Each LEGO® Idea Conference features some of the most inspiring and influential speakers on topics related to learning and education and early childhood development. From young protagonists trying to change the system to established voices who are part of a deep-rooted way of thinking about learning and education. We invite thought leaders, practitioners, researchers and social innovators to share their insights on new ways of learning that will equip and empower children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners.

We will be adding speakers for the 2019 conference to this page as they are confirmed.

Ziauddin Yousafzai
Co-founder of Malala Fund and Malala's father
Dr Pia Rebello Britto
Chief of Early Childhood Development, UNICEF
John Goodwin
CEO, the LEGO Foundation
Ariel Kalil
Professor and Director, Center for Human Potential and Public Policy
Jack P. Shonkoff
Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
Jennifer Kotler Clarke
Vice President of Content Research & Evaluation at Sesame Workshop
Karima Grant
Director, ImagiNation Africa
Ralph Smith
Managing Director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR)
Rukmini Banerji
CEO Pratham Education Foundation
Marc H. Bornstein
President of the Society for Research in Child Development
Luis Benveniste
Director of Education Global Practice
Sarah Hutchinson
Partner, Neimand Collaborative
Paul Ramchandani
LEGO Professor of Play, PEDAL Centre, University of Cambridge
Maniza Ntekim
Regional Adviser Early Childhood Development
Eduardo Queiroz
Secretary of Articulation and Partnership, Ministry of Citizenship of Brazil
Pasi Sahlberg
Professor of Education Policy, Gonski Institute, UNSW Sydney
Jamie M. Lachman
Co-founder, Parenting for Lifelong Health
Sumitra Pasupathy
Country Director Ashoka Singapore, Malaysia
Matt Glickmann
Founder and president of Promise Venture Studio

Ziauddin Yousafzai is a co-founder of Malala Fund and Malala’s father. For many years, Ziauddin served as a teacher and school administrator in his home country of Pakistan. When the Taliban invaded their home in Swat Valley, Ziauddin peacefully resisted their efforts to limit personal freedoms. Speaking out put Ziauddin at risk, but he feared remaining silent would be far worse. Inspired by her father’s example, Malala began publicly campaigning for girls’ education. Due to her increased prominence, Malala was attacked by the Taliban two years later. Malala survived and was transported to the U.K. for treatment. Ziauddin, his wife, Toor Pekai and their two sons joined Malala in Birmingham. Determined to continue their campaign, Ziauddin and Malala founded Malala Fund in 2013. Together they champion every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, quality education. His first book “Let Her Fly” is on parenthood and fighting for equality.


Website: www.malala.org

Twitter: @ZiauddinY

Featured videos about Ziauddin Yousafzai

My daughter, Malala

Malala & Ziauddin Yousafzai in conversation about ‘Let Her Fly’

“My stuttered speech became the voice of my people”

Dr Pia Britto joined UNICEF in 2014 as Chief of Early Childhood Development, bringing with her many years of expertise in early childhood policy and programmes. Prior to joining UNICEF she was an Assistant Professor at Yale University and is internationally renowned for her work on developing, implementing and evaluating early childhood programmes and policies around the world. This includes providing evidence for developing models for quality early childhood services to improve learning and development; the role of governance and finance in national systems in achieving equity; promoting positive parenting and the role of parents and caregivers; and global and national measurement to track results. Dr Britto has been the recipient of various awards and grants; has published articles, books and reports; and made numerous presentations at both academic and non-academic conferences and seminars. She obtained her doctoral degree in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University.


Website: www.unicef.org

Twitter: @piarebello


Featured videos about Dr Pia Rebello Britto

Successful transitions from home and preschool to primary school

Call to Action

John Goodwin joined the LEGO Foundation as CEO in April 2017 to pursue a career where he could combine his business skills with his passion for philanthropy and driving positive social impact.
The LEGO Foundation is dedicated to influencing parents, teachers and policy makers to adopt learning through play as the most powerful means for children to acquire the broad suite of skills needed to thrive in today’s world – and to provide the evidence and advocacy to support it. Prior to being appointed CEO of the LEGO Foundation, Mr Goodwin held a position as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the LEGO Group with responsibilities comprising finance, corporate IT, corporate social responsibility, external relations, corporate business services, legal affairs and procurement. In addition to his paid employment, Mr Goodwin is an active leader and contributor in the charitable sector where he serves on various Boards.

