Helping Kids Be Kids: A Corporate Funder Supports the Right to Play In a Harsh World

photo: dinosmichail/shutterstock

photo: dinosmichail/shutterstock

Over the past few years, we’ve watched the Ikea Foundation expand its international philanthropic presence in an impressive way. This funder has become a major player in providing relief to the over 65 million refugees who have fled violence in their countries or have otherwise been forcibly displaced from their homes. For example, it recently awarded Save the Children a €1 million grant to help Rohingya children fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh in search of safe harbor. The Ikea Foundation's broader agenda also includes combating child labor and empowering women and girls.  

    Over 600,000 Rohingya people have crossed the border into Bangladesh to escape the violence that erupted in August. Of those refugees, approximately 60 percent are children and over 1,000 are unaccompanied or otherwise separated from their families. Many, if not most, of these children lack basic human needs such as food, water and shelter. Save the Children is using the Ikea grant to provide protection services and expanded education spaces for the children. It is also meeting the immediate basic needs of kids and their families with the provision of water, high-energy biscuits and emergency latrines.

    Ever since the Ikea Foundation began increasing its philanthropic activities, children have been major beneficiaries of its grantmaking. As part of that, the foundation is also fighting for children’s right to play.

    Play is a critical component of the cognitive and physical development of children and cultivates their imagination and coordination. Unfortunately, the importance of play is often underestimated, with few private funders paying attention to this issue. 

    The Ikea Foundation is among the exceptions. Recently, it granted $53 million through its Let’s Play for Change campaign. The campaign, now in its second year, focuses on children’s right to play, and has made donations to poor communities around the world to support children’s development, equal participation, sports and play. The campaign is distributing its latest round of funding among multiple organizations including Handicap International, Save the Children, Special Olympics, Room to Read, UNICEF and War Child. The money will fund safe spaces for kids to play and develop.

    “Every child has the right to play,” says Per Heggenes, CEO at the IKEA Foundation. “Sadly,” Heggenes says, “there are too many places around the world where devastating circumstances prevent children from simply being kids.” He’s not wrong. Of the over 65 million refugees and displaced people in the world, more than half are children under the age of 18.

    Considering those sobering statistics, $53 million to give kids safe spaces to run, laugh and make friends doesn’t seem so outside of the flatpack box.

    As it continues to throw substantial financial support behind some pretty big global development and humanitarian organizations, the Ikea Foundation is worth keeping a close eye on. In fact, keep an eye on Ikea as as whole, since the global retailer has pledged to give away at least 3 percent of its profits annually. As Ikea's profits increase, so, too, does its foundation’s grantmaking.