January 27, 2020

CEO of LEGO Foundation, John Goodwin, joins Alberto Lidji to talk about $100m grants in support of young children in refugee settings; the value of learning through play; and achieving systemic change

CEO of LEGO Foundation, John Goodwin, joins Alberto Lidji to talk about $100m grants in support of young children in refugee settings; the value of learning through play; and achieving systemic change.

 

A fascinating episode taking listeners from the LEGO Foundation’s origins in the 1980s to the present day.  We hear how the LEGO Group supports the Foundation and how the Foundation is focused on redefining play and re-imagining learning.

 

Learning through play is increasingly gaining traction. It is important that the activity in learning through play is meaningful for the child, that it is iterative, that it actively engages the child, and that it is socially interactive and joyful.  

 

The LEGO Foundation's grants are impressive. Over the past two years, the LEGO Foundation has made two grants of $100 million, each in support of early childhood in refugee settings.

 

In late 2018, the LEGO Foundation made a $100 million grant to Sesame Workshop to bring the power of learning through play to children affected by the Rohingya and Syrian refugee crises.

 

And, in late 2019, it made another grant to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to bring learning through play to children impacted by crises in Ethiopia and Uganda. The CEO of the IRC is David Miliband and close collaboration with the relevant governments is important.

 

We also hear how much of the thinking at the LEGO Foundation was triggered by an earlier $100 million grant made by the MacArthur Foundation and how insight from this helped shape their approach.

 

Is this $100 million grant-making which happened in late 2018 and late 2019, due to become an annual tradition?  John provides the answer and interesting context.

 

Throughout the conversation, John also sheds light on the LEGO Foundation’s work in Bangladesh, collaborating with BRAC, and its engagement with implementation partners such as Plan International, War Child, Ubongo, BIT (Behavioural Insights Group) and IPA (Innovation for Poverty Action), to name a few.

 

John's personal narrative is equally fascinating. He provides insight into his career trajectory, from engineering and accounting, to two decades at P&G and, subsequently, to the LEGO Group and the LEGO Foundation. An interesting journey that will inspire others who seek purpose in their lives.

 

There are two key takeaways John would like to share with listeners:

 

(1) No individual chooses to be displaced; they don’t choose to be a refugee. Yet, much of the narrative, unfortunately, that surrounds refugees and displaced individuals is one of negativity towards the individuals that are displaced. All of us that work in the aid sector need to ensure that we are – alongside the terrible plight that these individuals often find themselves in – also presenting to the wider society that there is hope and there can be positivity out of this, if society is more receptive to their fellow human beings. So, trying to talk about this situation in a positive light and change the narrative slightly to incorporate the opportunities that are possible if we all look more with a lens of embrace.

 

(2) There’s a wonderful richness that can come if we are able to break down our silos and embrace the opportunities that present themselves to bring our expertise and knowledge in a collective way, such that we can draw on the strengths of the private sector, we can draw on the strengths of the aid sector, we can draw on the strengths of the philanthropic sector, and we can draw on the strengths of academia. None of us believes that any one silo has the best solution, but that by coming together we can optimise and create something new that will have that systemic impact that ultimately we seek.  John encourages everyone to collaborate in a non-silo way and come at it with the open, curious mind that we advocate and espouse our children to have through learning through play.

 

Visit Lidji.org for guest bios, episode notes and useful links.  Please subscribe and share if you enjoy this podcast -- thank you!

 

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