Ariel Kalil is a professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. At Harris, she directs the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy and co-directs the Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab. She also holds appointments as an adjunct professor in the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen, Norway and in the School of Business Administration at the University of Stavanger, Norway. She is a developmental psychologist who studies economic conditions, parenting, and child development. Her current research examines the historical evolution of income-based gaps in parenting behavior and children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills. In addition, at the Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab, she is leading a variety of field experiments designed to strengthen parental engagement and child development in low-income families using tools drawn from behavioral economics and neuroscience. Kalil received her PhD in developmental psychology from the University of Michigan.


Website: www.biplab.uchicago.edu

Twitter: @HarrisBIPLab

Featured videos about Ariel Kalil
Video by How Can We Improve Social Mobility?
Video by Unleashing Children's Potential: The Power of Innovative Policy

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., is the Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education; Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital; and Director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. He has received multiple honors, including elected membership to the National Academy of Medicine, the Aldrich Award in Child Development from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Distinguished Contributions to Social Policy Award from the Society for Research in Child Development. He Chaired the Board on Children, Youth, and Families at the National Academy of Sciences and led a blue-ribbon committee that produced the landmark report, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. In 2011, he launched Frontiers of Innovation, a science-based R&D platform to drive breakthrough outcomes for young children and families facing adversity.


Website: www.developingchild.harvard.edu

Twitter: @HarvardCenter

Featured videos about Jack P. Shonkoff

Dr. Jennifer Kotler Clarke is the Vice President of Content Research & Evaluation at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street and other educational initiatives for children. Jennifer leads a team that conducts research projects across the globe focused on a variety of curricular areas (e.g. literacy, STEM, social-emotional well-being, executive function, health) across media platforms (television, web, apps, print materials). She also spearheads Sesame Workshop studies designed to illuminate issues important for children’s positive development. Using an array of methodologies to support projects from conception to completion and working with academic and research institutions to evaluate efficacy, Jennifer and her team translate data into recommendations that maximize the impact of Sesame’s content around the world. Jennifer has been interviewed on numerous occasions in the national media (e.g. NPR, The New York Times, Washington Post, The Huffington Post, NBC, C-Span, CNN) and has been the keynote speaker at conferences and events in several countries. She writes opinion pieces and articles for lay audiences as well as papers and presentations for academic journals and conferences. Jennifer graduated from Cornell University with a BS in Human Development and Family Studies. She went on to receive her master’s degree in Human Development from the University of Kansas and a Ph.D. in Child Development and Family Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She is on a life-long mission to visit all units of the National Park Service and is an avid bird photographer.

Karima Grant founded ImagiNation Afrika in Dakar, Senegal in 2011. As Director, she leads a team creating a innovative educational programming integrating local culture, play and experiential learning to develop creative and critical thinking for over 12,000 children across Senegal. Karima has always believed in a world of African children changemakers solving the problems of development. As a writer, leadership facilitator and former educator with over twenty years experience, Karima develops ImagiNation Afrika’s programs from the belief that curiosity is an anchor for lifelong learning. In 2016, Karima was selected as an Ashoka Re-Imagine Learning Fellow. ImagiNation Afrika works for the development of the whole child by creating child-centered public spaces, partnering with institutions that nourish child development and by accompanying parents and communities, ultimately building an ecosystem that allows children to thrive and lead in the 21st century. Ker ImagiNation is ImagiNation Afrika’s learning and innovation hub, the first space of its kind dedicated to play-based learning in West Africa. To date, Ker ImagiNation has hosted over 5,000 children and continues to inform all of ImagiNation Afrika’s wider programming work.


Website: www.imaginationafrika.org/en

Twitter: @coumbabang72



Featured videos about Karima Grant

Creativity will be the driving force of development in Africa

Jouer est essentiel

Ralph Smith is managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR), an effort to disrupt generational poverty by promoting early school success for children from low-income families. CGLR’s networks include 300+ communities, and 4,100 local organizations and agencies supported by more than 700 state and local funders. As senior vice president for the Casey Foundation, Smith led initiatives to help communities improve child outcomes by strengthening families and neighborhoods. Smith taught corporate law while a member of the law faculty at the University of Pennsylvania for two decades, during which time he also served as chief of staff and special counsel for the School District of Philadelphia, and as a senior advisor to Philadelphia’s mayor. Smith was the architect of the school district’s landmark voluntary desegregation plan, negotiated some of the nation’s first education reform-driven teacher contracts and led the development of Children Achieving, a blueprint supported by the Annenberg Challenge.


