Grand Challenges Canada

— Funds will be used to support early child development and education innovations in hard-to-reach communities impacted by emergencies —

Toronto/Geneva, December 13, 2023 — The LEGO Foundation announced a USD $10M grant to Grand Challenges Canada to support Inclusive Learning in Crisis Settings, a new humanitarian grand challenge focused on supporting locally-led innovations for early childhood development and education in emergency settings. The announcement was made at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, the world’s largest gathering on refugees.

The program will draw on the insights and resources of two key portfolios at Grand Challenges Canada: Saving Brains and Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge. Since the launch of Saving Brains in 2011, several simultaneous economic, geopolitical, health and environmental shocks — a ‘polycrisis’ — have impacted child development, wellbeing, and future prospects. UNICEF estimates indicate that the need for humanitarian assistance has doubled in the last five years and increased fivefold since 2013. More than 400 million children are currently living in areas of conflict and an estimated 1 billion children are living in areas of significant vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

Inclusive Learning in Crisis Settings will support locally-led, systems-focused innovations that provide quality early child development and education programs and services for children in Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya, and Uganda, which are countries hosting a large number of refugee and displaced children and their families. Funds from the LEGO Foundation grant will be used to award nine seed projects with an average of CAD $250,000 each to develop, test, and refine their innovations. The funds will also be used to provide approximately CAD $300,000 – $1,500,000 in transition-to-scale funding of up to seven proven innovations to ensure the most promising interventions reach large numbers of children in need.

“We are thrilled to be forging this partnership with the LEGO Foundation that brings the best of our Savings Brains and Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge initiatives to establish the Inclusive Learning in Crisis Settings program,” said Dr. Fawad Akbari, the Director of Humanitarian Innovation at Grand Challenges Canada. “Through this program, we will identify, fund and nurture locally led, inclusive early child development and emergency in conflict settings to address the ‘polycrisis’ that children, their families, caregivers and communities face. Through the lessons from this program, we hope to inform and influence the child development ecosystem as a whole. We invite other partners to join us and grow it to a global initiative.”

“For over a decade, Grand Challenges Canada has supported locally-led innovation focused on healthy early childhoods through our Saving Brains portfolio of investments. Amid staggering increases in the need for humanitarian assistance in the last five years, it is imperative that we invest in supporting children in crisis settings,” said Dr. Karlee Silver, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. “We are grateful to the LEGO Foundation for their commitment to improving the lives of children.”

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About Grand Challenges Canada:
Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, Grand Challenges Canada funds innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation—known as Integrated Innovation®.

One of the largest impact-first investors in Canada, Grand Challenges Canada has supported a pipeline of over 1,400 innovations in 102 countries. Grand Challenges Canada estimates that these innovations have the potential to save up to 1.78 million lives and improve up to 64 million lives by 2030. Learn more at

About The LEGO Foundation:
The LEGO Foundation shares the mission of the LEGO Group: to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. The Foundation is dedicated to building a future in which learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. Its work is about re-defining play and re-imagining learning. In collaboration with thought leaders, influencers, educators and parents the LEGO Foundation aims to equip, inspire and activate champions for play.

About Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge:
Creating Hope in Conflict was created in 2018 as a partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the Government of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Global Affairs Canada, with support from Grand Challenges Canada. To date, Grand Challenges Canada has managed a fund of CAD $40 million that has supported over 76 innovations, including 56 seed innovations, in over 20 conflict-affected countries through the Creating Hope in Conflict (CHIC) portfolio. Following early investments by the CHIC program, supported innovators have collectively mobilized an additional CAD $44.4M, enabling innovators to increase their reach and impact in complex humanitarian settings. In the past five years, CHIC supported innovations have collectively reached some 3.5 million people in conflict-affected contexts with potentially life-improving or life-saving humanitarian innovations. Learn more: www.

About Saving Brains:
Since 2011, Grand Challenges Canada’s Saving Brains portfolio has managed a fund of CAD $77.7M that has supported over 150 innovations in early brain and child development in 35 low-and middle-income countries. To date, Saving Brains-supported innovations have had a measurable improvement in the lives of nearly 4 million children. Learn more:

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