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  • 10th Dec 2019

BIT included in consortium to bring play to refugee children with $100 million grant from The LEGO Foundation

We are thrilled to announce the launch of PlayMatters, an exciting initiative to bring ‘Learning through Play to nearly one million children impacted by humanitarian crises in Ethiopia and Uganda’. BIT joins a world-class lineup of partners — the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Plan International, War Child, Ubongo, and Innovations for Poverty Action — to receive a US$100 million award from the LEGO Foundation to bring play, skills and joy to refugee children’s lives in East Africa.

There are more than 70 million displaced people in the world, and half of them are children. In East Africa, the refugee crisis has been going on for over three decades, leaving millions of people displaced and forgotten. The current figures show an average displacement of 10 years. For a child, this means lost opportunities to enjoy a normal childhood and receive even a basic education. Together with our partners, we will work to embed opportunities for some of these children to learn through play in their day-to-day lives.

Through play, children are able to better develop their emotional, social, cognitive, creative and physical skills. Play also provides comfort, helps children overcome traumatic experiences, builds resilience, and reinforces bonds with others. Refugee children deserve the chance of a better future and the possibility to return to daily routines and the normalcy of being a child.

A key objective of PlayMatters is to incorporate playful learning into the regular interactions between children and the adults that support them, including teachers, parents, caregivers, and humanitarian practitioners. Our role as part of the partnership will be to unpack the motivations, social norms, and constraints that impact the ability of these key support networks to engage in playful interaction. We can then draw on behavioural science to design solutions that respond to the specific needs of local communities.

We will then rigorously and iteratively evaluate the impact of various programme elements to maximise effectiveness before rolling out our solutions at scale. There is scope for broader impact by sharing findings from this work to inspire other initiatives in humanitarian contexts, where evidence of what works is scarce.

With this grant, the LEGO Foundation is furthering its engagement in the humanitarian space and we at BIT are excited to be a part of it. PlayMatters also builds on a long-term collaboration between BIT and the IRC to explore the potential of behavioural insights to tackle complex challenges and improve the delivery of programmes in humanitarian contexts. This includes a project with Sesame Workshop to support Early Childhood Development in the Syria Response (funded by $100 million grants from MacArthur Foundation and the LEGO Foundation) and an initiative to reduce corporal punishment in refugee camps in Tanzania.

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