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THE BRIEFFIRST THE PROBLEM -> WHAT IS THE CRISIS?Children are increasingly obese, depressed and out of controlIn the UK, we have the unhappiest kids in the western worldChildren spend much less time outdoors - we think there is a link1. 80,000 children have severe clinical depression and 1/10 have mental health problems (3 in every classroom)2. 11 year olds’ common sense appreciation of the world and how it works has declined significantly over the last 20years. 11-years-olds are scoring 3 years behind their counterparts in 1990. Modern 11-year-olds understand theworld like 8-years-olds from 20 years ago.3. Screen-based entertainment at home means children are deprived of the first-hand experience necessary to getthis proper understanding of the world.4. An increasingly unstable family life adds to their unhappiness. A recent advert from JP Morgan portrayed missingchildren’s bed times as a status symbol – a sign that you are ‘investing in the future’.5. The World Health Organisation expects that by 2020, neuropsychiatric disorders in children will swell by 50%compared to other health issues. st6. A recent UNICEF report concludes that out of 25 countries in the EU, the UK scores 21 in a survey of childhoodwell-being. Only the ex-Soviet states score lower. That means unhappy kids.7. And look at what’s happening to teenagers. You can see the massive increases in drug and substance abuse,along with binge drinking, eating disorders, self-harm and suicide.THE SOLUTIONThere is no simple cause of this epidemic of childhood woes. But one change is really noticeable.The time children spend outdoors has significantly decreased in that time. It is incredibly difficult for modernchildren to develop a connection to the natural world. We think there is a link.Less than 10% of children play in natural places today compared to 40% 20 years ago. According to brain scientists,child-development experts, play gurus and some of our personal experiences as dads, children are calmest, mostfocused and stimulated when outdoors. Research clearly shows that undirected play is best for healthy development,and that is most likely to happen outdoors.So all the scientific evidence points to the conclusion that time spent in outdoor, undirected play is hugely beneficial todevelopment. And time spent on the screen or playing indoors – in other words time spent or playing in a highlydirected (and mediated) way leads to an ossification of thought patterns.There is a huge and growing body of research showing multiple physical and psychological benefits to children, andadults, from time spent in nature. Plus, affinity to nature has wider social benefits. Individuals are calmer, happier andbetter behaved, value and so take steps to protect nature and are healthier, so creating less burden on others.So why is nature off the menu? Why isn’t nature selling?Because we’ve put some pretty serious barriers in place between kids and nature.Generation by generation, children have become increasingly dislocated from nature and the outdoors by thesebarriers:
THE BARRIERSBARRIER 1: PARENTS AND WHAT THEY DO TO THEIR CHILDRENParents are more risk-averse in many ways:We worry about stranger danger – and the media is obsessed with paedophilesWe worry about their physical safety on roads from cars and from crimeWe are more indoor-oriented ourselvesWe’re much less knowledgeable about nature – many of us know only a fraction of what our parents know about thenatural worldBARRIER 2: THERE ARE MANY ALTERNATIVE THINGS FOR CHILDREN TO DOThere’s been a huge increase in the availability, the marketing and the uptake of the killer modern attention grabbers –TV, the internet, gaming, mobilesOnline social networking has replaced face-to-face connection with peersBARRIER 3: THE AVAILABLE SPACEGreen space is shrinking – empty spaces and playing fields are sold off, there are increasing restrictions on whatchildren are allowed to do in parks and on the streetsYoung people are seen as a danger, a threat. Their space is restricted and so they play at home, on screensBARRIER 4: COMMERCEMaterial values permeate societyFocus has shifted from activity in nature to acquiring stuff and being seen onlineHealth and safety and litigious culture permeates schools, play schemes and communitiesThere has been a massive increase in the advertising that invades children’s livesWe have to bust through these barriers and get children outside.THE MISSIONOur mission is to sell the outdoors to children and their parents. We sell children every product under the sun. Nowlet’s sell the sun itself.We need to get more children outdoors – they need to increase the time they spend under the sky versus under aroof. And, while they are out there, we need to try to make their experiences as rich and satisfying as possible.Let’s get kids and their parents curious, excited and engaged with outdoor and wild play, discovery, learning, hangingout, doing, making, inventing and re-connecting with nature, wild spaces and places in cities and beyond.Our focus to start with is 8 to 12 yr olds and their parentsFirst we need to brand nature – to make it as shiny, dangerous, fun, illicit, must-have and cool as crisps, telly, gamesand toys. But like yogurt, it needs to have added Vitamin D, so parents like it as well.Second, we need to communicate the benefits of brand nature to UK kids, starting with 8 – 12-year-olds and theirparents.