Website: www.gradelevelreading.net

Twitter: @readingby3rd

Rukmini Banerji is Chief Executive Officer of Pratham Education Foundation. Trained as an economist in India, she completed a BA at St Stephen’s College and attended Delhi School of Economics. She was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and later earned her Ph. D at the University of Chicago. She returned to India in 1996 and has been with Pratham ever since. Rukmini has extensive experience in the field – working directly with rural and urban communities as well as in designing and implementing large scale partnerships with governments. For many years, she led Pratham’s research and assessment efforts including the well-known ASER initiative (Annual Status of Education Report) from 2005 to 2014. Originally from Bihar, Rukmini now is based in Delhi. She enjoys writing stories for children.


Website: www.pratham.org

Marc H. Bornstein is President of the Society for Research in Child Development.  He holds a B.A. from Columbia College, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University, and honorary doctorates from the University of Padua and University of Trento. Bornstein has held faculty positions at Princeton University and New York University as well as visiting academic appointments in Munich, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Bamenda (Cameroon), Seoul, Trento, Santiago (Chile), Bristol, Oxford, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, London. Bornstein is Editor Emeritus of Child Development and founding Editor of Parenting: Science and Practice. He has administered both Federal and Foundation grants, sits on the editorial boards of several professional journals, is a member of scholarly societies in a variety of disciplines, and consults for governments, foundations, universities, publishers, the media, and UNICEF.  Bornstein has published widely in experimental, methodological, comparative, developmental, and cultural science as well as neuroscience, pediatrics, and aesthetics.

Dr. Luis Benveniste is the Practice Director for the Education Global Practice of the World Bank. He was a co-author of the World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development. Dr. Benveniste’s research interests focus on teacher policies and student assessment practices. Other publications include Teaching in Cambodia (2008), with J. Marshall and M. Araujo, Teaching in Lao PDR (2008), with J. Marshall and L. Santibaez, “The political structuration of assessment: Negotiating State power and legitimacy,” in A.H. Halsey, P. Brown, H. Lauder & J. Dillabough (eds.), Education: Globalisation and Social Change (2006) and All Else Equal (2003), with M. Carnoy and R. Rothstein–a book on accountability and the organization of public and private schools in the U.S. Dr. Benveniste has also previously worked on a wide variety of World Bank education projects in Africa and East Asia and Pacific. He received a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Psychology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in International Comparative Education from Stanford University.


Website: www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education

Twitter: @WBG_Education

Sarah helps nonprofits, foundations and corporations to create social impact through early childhood education, improvements in health policy, and financial inclusion. After more than a decade promoting the value of high-quality early childhood education in the United States, her work is now focused on helping organizations deliver equitable access to high-quality programs. She spearheaded the development and execution of social impact campaigns across a range of clients including The Heckman Equation, The First Five Years Fund, Invest in US and the Foundation for Child Development. Sarah has also worked with practitioners such as Boston Public Schools, Guilford County Schools and North Carolina Smart Start. Sarah develops strategy and leads project teams to mount successful campaigns that build public awareness, leverage political support, and advance policies that create wide scale change.


Website: www.neimandcollaborative.com

Twitter: @sarahhobgood

Paul Ramchandani is LEGO Professor of Play in Education, Development and Learning at Cambridge University, UK. He also works as a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in the UK National Health Service.
He undertook his medical studies in Southampton before obtaining a degree in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Prior to taking up his appointment in Cambridge in January 2018, Paul led the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Group at Imperial College London. Paul’s research has focussed on mental health and he has a particular interest in the development of play and the prevention of emotional and behavioural problems in the early years of life. Details of the current work of the PEDAL team, and recent publications can be found at the PEDAL Hub website.


Website: www.pedalhub.net

Twitter: @paulramchandani

Maniza joined UNICEF ESARO in April 2018. Prior to taking up this post she was Senior Programme Officer at the Open Society Foundations (OSF) where she led on OSF’s global ECD advocacy programme, supported ECD systems strengthening in Africa and represented the Private Sector and Private Foundations on the Global Partnership for Education’s Country Grants Committee. Maniza has worked as a policy advisor and advocate for the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Amnesty International UK and the Confederation of British Industry which is the UK’s largest employers’ federation. She has consulted for Save the Children UK, UNESCO, Oxford Policy Management and DfID. Maniza’s relationship with UNICEF begun in 2007 when she worked as an education advisor in Rwanda and Tanzania. Maniza holds a Masters in International Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Oxford.

Eduardo Queiroz holds a degree in Business Administration with specialization from Fundação Getúlio Vargas and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He began his career in investment banking where he worked for approximately 11 years. From 2003 to 2006 he was Executive Director and Counselor of Outward Bound Brazil. From 2007 to 2008 he was Executive Director of Outward Bound Mexico. From 2009 to 2011 he was Special Advisor to the Secretary of Education of the State of São Paulo. From 2011 to 2018 he was the Chief Executive Officer of the Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation. Since February 2019 he is the National Secretary of Articulation and Partnerships of the Ministry of Citizenship.

