Play for Fun and Play to Learn

The LEGO Group

4. Quality Education 17. Partnerships for the Goals

Overview

The Lego Group channels its philanthropic activities through the Lego Foundation. These activities aim to bring a playful learning experience to children and empower them to be creative, engaged, and lifelong partners. The LEGO Foundation shares the mission of inspiring and developing the builders of tomorrow with the LEGO Group. The LEGO Foundation's learning through play initiative aims at providing quality education through playful learning. The foundation established global partnerships to promote and support its innovation. The LEGO Foundation has partnered with humanitarian NGOs, such as the Aga Khan Foundation, UNICEF, Right to Play, RTI International, and BRAC. The LEGO Foundation, IKEA, Unilever’s Persil, and OMO, and National Geographic founded the Real Play Coalition to provide resources for parents, teachers, and other individuals involved in child educational development to create playful learning opportunities.

Additionally, the LEGO Foundation has partnerships with educational and government agencies in its core geographical areas. National government interest in integrating the play-based learning approach encouraged the foundation to establish ground operations in these locations. Furthermore, the LEGO Foundation sought to build upon existing humanitarian efforts in such countries since Mr. Renvillard observed that 'it always starts with something where we think we can add value to something else already there.'

Authors

Mei Mei Monahan

Mei Mei Monahan

Rohit Dutta

Rohit Dutta

Brendan McCole

Brendan McCole

Ruicong Gao

Ruicong Gao

School

Dublin City University Business School

Dublin City University Business School

Professors

Gavin Brown

Gavin Brown

Roisin Lyons

Roisin Lyons

Innovation

The LEGO Foundation's learning through play initiative and its partners have established programs to provide the necessary skills, training, and play materials to engage children in playful learning to parents, teachers, and other stakeholders involved in children's holistic development. Michael Renvillard, Initiatives Lead of the global programs at the LEGO Foundation, highlighted the foundation's core principle of 'learning from a skills development perspective,' rather than engaging in traditional child pedagogy methods. The foundation's goal is to develop physical, emotional, creative, social, and cognitive skills through play. Mr. Renvillard noted that the 'rationale of the LEGO Foundation is [to] develop these skills [...] to be more ready for the future'. The LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group share an overall sense of mission and vision 'to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow' by introducing play into children's everyday lives.

Following the limitations in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the LEGO Foundation adapted its approach to face many challenges. The regular hands-on approach had to be shifted to a 'distance learning support' system, according to Mr. Renvillard. He also mentioned that the foundation developed activities that ‘can be shared worldwide through radio programs, through home engagement and online activities' to encourage playful learning opportunities between children and parents at home. This information transfer meant that learning through play activities was disseminated effectively, reaching disadvantaged families who may not have access to online resources. Furthermore, Mr. Renvillard observed that distanced learning has encouraged the foundation to increase ‘social and emotional support’ through this new way of doing things.

Furthermore, the foundation set up two initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first initiative involved a $15 million US dollar donation to Education Cannot Wait to support children through playful learning, especially those vulnerable, during the global pandemic. It is a project that provides emergency humanitarian funding for education in areas ‘affected by crisis or war conflict’, noted Mr. Renvillard. The second initiative, called 'Let's Build Together,' is a collaboration between the LEGO Group and LEGO Foundation. Mr. Renvillard noted that the project aimed at creating activities to help parents 'engage in playful moments with their children'. The program encourages children to showcase their creations on social media platforms using the tag #letsbuildtogether. This program promoted child engagement in playful learning activities. The learning through play programs are designed to bring playful learning experiences to schools, at home, and to the learning environment.

Play for Fun and Play to Learn

Inspiration

The LEGO Foundation’s goal was to create an innovation that is accessible to children worldwide. Playful learning can be translated across cultures, boundaries, and socio-economic backgrounds. According to Mr. Renvillard, the foundation is ‘not promoting LEGO play’; rather, they are ‘promoting play,’ in general, to ensure social inclusion. Thus, the foundation has developed projects to cater to children who may not have access to LEGO bricks or other play materials. Mr. Renvillard noted that parents had been reassured by learning through play practitioners that ‘it’s not about money, and it’s not about time.’ Play can take place at any time with any kind of resources. The foundation is trying to create play materials out of recycled items, like plastic bottles and cardboard. Mr. Renvillard stated that the foundation wants to ‘translate this idea of taking things apart and being able to rebuild with something that is not LEGO.’ They invented methods of creating small connecting pieces using such materials to build creations that are reconstructable and designed a new innovative way of creating play materials to make ‘learning through play’ accessible to children across the globe.

