I need to design an observatory of child well-being in Canada.

Client: UNICEF Canada

Project: Designing an Observatory of Child Well-Being in Canada
(now One Youth)

Timeline: 2014-ongoing

Project Services: Environmental Scan, Design Research/ Community Engagement, Challenge Brief Report, subsequent Development of One Youth Design Studio

The Challenge:

The well-being of a nation’s children is a powerful indicator of that nation’s future. Yet of the 29 richest countries in the world, Canada’s ranking is mediocre—sitting at 17th of 29 on UNICEF’s Index of Child Well-Being. Further, for children’s self-reported life satisfaction, Canada sits at a discouraging 24th of 29. 

In response to these subpar rankings, UNICEF Canada sought to create an observatory that would promote and support the rights of children in Canada and create a national dialogue about the status of Canadian children. To do so, UNICEF Canada needed to better understand this complex issue—known as “wicked problem” for its particular resistance to resolution, its requirement for re-evaluation of traditional systems and approaches, and its connection to other related problems. Only with framework on how to navigate this complex problem could UNICEF Canada move forward to take action. 

The Outcomes:

In 2014, Overlap and UNICEF Canada sought to define and understand the challenge of improving child well-being in Canada, as well as to propose several models for a child well-being observatory. To grasp the challenge, Overlap and UNICEF Canada solicited input from more than 145 people on their perspectives of what defines child well-being, and how Canada could become the best place to grow up. To gather insights from a variety of voices and perspectives, Overlap organized several roundtables. Engagement sessions included an Indigenous Perspectives roundtable, a Youth Satellite roundtable, a Champions Lab with Canadian leaders, and three Thought-Leader roundtables that united experts in child well-being in Toronto, Montreal, and Winnipeg. 

The extensive engagement sessions resulted in a thorough examination of the factors affecting child well-being in Canada, including the nuanced needs for diverse children across Canada and in Indigenous communities in particular. They also served to outline potential mechanisms for change and action. Organized into a comprehensive Challenge Brief, the findings served as a strong foundation for next steps. Based on the findings and the recommended approaches, Overlap and UNICEF Canada are currently co-leading the observatory as a design and problem solving studio under the moniker One Youth, and are actively working to make Canada number 1 on the Index of Child Well-Being by 2030. 


Brock Hart