrants will need to complete an online application here. Factors that will determine the winners include how impactful, feasible, community-centred, and sustainable their applications are.

The Build a World of Play Challenge is being managed by Lever for Change, a non-profit associate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that leverages its networks to find and fund solutions to the world’s greatest challenges – including racial and gender equity, economic development and climate change.


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