Playful Learning With LEGO Foundation

By: Sarah Brown, Executive Chair, Global Business Coalition for Education
It was a truly strange feeling to be in the LEGOLAND Hotel in Billelund, Denmark without children. The sight of the LEGOLAND Park out of the windows and huge models that dotted the hotel lobby were an unmistakable draw for any child. I had to remind myself that I was actually there to join the LEGO Foundation’s roundtable discussion on Learning and Play – and especially to contribute to the discussion of how to reach the world’s most marginalized children.
The LEGO Foundation was first established in 1986 as the philanthropic arm of one of the world’s most trusted brands, focused largely on early childhood development (ECD). Last week, the Foundation hosted its first IDEA conference at its home in Billelund to bring together academics, educationalists and innovators dedicated to exploring the issue of quality learning. Billelund prides itself on its commitment to education and as the Capital of Children, has its own pioneering LEGO school with a playful learning approach to educating the “builders of tomorrow.” Here learning is fun and vice versa, and the drive exists to explore ever better ways to ensure children learn all the skills that will equip them for life.
The conversation at the roundtable focused on identifying strategies for effective philanthropic investment with leading early years academics from Harvard and Temple Universities as well as Pia Rebello Britto[G1]  from UNICEF. I joined to speak on behalf of  GBC-Education and also to share the campaign goals of A World at School together with GBC-Education advisory board member and Brooking’s Center for Universal Education Director, Rebecca Winthrop[G2] The discussion centered on quality, innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit needed to repeatedly try different approaches to learn. The need for measurement was also emphasized while highlighting the work of the Brookings’ Learning Metrics Task Force[G3] .
Joining Stephan Turnipseed, President Emeritus and Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships of LEGO Education for a catch up afterwards, I got a report back on the ‘Business Case for Early Childhood Webinar’ [G4] that was held last week, hosted by GBC-Education, the Center of Universal Education at Brookings (CUE) and ReadyNation/America’s Edge.  The webinar kicked off a new partnership between CUE and GBC-Education – Business for Early Childhood Development (Biz4ECD).  This partnership aims to raise the awareness of the economic and social benefits of early childhood development amongst the business community and accelerate the involvement of business in influencing developing country ECD policies, programs and investments at the corporate, national and global levels.
Driven by the interest of our members, it has become clear that the Coalition holds a strong interest in early years with start of life investment leading up to a successful start in school.  This leads to the business case for investing in ECD – quality early childhood interventions are necessary to ensure children learn and have a higher chance of graduating from high school with the skills needed to contribute to the workforce.
To find out more about the early years activities of GBC-Education and how you can get involved with Biz4ECD, please contact Kevin Kalra at [email protected]