Detective Dot - Bright Little Labs

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Detective Dot - Bright Little Labs: Detective Dot is a story app that inspires children to create a fairer world.

London, United KingdomLondon, United Kingdom
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Through books, apps & cartoons we tell the story of ‘Detective Dot’, an 8 year old female coder, who goes on global adventures to find out where all her *stuff* comes from e.g. her confused t-shirt who finds his roots in Uzbekistan via China. Dot inspires kids to ask ‘who made this?'.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if interactive story, loved by children globally, engaged kids on the realities of how our stuff was made, by who, and where it ends up once we throw it away. What if that changed the way they consumed as adults?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Children aren’t taught where their stuff comes from (40% of UK kids don’t know milk is from a cow). They’re desensitised and disconnected to the realities of the supply chain and the environmental impact. Without a meaningful education (i.e. not just lip service one day a year), it’s very hard for children (and their parents!) to understand or develop a sense of responsibility for their consuming decisions as they grow up.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We’re making digital (interactive) and paperback stories for 7-9 year olds starring Detective Dot, a mischievous 8 year old coder with a special power - everyday objects come to life around her! E.g her t-shirt who discovers he’s from Uzbekistan via China. Dot inspires kids to think about where their stuff is from, fair-trade and sustainability. Our school platform (kids carry out their own investigations) gamify learning around the supply chain. As kids spend 6 hours+ a day in front of screens, we’re also making cartoons to explore the issues in a way that’s engaging, fun and mainstream. Materials for kids on fair trade and sustainability can be boring! Our solution is to educate for change, in an ‘edutaining’ way.


Sophie Deen was voted Computer Weekly’s Rising Star Women in IT 2015 for Detective Dot. In December 2015 Bright Little Labs was selected to join Bethnal Green Ventures, which is backed by the UK Cabinet Office & accelerates tech ideas with social purpose.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

A child engaging with the Detective Dot stories will learn that their stuff is made somewhere and didn’t just magically appear in a supermarket. Children will become inquisitive about provenance. Through Dot’s blog and school platform, kids will learn about global working conditions and environmental impact in an age sensitive way, which will inspire consideration of the issues (fairness, sustainability). Through gamification in our digital books and platform, kids will want to investigate their own belongings and start understanding how we each play a part in a global economy. Over time, children will develop a sense of social responsibility, and will grow up to make informed decisions about what they buy, and what they throw away.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In our pilot in schools, kids became much more intrigued about where their possessions come from (Are microchips really made of sand? Ivy, 6), and aware of issues around fairness and the environment. Teachers appreciate the innovative and fun way difficult issues are addressed through interactive stories, and 100% of educators and parents would recommend Dot (pilot , April 2015). Over 120 UK schools have signed up for materials, and we’ve had 300 pre-orders from over 20 countries. We’re working with the fairtrade foundation on the stories. Education is key to solving the supply chain issues, and it’s fundamentally important that children learn to care early on. The potential for large scale, global impact is huge. Tweens spend 6 hours in front of a screen daily. By creating a solution that fits into that time, we can generate an awareness of the issues and a change in mindset at scal

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We’ll first gain build an audience through our apps, books & school platform. We’ll then partner with e.g YouTube Kids, to scale the solution and reach children globally (family time watching VOD was up by 200% in 2014). Learning will be supplemented by our resources. For a truly global view of the supply chain from different country perspectives, we’ll tell the story of objects from all over the world. This will educate parents too, contributing to an already changing mindset about provenance and labelling, and over time, better regulation re transparency at policy level.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We’ve created a model whereby materials are free to schools. We’ll generate revenue through physical and digital book sales, and licensing the cartoon to VOD content providers and publishers. We’ll also work with partners to create bespoke content. These revenue streams will ensure the enterprise is sustainable and a proportion of our profit will go back into the causes we are trying to address i.e. supply chain inequality.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There aren’t any stories/cartoons which teach kids about the origin and fairness of their belongings using the mechanics of an interactive adventure story. We’re redefining education on these issues from niche to mainstream. Whilst there are apps that gamify learning, none focus on supply chain as a central theme. Through gamification we motivate kids to keep ‘playing’. In contrast to cartoons generally, where there’s a lack of diversity (globally 72% of characters are white; men are twice as likely to lead), we’ve created an asian female heroine who loves tech. Dot’s an excellent role model.

Founding Story

I wondered how we can buy a t-shirt (Uzbek cotton, made in China + delivered) for less than £5? I realised we’re desensitised to the realities behind our consumption. Kids have an abundance of things but aren’t taught where they’re from. Working as a child therapist and at Code Club, I found that tech can engage children in a really cool way. Existing materials on supply chains and fairtrade were dry - I wanted something fun and mainstream. When I spoke to parents and teachers, they agreed. Broadcasters are investing in VOD for kids and we’ve had lots of interest already, pointing to a cartoon as a scaleable way to educate kids about the issues, leading to a widespread change in mindset.


Founded by Sophie Deen, the Bright Little Labs has exceptional mix of industry experience (developers, teachers and designers) + brilliant advisors including Graham Brown-Martin (edtech/gaming), Rick Jones (Google), Katherine Crisp (UNICEF) & Miles Berry (University of Roehampton, writing team for the UK computing curriculum). Sophie Deen is the CEO. Sophie first conceived of Dot when working as a children’s play therapist. Law graduate and children’s play therapist, former head of strategy at a global tech company and head of teacher training at Code Club (with Department for Education & Google). She was voted Computer Weekly’s ‘Rising Star’ Women in IT 2015. Laura Kirsop looks after product. She’s the Head of Product at edtech FutureLearn, former teacher, head of Code Club UK and school governor. Emma Murphy looks after sustainability. Emma’s the Founder of Life Size Media, an award winning green comms agency. Turgay Oktem looks after UX Design. He’s a UX designer for Penguin Children’s books, working on apps for Moshi Monsters and Peppa Pig. Louise Kwa looks after education. She’s a primary school teacher who has written leading curriculum materials in computer science. John Thornton and Sarah Campbell are our amazing writing duo. John’s funny - he’s written award-winning short films and has taken two comedy shows to the Edinburgh Fringe. Sarah is a creative writer, vegan enthusiast and has a lifelong passion for reading anything about vampires. Nathan Hackett - who has a scarily encyclopaedic knowledge of cartoons and comics - and Nerea Sanchez, work on bringing Dot to life through their amazing illustrations.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing, Consumption.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Consumer, Researcher, Technologist.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Children, Consumers, Corporations, Designers, Factory Workers, Factory Owners, Researchers, Technologists, Women, Youth.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Accountability, Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.), Gender Equality, Recycling or Circular Economy, Physical Working Conditions, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Data, Media, Technology.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Hidden from View: Conditions in Forests, Farms, and Factories are Only Visible to a Select Few, A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being, Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Unite More than Voice: Tap into Community Capital and Collective Resources, Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders, Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line, Transform the Chain into a Web: Link Unlikely Sectors that Open New Pathways to Sustainability.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Yes, we are nurturing kids to become aware of the issues in the supply chain and make better choices.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

We are working on story ideas with the Fair Trade Foundation and have worked with charity Traid in their eduction remit.