Learning for Life

Learning for Life

Sponsored by

Design an exciting new way to support, encourage or stimulate learning throughout people’s lives in the future.

Challenge and scope

A decade ago the idea of driverless cars, digital currencies and drone delivery might have seemed far-fetched but it is rapidly becoming an everyday reality. Changes in technology, health, demographics and lifestyles will create new opportunities for work in the future, but as people live for longer and new jobs emerge, we will need to continue to learn throughout our lives if we are to seize them. The way in which we learn will also change. This brief asks you to consider these socioeconomic changes and design an exciting new way to support, encourage or stimulate learning throughout people’s lives in the future. 

Lifelong learning describes ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for personal or professional reasons. Today, people largely approach their learning in blocks where they study, work and then retire, but there are signs that lifelong learning is increasing becoming the norm. Technology is changing the type of work that is on offer, digitising and even automating some jobs and creating new ones entirely. And our society is ageing, meaning that many of us will work for longer, but not necessarily being able to – or wanting to – work in the same jobs as before. 

The way we learn will also change. In the past, we have tended to learn in more formal settings (like schools and the workplace). Increasingly, learning is also taking place in more informal places (like home or coffee shops), online and through networking. You might like to think about your own future learning experiences as part of the generation that no longer expects to have one career throughout your lives. 

There are many different reasons people might want or have to learn throughout different stages of their lives, and many different possible solutions. We would like you to respond to one of the following five scenarios: 

  • In 2020, there will be over 5 billion internet users, with over half of them accessing the internet over handheld tablet devices. We don’t want people just to consume digital technology but accomplish more with it. How can we encourage those with good digital skills to become digitally innovative and creative? 
  • By 2050 a third of people in the UK will be over 60. Since 2000, there has been a 140% increase in over 65s running their own businesses. How can we increase digital and/or entrepreneurial skills for over 60s so they can work in – or create their own – digital jobs? 
  • Of the 6.4 million people in the UK who had not used the Internet in 2014, 5.6 million of those were aged 55 and above. How can we increase and maintain skills as we enter the later parts of our lives? 
  • 35% of UK jobs are at high risk of being automated but technology can also create new opportunities. How can we support people who have been working in the same job – but whose roles are now changing – to re-train and stay in the same industry or do something else entirely? 
  • Some people may have been doing similar roles for some time, but are not fulfilling their potential. New jobs are always emerging: app developers, data scientists and even Zumba instructors are popular jobs that have emerged in the last 10 years. How can we change the expectation for retraining and reskilling at various points throughout their life courses so people can move into new roles? 

If it helps, you may choose a specific date in the future and use that as the basis for your design work. We would like you to be imaginative in looking for creative leaps but you should also draw on existing research and trends to clearly set out your design challenge. 

We welcome a wide variety of responses to this brief, ranging from ideas for new products, services or policies that either businesses or government could take forward. Therefore, please consider creating multidisciplinary teams and involving students from political or social sciences and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. It would be great to have a ‘place’ dimension to your proposal - what would work especially well in the local area you are from or know? 

For the purposes of illustration only, your response could be: 

  • a new product that would help young people plan training throughout their careers 
  • a new service that would allow people to re-train while continuing to work 
  • a digital product which helps people to learn new skills from their living room or commute home 
  • a new space or place to encourage informal learning between people within communities or between different work spaces 
  • a communications campaign for young people to make them think differently about learning throughout their lives 
  • a future government policy proposal that could incentivise older people to learn new skills 


There are two awards available for this brief.

RSA Award of £1000Paid Placement at Policy Lab

Remuneration: £2650 (London Living Wage)

Duration: 3 months, with potential to extend to 6 months

Location: Cabinet Office, London

The judging panel may decide on more than one winner and will allocate the awards accordingly. In addition, the judging panel may award commendations.

Sponsored by


Judging criteria

There are six criteria that your entry will be measured against – make sure that your submission materials demonstrate that your solution meets these criteria: 

  1. Social and environmental benefit – how does your design benefit society and/or the environment? 
  2. Research and insights – how did you investigate this issue? What were your key insights? 
  3. Design thinking – how did your research and insights inform your solution? How did you develop, test, iterate and refine your concept? Demonstrate the journey you’ve been through to the end result 
  4. Commercial awareness – does your journey make sense from a financial point of view? What is the competitive environment your solution would sit within? 
  5. Execution – we are looking for a design that is pleasing and looks and feels well-resolved. 
  6. Magic – we are looking for a bit of ‘magic’ – a surprising or lateral design solution that delights 

Submission requirements

All entries must be submitted through our online entry system.

As you prepare your submission, please ensure that: 

  • you do NOT include your name, university/ college or other identifying marks anywhere on your submission 
  • none of your submission files exceed 10MB – this is the maximum size for each individual file / board when you submit online 

The submission requirements are: 

  • 1 x A3 PDF Hero image with 1 sentence description A singular ‘poster image’ that conveys the essence of your project, plus a 1 sentence strapline or description 
  • 1 x A3 PDF Big Idea Summary A single A3 PDF page describing your ‘Big Idea’ in less than 250 words. This should clearly explain what your solution is, the specific area of need it addresses, and how you arrived at the solution
  • 4 x A3 PDF Boards Outlining Your Proposal 4 pages describing your proposal and demonstrating that you have met the six judging criteria. Each board should include a heading. Number each board in the top right hand corner, in the order they should be viewed by the judges 
  • 10 x A3 PDF Pages of Supporting Material Up to 10 A3 PDFs of additional material illustrating your development process – this could include scanned pages of your sketchbook or computer modelling/sketches (if applicable) 
  • Optional YouTube / Vimeo + website links Please note that we cannot guarantee supporting films and websites will be viewed at the shortlisting stage. If you have created digital materials, we recommend referencing them (for example by including labelled film stills or website screen grabs) in your 4 main PDF boards 

Eligibility + entry infomation

Download entry guidelinesDownload this brief

18 January 2017

Competition opens for entries

8 Febuary 2017

4pm GMT
£25 early bird deadline

8 March 2017

4pm GMT
£35 final entry deadline

20 March 2017

2-stage judging process begins

1 June 2017

2016/17 winners announced