Pasi Sahlberg is professor of education policy, and research director at the Gonski Institute for Education, University of New South Wales Sydney in Australia. He is a Finnish educator, scholar and author who has worked as school teacher, teacher-educator, researcher, and policy advisor in Finland. He has explored education system reforms around the world and has held various leadership positions at the Finnish Ministry of Education. Pasi has worked at the World Bank in Washington, at the European Training Foundation in Torino, and at Harvard University as visiting professor. He was commissioner at the Swedish School Commission, advisor to the Minister of Education in Scotland, and advisor to the Mayor of Reykjavik. He is the recipient of the 2016 Lego Prize. His writings are widely read around the world. Pasi’s latest book is Let the Children Play! How more play will save our schools and help children thrive (2019, with William Doyle).


Website: www.pasisahlberg.com

Twitter: @pasi_sahlberg

Featured videos about Pasi Sahlberg

What if Finland’s Great Teachers Taught in Your Schools?

GERM that kills schools

The Myth of Finnish Education

Dr Jamie M. Lachman is a research officer at the University of Oxford Department of Social Policy and Intervention and a research fellow at the University of Glasgow MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit. He is also the executive director and founder of Clowns Without Borders South Africa and a co-founder of the Parenting for Lifelong Health initiative. He has over 15 years of experience developing, testing, and scaling up family and parenting programmes to reduce violence against children and improve child wellbeing in over 20 low- and middle-income countries for more than 250,000 beneficiaries. He is also a storyteller, banjo-player, songwriter, facilitator, and clown. Dedicated to promoting our human capacity for peace and laughter, Jamie strives to live each day fully with compassion and amazement.


Website: www.spi.ox.ac.uk/people/dr-jamie-m-lachman

Twitter: @banjomax

Featured videos about Jamie M. Lachman

Masayang Pamilya Parenting Programme

Parenting for Lifelong Health

Skillful Parenting combined with farming skills strengthening in rural Tanzania.

Sumitra has over 20 years track record in initiating, managing and leading innovation work globally in the creative, media and social-impact sectors. She is in a leadership role with Ashoka Innovators for the Public in South East Asia; particularly in the work related to social entrepreneurship and empowerment of young people. Ashoka is a global organisation that has built the field of social entrepreneurship over the last 37 years, with a presence in over 75 countries and is ranked as the 5th NGO in the world. Ashoka now champions the power of young people, to create a better world in a fast-changing future. Prior to this she co-founded an international award winning social impact organisation in Singapore – Playeum, The Children’s Centre for Creativity in Singapore which is centred on play that unleashes the agency of young children to take charge.  The systemic nature of the work includes empowering teachers, parents and community leaders to embrace child-led play and creativity. Playeum is recognised as an innovative leader in Singapore and Asia. She is Malaysian, trained as a Chemical Engineer from Cambridge University and holds several awards namely the British Council Lien Foundation “Creativity for Social Change” Fellow, Chevening Scholar, Procter & Gamble innovation award recipient, Advisory role to the OECD 2030 Learning Framework Learning Group and Advisory Board member UWC in South East Asia (education) and Board Director of Playeum. Sumitra has raised several publications on the Future of Work, education and is a facilitator and speaker at high level engagements including World Economic Forum 2019 @Davos.



Featured videos about Sumitra Pasupathy

Matt Glickman is founder and president of Promise Venture Studio, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to spur social entrepreneurship in early childhood development. Promise attracts, supports and connects ventures, funders and experts seeking to drive sustainable improvements in early childhood outcomes, particularly for children, prenatal to age 5, and their families who are facing the greatest adversities. He is also a lecturer in management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business where he teaches the flagship entrepreneurship class, Startup Garage.
Matt is a successful serial entrepreneur and technology executive. He co-founded and served as CEO for both BabyCenter, the leading online resource for new parents (now owned by Johnson & Johnson), and Merced Systems, a customer service analytics software company (now owned by NICE Systems). In addition, Matt advises and serves on the board of several startup organizations, nonprofits and public companies.
Previously, Matt has held leadership roles at Intuit, Teach for America and Bain & Company. He graduated an Arjay Miller Scholar from the Stanford Graduate School of Business where he earned his M.B.A. He holds an M.A. from the Stanford School of Education and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Amherst College.
Webstite: www.promisestudio.org

Twitter: @innatepromise

Featured videos about Matt Glickmann