We are 4 years into our #RadicalChildcare journey and are excited to share a film that we have made with Birmingham-based filmmaker Paul Stringer: This Is #RadicalChildcare. The film introduces an important part of the #RadicalChildcare journey and sets the scene to reframe and challenge the dominant narrative around childcare asking; How might we build a system for children fit for the 21st & 22nd century?

We think that this is a timely point at which to share it, as the press reports that the UK has plummeted from 11th to 156th in global children’s rights rankings, making us amongst the bottom 10 global performers in the arena of improving rights of the child, after it achieved the lowest-possible score across all six available indicators in the domain of Child Rights.

“This report exposes the inactivity of the current UK government and inadequate service provision in this most important area of policy making; rights of the child,” Lord Hunt said.

“The UK is the sixth largest economy globally and therefore has the resources at its disposal to ensure that our children are adequately protected and cared for across multiple disciplines. Our children are our future and the barometer of our approach to social justice and the state of our society.”

We have always strived to open up conversations and to collectively grapple with complexity out in the open, coming up with solutions and building capacity around ideas together, and we hope that this film encourages a wider conversation.

Following the #RadicalChildcare Systems Lab work, we curated 10 interdependent investment areas that we believe need to be simultaneously invested in to radically transform outcomes for children and families, co-created and generated by a range of people as part of a two day design event, after 12 months of practical and desk based research and practice. Expensive, inflexible, poor quality childcare is a symptom of a whole range of systemic challenges and lock ins. As with all of our work at Impact Hub Birmingham, we wanted to show single point social enterprises won’t ‘solve’ these complex challenges, and instead a portfolio and experimental approach would need to lead, with a whole range of scales of interventions, ideas, and actors involved from citizen-led to governmental policy.

We hope to progress the work of radicalchild.care more intentionally with a 3 year place-based initiative in Birmingham. We have had lengthy discussions with funders about how best to develop and deliver the impact of a systemic, portfolio, place-based approach that puts cititzens, children and families at the forefront of that work. At the moment, unfortunately, England has been slow to uptake this kind of bold intervention, other than with large institituions, but we see shoots of hope across the work for example in Canada, with the Winnipeg Boldness Project, and remain hopeful this kind of courage and investment will emerge in England. Meanwhile, our partners Dark Matter Labs have taken the work we co-developed during the first iteration of the systems lab work in Sweden and Scotland: check out the direction of some of this at mindshift.health. We remain ready with a strong proposal for funders ready to move in partnership.


#RadicalChildcare in 2019

As we explore our options, we continue to build the movement with passion and a range of actors, approaches and practical interventions. Amy has embarked on an MA in Early Years Education with Centre for Research in Early Childhood, wanting to better understand the theory and practice of how children participate and experience the world in order to better design with and for children in the future.

Over the summer we brought together some brilliant, artists, playworkers and practitioners to celebrate all things PLAY working with Urban Splash to curate Play Out ‘Til Tea at Port Loop in Ladywood. We’re really excited about the idea of making play a key part of future neighbourhoods to create many opportunities for everyday play for the young and old together.

This Autumn we were asked by Creative Scotland to curate a 2 day #RadicalChildcare visit for studios, artists and creative spaces from all over Scotland, exploring how to better integrate families into cultural venues and use reciprocal, flexible and affordable childcare to enable artist parents to stay working and thriving within the cultural sector. This was informed by our Children’s Membership, which has not only allowed us to experiment with leading artist-led practice, but also allowed us to look at how we shift dominant work cultures, explore the role of children and families in the workplace and how the workplace must adapt to the 21st Century. Over the years we have welcomed over 70 children and their adults and have got to work with excellent childcare practitioners, artist playworkers and parents, and we enjoyed celebrating them all at our #RadicalChildcare takeover day in October as part of the Impact Hub Birmingham Closing Festival: PAUSE.


I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience of childcare. Being just downstairs during those first weeks made it so much easier to relax, with the added bonus of being amongst fellow working parents going through the same thing – I’ve got a whole new support network now. The Children’s Membership has enabled me to increase my work hours in a way that’s affordable. Impact Hub Birmingham has been a fantastic work space with great facilities. It’s probably the most efficient three hours I work all week. I’ve met some brilliant people and have even started some new collaborations.

Long may it continue! It would be amazing to have a facility like this that ran everyday. Imagine if most employers could offer something along these lines, it could open up so many opportunities for parents of pre-school children. I love the work that FAMALAM are doing with the #RadicalChildcare project. I hope that it can help parents and employers like me to find ways to provide.” – Cheryl Jones, Parent

The Future of the Movement

The biggest shift to our current reality is that our 5 year lease in the historic Walker Building has come to an end this week, and we have not chosen to renew it. We are preparing to launch a bold new project and are firmly on a mission to help build a fairer, more equal and just city through people, place and open movements, and we’re excited to outline an ambitious new scale of vision for how we move forward and put that mission more deeply into practice, together – CIVIC SQUARE: building the neighbourhood of the future.

We’re excited that #RadicalChildcare is working towards a bricks and mortar home, embedded in a neighbourhood, in a community, with schools, children’s centres, homes, parks and places. We’re excited about how we can add value, how we can surface conversations and expand our collective learning and how we can identify ideas and bring possibility to the fore, creating a place-based movement for change, needed now more than ever before.

It is still increasingly clear that childcare across the UK is unaffordable to many, is insufficiently flexible to cater to increasingly diverse demand, fails to generate better outcomes for disadvantaged families and can undermine aims to promote children’s development. The childcare workforce is underpaid and undervalued and with 98% of the workforce female, it is a highly gendered workforce, where you can often earn more by working in McDonald’s. Government attempts to improve provision seems focused on over promising and underfunding a broken system. There is an appetite and sense of urgency amongst many parents, practitioners and experts for transformative change. From the tiny stay and play, Amy’s utopia we have quickly learned that ‘childcare’ is an archetypal systemic challenge; the childcare system is merely a symptom of a range of interdependent issues that require a collective and collaborative response, ultimately centring children as citizens in their own right. This means not getting locked into just tinkering at the edges of systems that need fundamental reform at a range of scales, but also dreaming and acting boldly about what radical new futures could look like, and building examples of that that we can all see and feel, which has always been at the heart of #RadicalChildcare and Impact Hub Birmingham’s work.


Introducing: This is #RadicalChildcare

In the #RadicalChildcare film we have brought together design thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs, parents, economists and practitioners to share their experiences and challenges in creating, sustaining and developing childcare initiatives that are flexible, affordable, equitable and relational.

How might we build a system for children fit for the 21st & 22nd Century?

This is #RadicalChildcare, and this is a #RadicalChildcare film. 



Further Reading

Parent-Led Childcare by New Economics Foundation
A new approach to childcare used in Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Italy, developed by the New Economics Foundation, turns us from passive recipients of services into active participants by combining the skill of professional workers with the lived experience of families.

Friendly Families Nursery has been established by a group of local parents who have set the vision and initial business plan for the nursery with the support of two charities (the New Economics Foundation and Coram Family and Childcare), funding from Trust for London and the Greater London Authority, and a partnership with Peabody.

Why Childcare Needs Reinvention | Amy Martin | TEDxBrum Talk

#RadicalChildcare Systems Lab