The Knee High Design Challenge has been a brilliant way to give us the skills and confidence that we need to take ourselves from being two parents with a problem, to directors of a company that has built the solution to that problem

Tracey Gilbert, KidsConnect

Why it matters

Despite significant investment in early years services there remain big gaps between different children’s development when they start school. There is an urgent need for new ideas and new approaches that will give every child a fair start in life.

Our experiences in the first five years of life, including the nine months of pregnancy, have a significant influence on who we are, how we relate to others, and how we develop throughout our lives. During these early years, before school begins, we learn essential social, emotional and cognitive skills, such as listening and communication, resilience and empathy, and problem solving.

How it works

The Knee High Design Challenge began by researching and reframing problems that existing approaches to public health have so far failed to address.

The Challenge posed questions to inspire new thinking and sought people with the capabilities to make new ideas come to life. The Call For Ideas document can be viewed here.

The people behind the ideas ranged from people working in the public sector who want to innovate from the inside, entrepreneurs who want to increase the impact of their work, and local parents who want to improve things in their community. 

The Challenge has brought these people together to turn their ideas into investable ventures. At every stage, families and children have been involved in the testing and making of these new products and services, which are now being used by families across Lambeth and Southwark.

Meet the teams

Six teams were launched in October 2014 after 12 months of investment and mentoring.

Three of those six have received further investment from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity to embed their products and services in Lambeth and Southwark, and to be part of a 12-month evaluation.

All six teams hope to continue their work and make a positive difference to the lives of children now and in the future.


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