Tech City UK Blog

The Institute of Imagination is an innovative children’s charity based in London. Jennifer Coleman, Director of Development, shares what drives them, what they are working to achieve and how you can get involved. 

Our Chief Executive is often quoted as saying that “We can’t predict the future, the opportunities and challenges it will hold, but we do know for certain that our children will have to live there and we want them to thrive.” This isn’t just a bold claim. The Future of Jobs, a report published by The World Economic Forum in January 2016, estimates that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new jobs that don’t yet exist.

That is why our aim is to create space for children to re-imagine the world. We want to ensure that children have the skills and confidence they will need to thrive in a fast changing and exciting future.

From the first mark on a cave wall to the first footsteps on the Moon, our greatest developments have begun with leaps of someone’s imagination. Imagination is the cornerstone of creativity, problem-solving and innovation. It’s an essential skill for life. Despite this imagination is not being given the attention it deserves: this crucial skill is being overlooked. We’re here to change that.

Since 2011 we have been running an innovative outreach programme in collaboration with a wide range of cross-sector partners that blends the arts and sciences to create opportunities for children to use their imaginations to create, play, experiment and learn without predetermined outcomes.

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We are currently delivering three key strands of activity to children of all backgrounds and ability across London and beyond under the banner of Imagination Lab:

  • Flagship Lab space – based at the OXO Tower for six months last year and set to re-open in a new location from October. Hosts innovative school visits and family events.
  • Mobile activities – Imagination Pods, delivered in schools including those focused on Special Educational Needs, and our mobile Imagination Lab, which pops up at community events and festivals.
  • Special events – including the annual Institute of Imagination Mini Maker Faire and our takeover of City Hall in July.

To date we have worked with over 11,000 people. In 2017 we plan to significantly scale up our activity to work with 25,000 more.

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In order to create change on an even larger scale we are seeking to create a world-class cultural destination in London that will put children at its heart. It will be one of a kind – a hybrid between a museum, gallery, community centre, science centre, studio and laboratory. A much needed civic space for children and families dedicated to letting imaginations run free. Where visitors can explore, experiment, play, create and make together.

Once open, the 100,000 square foot iOi campus will welcome 600,000 visitors a year and reach many thousands more a year through our ongoing outreach activities in communities and schools. Online, we will reach even more, ensuring that every child has access to our pioneering content, no matter what their location, background or ability.

Importantly, the campus will also provide space for us to continue our research to explore the science of imagination and will become a platform for debate.

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As we grow we are seeking to develop new partnerships that will help ensure we are able to continue to provide cutting edge opportunities for children, building on the success of our work with the likes of Kano and Blippar. We are also seeking funding to enable us to expand our outreach and build the campus.

We have a bold ambition and much to do to reach it, but we believe children deserve nothing less.

As Albert Einstein famously said “Logic will get you from A to B; imagination will take you everywhere.” Where will your imagination take you?

Imagination Lab, London, London Brain Project activity, 2014


If you would like to find out more about our work and to discuss the benefits and opportunities of partnering with us we’d love to hear from you at hello@ioi.london.

You can also track our progress on our social media channels (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook).