Imagination Foundation

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The Imagination Foundation is a non-profit organization that fosters creativity and entrepreneurship in children around the world.

Imagination Foundation
TypeNon-profit organization
HeadquartersLos Angeles, CA


Nirvan Mullick and Harley Cross founded the Imagination Foundation in 2012 inspired by the viral global response to Mullick's short film, "Caine's Arcade".[1][2] Neither had initially planned to start a non-profit, but following the viral success of the short film (posted online on April 9, 2012), the two were inspired to start the Imagination Foundation just 2 days later, with a mission to find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids. 5 days after posting the film, the non-profit received initial seed funding of a $250,000 matching challenge grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation,[3] matching dollar-for-dollar public donations to a scholarship fund that had been formed for Caine Monroy as part of the Caine's Arcade film. This initial support helped the non-profit quickly develop and launched its first program, the Global Cardboard Challenge. The Global Cardboard Challenge initially started as a school pilot program, with over 200 schools in 9 countries taking part during the first 2 months. The program then launched world-wide with a second short film by Mullick called "Caine's Arcade 2: From a Movie to a Movement." This Caine's Arcade follow up film was posted online in September 2012, and received over 1 million views.[4] "Caine's Arcade 2" shared the response of the media and kids, as well as the positive impact the first film had on Caine Monroy, with appearances by Sir Ken Robinson, Jack Black, LL Cool J, and NASA/JPL Mars Rover's chief-engineer Robert Manning,[5] the film highlighted the need to foster the creativity of children like Caine in communities around the world. The short film ended with a call to action, inviting the world to play by taking part in a Global Cardboard Challenge, which culminated in a Day of Play on October 6, 2012, the one-year anniversary of the flashmob created for Caine in the Caine's Arcade short film. Three weeks after "Caine's Arcade 2" was posted online, volunteers had organized over 270 Cardboard Challenge events in 40 countries, with over 11,000 kids participating. Following the success of the first year, the Global Cardboard Challenge continued to grow, becoming an annual event with hundreds-of-thousands of kids taking part each year, culminating in a Day of Play in early October. Imagination Foundation has also launched Imagination Chapters to provide creative play for kids every week, and has partnered with Disney, Google, AT&T, Time Warner and more to foster creativity in kids worldwide.

Mullick received the 2012 Big Ideas Fest "Innovation in Action Award[6]" and the Dan Eldon Creative Activist Award from the Creative Visions Foundation. In 2012, Mullick spoke at Mattress Firm's National "Bed Talks" event, leading to a partnership for the 2013 Global Cardboard Challenge.[7] Mullick and Cross continued to run the organization until bringing on a full-time Executive Director, Mike McGalliard, in May 2013. In 2014, the Imagination Foundation was named one of 10 Champions in the Ashoka and Lego Foundation "Re-Imagine Learning Challenge", announced at the WISE Summit in Doha as "one of the most innovative, impactful and sustainable projects aimed at transforming the way the world learns."[8]


The Global Cardboard Challenge launched in 2012, inspired by Caine's Arcade, is an annual creativity challenge that invites kids of all ages to build anything they can imagine using cardboard and recycled materials. The challenge culminates in a global "Day of Play" where communities and adults come out to play and display the children's cardboard creations, celebrating the anniversary of the flashmob featured in the Caine's Arcade short film where a community came out to play then 9 year old Caine Monroy's cardboard arcade in East Los Angeles. The event happens in school and out of school, with events ranging in size and duration. The event has become a popular way to engage kids in S.T.E.A.M. activities (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math), and is often used as a fundraiser to raise funds for various causes chosen by children and local partners. The Global Cardboard Challenge has grown into an annual event, with over 250,000 kids in 60 countries taking part.

In 2014, the Imagination Foundation partnered with the National Head Start Association and Lakeshore Learning to launch the first national campaign to bring S.T.E.M. education to pre-school children.[9] The partnership was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative America with a 3-year commitment to engage 30,000 pre-school children in early STEM education.

Imagination Chapters, launched in the fall of 2014, are pop-up groups that meet weekly to engage in 2 hours of creative play. Imagination Chapters launched as a 9-month pilot program in 30 locations in 7 countries, in partnership with Disney, MIT Media Labs, and Indiana University's Creativity Labs.

Partnerships with National Business[edit]

In 2013, Mattress Firm became the national sponsor for the Global Cardboard Challenge, and collected cardboard and craft supplies at point of sale, and then delivered cardboard boxes to thousands of kids participating in various Cardboard Challenge events across America. In 2014, Focus Features and Laika (company)'s "The Boxtrolls" joined Mattress Firm as title sponsors for the Global Cardboard Challenge, which included a special The Boxtrolls Cardboard Challenge.[10][11] The US Premiere of The BoxTrolls at Universal City Walk supported the Imagination Foundation. Disney partnered with Imagination Foundation to launch the Imagination Chapters program in 2014. In 2014 Reddit partnered with Imagination Foundation, by making the 3rd annual Global reddit Day of Service on the same day as the 3rd annual Global Cardboard Challenge's Day of Play.[12] Imagination partnered with Time Warner for a special Earth Day Cardboard Challenge in 2014, with over 35,000 participants, partnered with Google on a "Science At Play" initiative, and partnered with AT&T Aspire on an Inventors Challenge in 2016 and 2017.


Imagination Foundation programs are designed around a model of "Creative Play" built around research showing that children learn best through play. The process of Creative Play involves 5 simple steps: Inspire, Imagine, Build, Play, and Share.[13] Leveraging simple, readily available materials, the Imagination Foundation's programs are designed to be simple, scalable, fun, and transformative.


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  5. ^ Curiosity Rover [@MarsCuriosity] (18 September 2012). "What does Caine of @CainesArcade have in common with my chief engineer? More than you think! Sequel video:" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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External links[edit]

Official Website: Global Cardboard Challenge: