Finalist category: Tech4Good Diversity Award
Finalist, Tech4Good Diversity Award, 2019
Bright Little Labs is building a kids media giant for the 21st century. They make interactive stories to promote critical thinking, computer science and equality for kids aged 5+.
Currently, the UK needs 750,000 more people with digital skills to capitalise on jobs by 2020. Yet there are still people excluded from the STEM workforce. Women only make up 12.8% of the STEM workforce, and only 22% of tech executives in Silicon Valley are from a BME background. Which sucks.
So why aren’t more people taking up STEM? Well, because of a few things – mainly, 1) a lack of positive role models, and 2) limited access to equipment. This is why Bright Little Labs make products that provide a lo-fi and accessible route into coding and teach 21st Century skills to prepare ALL kids for the future
Their flagship story is about Detective Dot, an 11-year old British Indian tech-whizz who is on a dangerous mission from the Children’s Intelligence Agency (CIA). Kids join the CIA as ‘agents’ and learn to become spies, by completing STEM-focused ‘missions’ on and offline. This CIA experience provides kids with a diverse range of relatable role-models, so they can see themselves in a career in STEM.
Their website, ciakids.org, is free to access and contains content (missions) mapped against the computing curriculum giving kids an accessible route into computer science. This content, both on and offline, does not require expensive equipment or a certain level of knowledge to access. Stories are also the perfect gateway for parents who want to help their children’s understanding of key computer science concepts without feeling intimidated by the topic.
So far, Bright Little Labs have reached over 9,500 kids in 35 countries. 61% of users believe that neither boys or girls are better than the other at science, and 47% of users are extremely confident in their ability to code. Since November an 8,100 children have had a Detective Dot lesson thanks to our free curriculum packs. Over 90% of teachers say they would recommend the material to someone else.
They are widely recognised for our story-led approach to teaching 21st Century skills – the Megapack has been named ‘Top Coding Toy for Kids’ by The Independent in 2017 and the Evening Standard in 2018 and we received the EDF Stem Pulse Award 2017 (celebrating organisations who inspire kids to get into STEM).
Starting on Kickstarter in 2016, Bright Little Labs was part of the Cabinet Office backed, tech-for-good accelerator Bethnal Green Ventures. They’re now in over 35 countries and have reached thousands of kids. In 2018 they launched internet Safety Materials for schools with EDF, and partnered with Turner, who own Cartoon Network (now Warner Kids!!!) so they’re making cartoons and games too. Next, they’re releasing the first of 3 new books with a soon-to-be announced publisher, working on new stuff to teach 21st Century skills to pre-school kids and launching a YouTube channel. Boom.
Their founder and CEO, Sophie Deen, is an active advocate for diversity in kids’ media and in the tech industry. She has been named one of Computer Weekly’s ‘Most influential women in UK IT’ 2018 and ‘17, Barclays/Everywoman ‘Startup Founder of the Year’ 2017, the British Interactive Media Association’s ‘Innovator’ in 2017 and London Tech Week ‘Changemaker’ in 2018 for her work to inspire children into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
Bright Little Labs are also committed to diversity within their team too. It’s not CSR policy or just a buzzword. They spend a lot of time ensuring the best hiring practices and have developed relationships with the communities they represent in their stories. From hackers to grandparents, Bright Little Labs is committed to involving diverse voices during the creative process.
Their approach combines offline experiences, digital platforms and onscreen animations to create a 360 edutainment experience for kids around the world. More countries are making computer science and the demand for a diverse and digitally skilled workforce is only growing. Their content will serve this demand and shape who is part of this workforce of the future.