Category Archives: Davos

The Big Kids Bring Play to Davos

This week in Davos, four global corporate players – The LEGO Foundation, Unilever, IKEA Group and the National Geographic Society – launched ‘The Real Play Coalition’. As founding members, the respective CEOs are committed, “to create a movement that prioritises the importance of play as not only something that lets kids be kids, but as something that sparks the fire for a child’s development and learning.”

Each of these organizations has established its bona fides in relation to bringing a kidscentric lens to their corporate social responsibility. Collectively, The Real Play Coalition has the profile, the reach and arguably the capacity to up the ante by bringing heightened visibility and awareness to play as a public policy issue. A collaborative push that injects financial resources into research, strategies and activities will hopefully lead to outcomes that will make a difference for kids.

Newly arrived IDP children play at the IDP centre in Los Altos de Cazuca, outside Bogota. Photo credit – UNCHR.

This scenario is cause for quiet celebration. There has been a steady erosion of independent play, mobility and unprogrammed time for kids over the last two or three decades in many parts of the northern hemisphere.  In recent years a renaissance of play seems to be taking hold where risk is not demonized and resilience is embraced. This nascent movement is not founded in a nostalgic throwback to the past but in a deeply rooted belief that play is integral to our well-being informing the social, creative, physical, spiritual and cognitive dimensions of our life journey well beyond childhood.

One of the tiles by Québecois artist Gérard Dansereau on a path in Montréal’s Salamander Playground that celebrates the Conventions on the Right of the Child

The challenges facing children and families in low-income countries are of an entirely different magnitude. Endemic health problems, political turmoil and armed conflict frequently eclipse concerns about children at play. Nevertheless these kids also have a need and, more importantly, a right to play as recognized by Article 31 of the Conventions of the Right of the Child.

The world is a big place and the Coalition’s desired reach is global in scope.   What an opportunity to mobilize goodwill, to learn from different cultural traditions and to act with conviction and humility in the service of children. Success will come in part through an unwavering focus on inclusiveness, diversity and accessibility.

I say bravo to John, Paul, Jesper and Gary for embarking on this ‘good work’ and encourage other captains of industry to follow suit. Some may not think the corporate motives are purely altruistic – be that as it may.  I do believe the desire and the commitment are authentic and that kids will benefit from this remarkable gesture that invests in them.

Coalition members’ previous experience working with children in various parts of the world, a collaborative approach and access to top creative teams augur well for awareness, action and achievement of goals.

Play Lab, a model for integrating learning through play into the lives of young children in Uganda, Tanzania and Bangladesh with LEGO Foundation and other partners (2015)

Who can forget the powerful, disturbing and moving video on time spent outdoors produced by Persil UK, a member of the Unilever group.

There are so many groups that could benefit from some support to continue their good work in play. I think of the Mmofra Foundation in Accra, Ghana, of Think Playgrounds in Hanoi, Vietnam, of Basurama from Spain and active on four continents and Pop-Up Adventure Play and Glamis Adventure Playground in the UK.

What about the researchers, foundations, national and international organizations – Tim Gill (UK), Mariana Brussoni (Canada), Brendon Hyndman (Australia), The Lawson Foundation (Canada), Play Scotland and the International Play Association.

As a parent and father of five kids who has been writing and curating about play for eight years and organizing public events, I would love the opportunity to contribute to the Coalition in some capacity. I’m sure I’m not alone.

I hope that it’s a big tent getting pitched that many can play in – inclusive, not institutional, aspirational and pragmatic, business like yet full of heart and compassion.

I’m looking forward to see how it all develops and helps kids get their play on.