LEGO Foundation launches $143m global competition to change the early years
The Sector > Research > Other > LEGO Foundation launches $143m global competition to change the early years

LEGO Foundation launches $143m global competition to change the early years

by Freya Lucas

February 18, 2022

The LEGO Foundation is looking for bold and impactful solutions focused on early childhood to address what CEO Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen says is a “global early childhood emergency”. 


Ms Albrectsen announced the biggest ever public grant provided by The LEGO Foundation of US$143 million in recognition of the LEGO® brand’s 90th year, calling for transformational ideas to help solve the biggest global challenges facing children aged between birth and six years of age. 


The Build A World of Play Challenge will enable any organisations who can make a positive impact on the youngest children anywhere in the world to bid for a proportion of the USD 143 million grant, reaffirming the LEGO Foundation’s commitment in the LEGO® brand’s 90th year to ensure children globally are given opportunities to learn through play. 


Grants will be awarded to those exploring evidence-based innovative solutions to the biggest problems of today such as 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 supporting the social and emotional well-being of the whole family. 


The solutions should make a substantial contribution to the lives of children from birth to six years of age, and be positioned to 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. But to date, early childhood development has been not just under recognised, but grossly underfunded,” Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, Chair of the Board of Directors at The LEGO Foundation, and the fourth-generation representative of the LEGO owner family said. 


“Children are the builders of tomorrow. To build a better world for future generations – focusing on innovation and action – we must work together. If we do not invest in the youngest children in our society, we don’t invest in our collective future.”


In the 90th year of the LEGO brand, investment in early years development is more important than ever. Between March 2020 and February 2021, 167 million children in 196 countries lost access to early childhood care and education services


Pre-primary students were the least likely to have access to remote learning, impacting 120 million children.


“We are currently facing the biggest global early childhood emergency that the world has ever seen,” Ms Albrectsen said. 


“The quality of experiences in the first few years of a child’s life is where brain development is in its most adaptive and rapidly developing state. They also 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 equalizers 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.”


She encouraged thought leaders to consider how their organisations can “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.”


Five organisations globally will share in the prize, with three grants of approximately USD 30 million each and two grants approximately USD 15 million each. In addition, the 10 organisations selected as finalists will receive USD 1 million each to strengthen their proposed plans, start building the team, and skill up to successfully implement their innovation. 


Potential applicants must register by April 7, 2022. The deadline for submissions is May 17, 2022. All entrants will need to complete an online application. Factors that will determine the winners include, among other things, 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.


More details on the Build a World of Play Challenge can be found here

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