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We are entering the last stage of research and scoping for a new Design Challenge. A Design Challenge is typically an open competition that brings talented people together to use design to tackle complex social challenges. We are at the start of creating a new Challenge focusing on the health and wellbeing of children under five.
Over the past few months we have been conducting different types of research within Southwark and Lambeth in order to identify where the opportunities lie for a new approach to early years intervention. We have called this work the Knee High Design Challenge.
Inequalities that start from a young age can have a lasting impact on a person's later life, health and happiness, we want to see how we can disrupt these inequalities.
The early years of life are widely understood to be some of the most critical years. From the start of pregnancy through to the start of school, a child develops the physical, emotional, intellectual and social foundations for their future. Inequalities that start from a young age can have a lasting impact on a person's later life, health and happiness, and we want to see how a different approach to early intervention might start to disrupt these inequalities.
There are over 40,000 children under five in Southwark and Lambeth, so it felt like a good place to start. Over the past four months we have been spending a lot of time in the boroughs, involving people in various strands of research.
Here's what we've been up to:
- Working with the Innovation Unit, the team have been spending long days and long weekends with families. Understanding patterns and routines, talking about the ups and downs, seeing what really matters and what guides and influences behaviours. So far we are hearing a lot about the pressures of everyday life, the challenges of managing time, the value of networks, and perspectives of wellbeing and play. Emotional wellness, social interactions are emerging key themes.
- We have also been shadowing and interviewing people who work with children under five. We have learnt about the moments when early years professionals make a pivotal and lasting difference. We have also learnt about informal childcare, the role of extended family, and the really important role that people in the community play when they offer their kindness and support in times of need.
- Ten community researchers have been trained over the past two months to conduct some of the interviews with families themselves. The group includes dads, mums, childminders and service providers, all coming together because they care about getting this right. We have thought a lot about language, wellbeing and reading, curiosity equality and play, navigating advice, information and services, cradle-to-career evaluation, the real meaning of child poverty.
- We have been working with Coney (a organisation specialised in using play in education) to create an Adventure in Research activity for primary school children and their younger siblings. We have learnt about the capabilities a child needs to be ‘ready for the start of school’.
We are now at a stage where some themes are emerging, ideas are starting to grow, and the team are busy working up some answers to the difficult questions. Perhaps the most crucial question is: How could design have a role in creating lasting positive impact for children in their early years?
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