Can apps close the gap? - 13 Jul 2022 12:00 – 13:30

This event took place on Wednesday 13 July. The recording is available below.

Parents are raising their children in the era of the smartphone: from pregnancy tracking to social networks and early years learning to sleep training. Studies in England have shown that children’s home learning environment, including the quality of care they receive from caregivers and the types of resources available in their home, is associated with their later social, emotional and cognitive development.

With parenting apps permeating the home learning environment, could there be an opportunity for tech to better support child development at home?

Join us for this special online event with leading experts from the early years sector and the parenting app industry. We’ll be sharing our latest research into the parenting app landscape and discussing whether parenting apps have the potential to help improve outcomes for children.

This event is for anyone interested or working in the early years sector, from policymakers to educators and practitioners.



Louise Bazalgette, Deputy Director, A fairer start mission, Nesta


Louise helps lead Nesta’s mission to create A Fairer Start, which focuses on narrowing the outcome gap between children growing up in disadvantage and the national average, both in early years and in secondary school. Previously Louise was Principal Research Advisor for Nesta’s Alliance for Useful Evidence and was involved in establishing What Works for Children's Social Care. Before she joined Nesta, Louise worked at the NSPCC where she led work focused on improving wellbeing for children in care. She also worked at the think tank Demos where she researched policy areas including parenting, the early years and children's social care.


Karlis Kanders, Senior Data Foresight Lead, Discovery Hub, Nesta


Karlis is a Senior Data Foresight Lead working in Nesta’s Discovery team He uses machine learning and network analysis to uncover emerging trends, promising technologies and interventions that will shape our future. Previously, Karlis was working on data-driven innovations for navigating the labour market and connecting people to good work, as part of Nesta’s Open Jobs programme. Prior to Nesta, Karlis completed a PhD in Computational Neuroscience at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. His research focused on studying the dynamics of complex biological networks using theory of nonlinear dynamical systems, numerical simulations and experimental data analysis. Karlis also holds MSc in Neural Systems and Computation from University of Zurich & ETH Zurich, and BSc in Biology from University of Latvia.

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Eleanor Ireland, Programme Head, Nuffield Foundation


Eleanor Ireland is a Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation. She leads the development and management the Foundation’s research portfolio in early years, and is one of the authors of the recent Time for Parents review, which explores the changing nature of parenting, the relationship between parenting and young children’s outcomes and the effectiveness of interventions designed to support parents and children’s development. Prior to joining the Foundation she worked as a Research Director at NatCen Social Research, where she designed and managed research projects in the areas of early years education, parental separation and family policy; and NFER where she worked on a range of mixed methods educational evaluations.

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Nilushka Perera, Head of Evaluation Impact and Policy, Best Beginnings


Nilushka Perera is the Head of Evaluation, Impact and Policy at Best Beginnings. With a background in Psychology and International Public Health, Nilushka is passionate about research and collaboration to strengthen our understanding of reaching communities through the intersections of behavioural health, digital health and inequalities in global health. Nilushka is also a Mental Health and Psychosocial Practitioner with experience in working in Sri Lanka where she is involved in research and development projects to support access to holistic support in diverse communities.

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Cliff Manning, Research and Development Director, Parent Zone


As R&D director at Parent Zone, Cliff is exploring ways to improve outcomes for children in a connected world through better services and support for families and the professionals they turn to. Cliff has previously worked with the Children's Commissioner for England, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory and Carnegie UK Trust on a range of projects around digital inclusion. He also founded More Than Robots - a platform to share research, ideas and good practice around digital participation and youth engagement.

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Erika Brodnock, CEO, Kami


Erika Brodnock is an award-winning entrepreneur (including Female Entrepreneur of the Year and Intel's Global Business Challenge), philanthropist, life coach and keynote speaker. Educated at top UK institutions, Erika is an entrepreneurial and driven MBA and PhD in the Inclusion Initiative at LSE, with 12 years of coaching, wellbeing and inclusion experience, currently researching how artificial intelligence can be used as a force for good in the democratisation of access to perinatal support and enhanced parental wellbeing. Through her work at the intersection of technology, wellbeing and product development, Erika has built products and services in the ed-tech, child and parental wellbeing markets that disrupt and spearhead a path out of outdated systems. Erika is Sky News’ resident parenting expert; founder of software companies Karisma Kidz and Kami; a Non-Executive Director of The Good Play Guide; and she serves on the advisory board of the APPG for Entrepreneurship.

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Naomi Azianku, Parent Champion, Coram’s Family and Childcare


Following a seperation in her relationship in 2015, Naomi noticed that many parents particularly single parents do not have support in various areas of parenting and this led her to create a platform called 'Mummanopoly' (Playing the Game Called Life to Win) with the aim of empowering parents in well-being, confidence and self-love for success. Through inspiration, motivation, transparency and giving advice with coping mechanisms and encouragement when times can be lonely and challenging with raising children alone, along with the stigmas that many single parents face. She has done this work through podcasts, live instagram talks, blogs, collaborating with like-minded parents, creating content for youtube videos and various social media funnels. Naomi also volunteers support through various avenues with 'Parent Champion' by raising awareness through campaigns and events and supporting other parents by engaging in captivating and thought provoking conversations to encourage positive change and outlook in parenting.


Jen Lexmond, Founder and CEO, Easy Peasy


Jen is Founder & CEO of parenting app EasyPeasy. With a background in public policy and digital innovation, Jen is passionate about the power of human centred design and technology to help narrow the inequality gap. Jen started her career at the think tank Demos where she led research on social mobility and the predictive power of early child development in shaping life chances. She subsequently moved to Nesta working in their Public Services Lab as Head of Learning, and then to Government Digital Services, where she led large scale service redesign projects across government departments. Jen established EasyPeasy through the Design Council's Knee High Challenge Prize in 2016. Jen was elected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2020 in recognition of her work as a social entrepreneur.


Hannah Pentith, Senior Early Years Adviser at Save the Children UK


Hannah specialises in the home learning environment and how to support parents in the home with young children. Hannah works across the UK’s charity developing, applying, and embedding the latest evidence and practice about how best to support young children’s development in the early years. She is leading the development and implementation of Save the Children’s flagship Building Blocks research programme. Building Blocks aims to develop a range of sustainable practices that enable parents to play and learn with their children, at home. Over the past few years, Hannah has also led a number of interventions that aim to disrupt the impact of poverty on children’s early learning, including the UK-wide emergency response to COVID-19 pandemic.