Here are some questions for you to ponder as you crack into this awesome challenge….What can we make and develop - communications and ideas - that can help nature compete with endless consumernovelty, shiny gadgets and advertising and marketing messages?How do we encourage wild play, discovery, experimentation and curiosity with nature even on an urban doorstep?How do we re-engage kids and their parents in the inventiveness of the outdoors? The making’ potential of beingoutside e.g how might we encourage a new culture of tree house building, camp and den-making?How could we encourage parents to give their kids some time and space alone in natural spaces and wildness, to feelsafe with play that isn’t controlled and organised, where kids could wander out of sight...?How can technology and other tools help parents and kids overcome some of both the real and perceived threats tosafety when heading outdoors including the big thorny issues like roads and stranger danger?How might we nudge kids to become active advocates, appreciators, learners and nurturers of all things living versuspassive consumers of endless material-based experiences?How can we make all of this as relevant to urban kids and communities as much as those living in more rural places?WHAT WE NEED TO CREATEA set of brand assets and a new way to express nature – things for David to explore with kids and parentsA brand identity for nature - design, language, behaviour, tone of voice, look and feel, experienceA compelling manifesto and web film stings for the brandA portfolio of amazing products and services that nature offers – to help kids and their parents reconnect with natureCommunication ideas that can build awareness, excitement and encourage behaviour changeA web platform/digital space for the brandTactics and toolkit for building community and encouraging action – both on and offlineSocial web presence and tacticsMedia - outdoor/press adsHacks, stunts, experiential, activations etcPRHow all the above builds a communication strategy, seeding and launch planPartnerships and funding to build a movementBrand partnerships and sponsorshipsCorporate and schools programsFunding pitch for additional founding partnersCrowdfunding pitch for people to get behind the campaignTechnology and digital engagement to encourage a high nature/high tech way of livingHow can we hack and visualise data creatively including biodiversity/wildlife/natural history/biology/climate andbeyond to prototype ideas that engage a wired generation to get out, explore, engage and ultimately love nature?e.g. digital products and services – games and apps – that encourage high tech/high nature living –getting outsidee.g. opening up and hacking nature data sets to create apps that engage kids and parents – overcoming barrierse.g. how can kids/parents start tracking nature in interesting ways to create citizen science opportunities
Appendix: SKYTIME IDEAOne initial app concept idea has a working title “Skytime”.The idea is to build a brand for nature around time spent accessing and engaging with it, which necessitates spendingtime out of doors, under the sky rather than under a roof/ceiling etc.We could make ‘Skytime’ a social object: the thing around which conversations can take place, the MacGuffin thestory, the grit in the oyster, the foundation of offers and asks in a campaign.Skytime starts from where our audience is. Children are fixated on using screen technology and on screenapplications. Let’s use that to interface their access to nature. We could engage both parents and children, by usingan app. The SKYTIME app.•The app measures, facilitates and incentivises- time spent outdoors- and the nature-quality of time spent outdoorsSo for example a visit to a Formula One race-track would be outdoors but the Nature content of the surroundingswould be low, and the engagement with nature low. A visit to a field of wheat would be ranked higher, but not ashighly as a game of hide and seek in some ancient woodland.