Overall impact

The learning through play initiative has garnered widespread support through its connections with NGOs, governments, and individuals, all of whom aid the foundation’s objective of providing positive change to the lives it reaches. The initiative has also gained the support of the children and parents. The LEGO Play Well review in 2018 reported that 83% of children agreed that they learn better and learn more through play, while 81% of children and 93% of parents think that play-based learning should be integrated into educational environments. Therefore, it is evident that this innovation is perceived by many as having a significant practical and effective benefit.

Moreover, the long-term success of this initiative can be felt with the establishment of the LEGO Idea Studio, a research lab aimed at creating sustainable learning through play activities that expand and encourage playful learning opportunities and experiences. The studio invites participants to create their own imaginative creations. The playfutures community has been working towards educating millions of children to provide them with the skills needed for adulthood. Moreover, the LEGO Foundation’s annual Idea Conference is attended by 300 plus participants who are international researchers, thought leaders, government, and social representatives. These individuals discuss new ideas to create new ways of child learning at such an event. The idea studio and idea conference provides further evidence that the foundation has gained considerable support to implement the playful learning innovation. The foundation is continuously developing new projects with various partners to impact children’s lives further positively. Mr. Renvillard noted that in the future, the foundation looks to 'increase efforts on advocacy, finding other organizations with the same understanding' from a skills development perspective. He further noted that ‘the present scenario has widened the scope to reach out to children who are falling behind and the LEGO foundation looks to be there for every child who needs assistance and also promote skills development, most importantly social-emotional support.’

Business benefit

The LEGO Foundation’s learning through play initiative has led to the LEGO Group's association with the humanitarian mission of providing accessible quality education to children worldwide from different socio-economic backgrounds. It has increased the breadth and width of its reach and increased brand and product awareness in the countries where the initiative has been introduced. The company has successfully partnered with different governments and NGOs to promote its brand and leave a global imprint with its toys and initiatives. Furthermore, the company’s goal to provide toy materials that offer equal educational opportunities to children worldwide has influenced the company’s decision to introduce LEGO braille bricks to teach children braille in a playful learning environment. This development has increased the accessibility of its products to children with visual impairments and ensured that its products are persistent in its mission to be socially inclusive.

Social and environmental benefit

The LEGO Foundation’s innovation has benefited society in many ways by impacting the lives of millions of children throughout the world in the educational arena. The foundation has noted that there are 825 million children in low or middle-income countries who will reach adulthood without the necessary skills to succeed in life. Therefore, the LEGO Foundation’s programs and projects help minimize such numbers by implementing their innovation into children’s homes and national education systems worldwide. The foundation has also answered the need of the hour during the COVID-19 pandemic by launching niche programs to alleviate some of the stress placed on families to keep children actively engaged and curious during this time and its support through financial aid to different educational initiatives. Mr. Renvillard noted that the present COVID-19 situation has affected children 'whether they are in Europe, the U.S. or in developing countries' and that the LEGO Foundation through its initiatives aims at addressing the situation currently, as well as in the future, by 'bringing social-emotional support in a more systematic way' to children. These initiatives are focused on aiding all children – from the ones who are most vulnerable and living in refugee camps and war-torn countries to the ones waiting out a community quarantine. The foundation’s innovation is creating equal opportunities for children to succeed in life by using learning through play techniques and activities to develop the necessary skills needed to survive and thrive in life.

Interview

Michael Renvillard, Initiatives Lead for the Global Programmes

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The LEGO Group

The LEGO Group

Billund, DK

Business Website: https://www.lego.com/en-ie/

Year Founded: 1932

Number of Employees: 5001 to 10000

The LEGO Group's mission is to inspire and develop future builders through play. The LEGO Group transferred 25% of its ownership to the LEGO Foundation to spearhead and fund its not-for-profit activities, including the Learning Through Play initiative. The Learning Through Play initiative focuses on the holistic development of children aged 0-12 worldwide and has reshaped the educational landscape in its core geographical areas - Denmark, Ukraine, Mexico, and South Africa. The LEGO Foundation caters to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals - (i) SDG 4 - Quality Education & (ii) SDG 17 - Partnerships