Sandbox Summit: Highs, Lows, and Hopes

This week, we attended the Sandbox Summit at MIT for the third consecutive year. As expected, it was an inspiring two days filled with brilliant speakers who helped us reframe what is possible in the world of children’s media. This year was especially enlightening and entertaining, so we decided to reflect on the highs, the lows, and what we’d like to see come next.

While there were many great speakers and sessions, three projects that truly inspired us were Giver, KidZania, and Caine’s Arcade. At the core, these projects promote creative play, but more importantly, hope – hope for more playful neighborhoods, hope for freedom from parents (even for a couple hours), and hope for dreams coming true. They inspire kids to believe that anything is possible and provide outlets to explore untapped creativity, optimism, and confidence. With an abundance of technology and media targeted at kids, it’s inspiring to see adults who put so much effort and passion into providing tactile, real-world experiences that encourage kids to interact with the world in more playful and collaborative ways. Some of the other awesome people/projects that inspired us include The Creative Coalition, Call Me Ishmael, and DK.

With so many great presentations that explored BIG ideas about play, games, learning, and creativity, only one session seemed to miss the mark (and the spirit of the conference). While it is important to hear an executive perspective, it probably makes sense that the person doesn’t spend the time talking about their professional accomplishments and failing to mention their team and collaborators (well, excluding celebrities). Yes, the session was intended to inspire business development strategies but after talking with a number of attendees, it seems creative team building strategies may have been more inspiring. As someone who has started a business and produced dozens of projects, none of it would have happened without a team of talented collaborators. In a conference geared towards creating a more playful society, the presenter had the opportunity to discuss how collaboration (at all levels) results in more playful and creative media for kids, young and old.

So, where do we go from here? Well, we’d like to float an idea for next year’s conference theme: Radical Approaches to Collaboration. Artists, educators, parents, developers, and researchers are not birthed in isolation chambers, and there is a Renaissance-era cultural bias towards the individual that is as compelling as it is pervasive, but times are rapidly changing. Technology has destroyed geographical barriers and computers have made creative collaboration easier than ever before. Teams of people are working together to solve incredibly complex problems and create transformative works of art and media. Collaboration and cross-pollination helps build a foundation for larger creative networks and more powerful cultural institutions. As an industry, let’s celebrate innovative and radical approaches to collaboration and see how this can make all our work more transformative and impactful. Because if we’ve learned anything as a company, we not only need to provide innovative and enriching experiences for younger minds, but we also must inspire each other on a daily basis. 

Either way, we’re already looking forward to the 2016 Sandbox Summit.