Knee High Design Challenge

Joseph Maduma
Today 10:27

Design Council is inviting families, designers, entrepreneurs, early-years professionals, artists, businesses and charities to enter the open competition. The search for ideas, called the Knee High Design Challenge, is run by Design Council in collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, who are the sole funder of the programme, and the London Boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth.

“If you want to make positive impact in the world, there is no better way than to support the youngest in our society, to help them get the best start in life.”

Mat Hunter, Chief Design Officer at Design Council

Working in partnership with the borough’s Public Health teams, six months of research was undertaken with local families and professionals to identify where the greatest opportunities lay to make the most significant impact on a child’s early development. Designers, early years specialists, and ethnographers engaged with over one hundred local families, following their daily routines and working collaboratively to spot and prioritise opportunities for change.

For example, many families became isolated when their children were born due to the anxieties and practicalities of leaving the home. Isolation and loneliness can cause serious and long-term effects on families’ emotional and social wellbeing. The research found that many children also needed more opportunities to play and interact with others in the very early years in order to develop their early social, emotional and cognitive skills. It is important that this development happens early on as by the time a child is three years old their brain is already largely developed.


Design Council seeks to uncover radical new ideas to tackle these complex issues by putting local families at the heart of the change, and supporting innovative new start-ups. Following the research phase, Design Council has created three briefs to guide and inspire people to come up with great new ideas that will have a significant impact. The three briefs call for ideas that will;

1. Connect more families to the people and places beyond the boundaries of their homes.
2. Make it possible for more young children to learn and develop in their everyday lives.
3. Alleviate the stress, anxiety and depression experienced by parents during the ups and downs of everyday family life.


The winning teams will be selected in October 2013. They will receive funding and mentoring from the Design Council to develop and rapid prototype their ideas. The new products, services or environments will be launched in autumn 2014. The teams behind the winning ideas will receive support from an advisory board of entrepreneurs, designers, psychologists, and healthcare professionals convened by Design Council.