The Knee High Design Challenge supported initiatives to improve the lives of children under five
We worked with the Design Council to support creative and innovative ideas that made a real difference to the lives of children under five and their families.
Who: The Design Council
Start date: July 2013
End date: May 2016
Grant value: £1,194,644
Supported through: Health Innovation Fund
The Knee High Design Challenge supported innovation and creativity to improve the health and wellbeing of children under five in Lambeth and Southwark. It was a collaboration between ourselves, the Design Council, and Lambeth and Southwark Councils.
The project asked for people with creative ideas and new approaches to improving the lives of under-fives to come forward and apply for support and funding to get their idea off the ground. These ideas could be new services, products, environments, or something else entirely. Anything that could make a real and lasting difference to children’s lives.
To help focus the ideas on those areas that will have the biggest impact, the Design Council set out three important areas for potential applicants to think about:
Knee High supported the set-up of new teams and provided them with mentoring and advice. It involved local families and service professionals in the development and testing of the new ideas, and shared the lessons and tools widely.
The design-led approach of Knee High focused on finding new solutions to long-term problems and giving chances to new ideas.
Applicants submit their ideas
25 teams are selected and given initial funding to prototype their idea
6 teams are chosen and their ideas launched
3 teams are chosen for further funding and support: KidsConnect, Creative Homes and Pop Up Parks
The Knee High Design Challenge comes to an end having developed a vision for change and a series of practical solutions for other projects.
The Knee High Challenge used a staged funding process to support entrepreneurial teams to transform good ideas into lasting and effective products and services.
It started with six months of evidence gathering to ensure that the problems facing local families were understood and the opportunities for change identified. It then launched a competition for ideas.
Twenty-five applicants were successful in receiving funding to prototype their ideas. Eleven teams were then chosen to run experiments to measure the impact of their ideas and make improvements. From these, six were chosen and their ideas were launched in October 2014.
We decided to fund three of the teams to develop them to a point where they are really able to last, to embed them into Southwark and Lambeth, and to help them get more evidence on the impact they are making. They each received around £100,000 and became part of a 12-month evaluation.
The three teams were:
“True innovation requires the belief that change is possible but also the confidence to commit to a process even though you have no idea how it’s going to turn out. The success of this programme is due not only to the creativity and determination of ventures involved, but also to Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity and Lambeth and Southwark Councils who recognised that these pressing issues of public health demanded a new approach.”
Mat Hunter, Chief Design Officer, Design Council
“What the Design Council approach does is really deeply think about the problem initially so that we have a really clear idea of what actually might make a difference. There is a definite role for design in the challenges facing the NHS. The approach of the Design Council is really valuable and I’d like to see more of that happening in the NHS.”
Ollie Smith, Director of Strategy and Innovation, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity
“I think it’s incredibly foresighted of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity… because not only have they got projects that are out there making a real impact on people’s lives, probably some of the 25 and even those who didn't get through the first stage may have been inspired by the competition to do something they otherwise wouldn't have done, but all the people who had been trained through the process might well go away and do other things because they have the confidence to do it. I am really pleased there are people out there thinking in that way.”
“The Knee High Design Challenge has really pushed us in terms of how we measure our impact and start to look at how we quantify what we do and in the end what that’s going to inform… it’s been very exciting for us to be making stress thermometers and things like that so we can understand a family’s situation without using a clipboard.”
The first five years of life, including the nine months of pregnancy, are critical in the development of a person’s life beyond childhood. It is during these early years, before school begins, that we learn essential social, emotional and cognitive skills, such as listening and communication, resilience and empathy, and problem solving.
However, there is widespread inequality in children’s development when they start school. Evidence shows that inequality at this early age can have a lasting impact on the rest of our adult lives. There is a need for new ideas and new approaches that will give every child a fair start in life.
More than one in four children lives in poverty in England, and in Lambeth and Southwark these levels are even higher - estimated to be more than one in three. Many families living within Lambeth and Southwark struggle with employment, income and housing, all of which can affect health.
Through its research, the Design Council found that there are some specific, significant problems facing families with young children in Lambeth and Southwark, namely:
The Knee High Design Challenge was born as an opportunity to come up with creative and innovative solutions to these problems.
The Design Council champions great design to improve lives. The nation-wide organisation places design at the heart of creating value by stimulating innovation in business and public services, improving the built environment and tackling complex social issues.
They look to inspire new design thinking, encourage public debate and inform government policy to improve everyday life and help meet tomorrow’s challenges today.
Over 20 creative teams were given the opportunity to test how their innovative idea would work in practice. The challenge has fostered new thinking and bold ideas that may not have been brought to fruition otherwise.
Interim evaluation of the project showed that the programme successfully generated learning and benefits beyond the core aim of catalysing innovation in early years child health and wellbeing.
Six teams received the support, funding and tools needed to take their ideas forward and make a lasting impression on families in Lambeth and Southwark. The three teams with additional funding took part in a 12-month evaluation into how far their ideas have improved the lives of children under five.
Based on the experience over the past three years, the programme published: