Barnardo’s Life Labs launch

barnado's ceo trialing virtual reality headset at life labs launch at plymouth's national marine aquarium

The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is an incredible venue for the unveiling of a new partnership project, and the project launch that we took part in on Monday February 3rd was a particularly special one. 

Since April 2019 we’ve been working with Barnardo’s, the nationwide children’s charity, on a collaborative project that aims to “empower care experienced young people in getting the right support to develop the skills needed to start living more independently.”

Improving the Care Journey of Young People in Plymouth

Barnardo’s selected Plymouth and Brent as pioneer destinations for the development and trialing of new Care Journeys programmes that will help young people in care who are about to transition into independent living, to have a positive experience and achieve outcomes similar to their peers. Leap has been working with Barnardo’s on the Plymouth programme, exploring the role of digital and technology in this journey and in providing a space for safe failure for participants. Other partners are working on creating other new systems within Plymouth, including systematic change and “real life” workshops.

Exploring the Value of Virtual Reality

Following extensive research, national workshop sessions, outdoor experiences, alpha-testing of new technology and co-design sessions with young people involved with Barnardo’s, we found that virtual reality (VR) technology offered an amazing opportunity for supporting users through their transition to independent living. 

VR was found to particularly help reducing anxiety, loneliness and depression, but also that a number of different tools (VR being one of them), delivered through different mediums but accessible through a single portal was required.

“We want to bring digital and real life experiences together; to create a platform for better connections, relationships and discussions, where technology is used to assist, not replace.”

– Simon Thomason, Leap Managing Director

Life Labs

Leap’s proposal was the creation of a legacy programme titled Life Labs, comprising digital information, VR learning experiences, podcasts, communication tools and signposting to further on and offline sources all accessible from a central hub using an app or desktop web browser.

The VR component will allow Barnardo’s to deliver life experiences (such as walking into a new, unfurnished flat for the first time, assembling flat-pack furniture or cooking a simple meal) using technology, creating a safe space for users to fail, learn and grow, helping them to feel better equipped and able to live independently.

Presenting Life Labs at the National Marine Aquarium

The launch event in Plymouth was the first time that we’ve revealed the work that we’ve been doing for Barnardo’s to their national leadership and to members of Plymouth City Council and service providers; this is the first stage in an eight year partnership where we have been given creative freedom to explore and present the power of digital in delivering solutions.  Following Simon’s presentation (in front of the incredible main aquarium viewing window) we gave delegates, including Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan and the Chief Executive of Plymouth City Council Tracey Lee, the opportunity to experience the possibilities of virtual reality for themselves, in front of the shark tank!  Their reactions confirmed that, having been given the remit to explore bold new ideas for the charity we delivered an innovative, effective and impactful solution.

We’re incredibly proud to be working with Barnardo’s on such a fantastic social impact project that has the power to improve the outcomes of many young people across the UK, and we’re looking forward to the next phase of this project.