Innovation at UNICEF

In 2016, innovation is vital to improving the state of the world's children. The speed at which global problems -- from disease outbreaks, to the global refugee crisis, to millions of out-of-school children -- disrupt the lives of children around the world is only getting faster. UNICEF innovates in order to stay agile and find solutions to the evolving challenges affecting all children. 

Innovation at UNICEF is driven by an interdisciplinary team of individuals around the world tasked with identifying, prototyping, and scaling technologies and practices that strengthen UNICEF’s work for children. Innovations range from new ways to structure programmes to new products and technologies.

To create these solutions, UNICEF works with a network of global problem solvers who can find new ways to accelerate results that reduce inequities for children. These innovators are also creating a new global infrastructure of openness, of collaboration across borders, of exploration, and of innovation for equity.

We see, in countries around the world, young people pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and creating a future they want – and the future is appearing in the places that UNICEF works before it happens in the "global north."

From innovations like mobile birth registration in Nigeria, to using drones in Malawi to transport blood samples for early infant diagnosis of HIV, to using SMS to support mothers in Mexico – the connected world that we live in is generating and sharing opportunities in a fundamentally different way than it ever has before.

Access to information is essential to achieving equity. The biggest change that we need to foster, and that is happening already in some places, is the push to connect the world's most marginalized populations so they have access to information, to opportunity, and to choice. This underlies a great deal of the innovation agenda – because without access to information and connectivity young people are stifled and put at risk.

Within UNICEF, innovation is led by: 

  • The Office of Innovation, which focuses on solutions at varying stages: Futures, Ventures, and Scale.
  • An Innovation Unit within the UNICEF Supply Division in Copenhagen, which focuses on improving the designs of physical products that help children.
  • A network of Innovation Labs and problem solvers around the world that bring together the private sector, academia, and the public sector to develop solutions for key social issues, and ensure we are always watching for new ideas from unexpected places. 

UNICEF's approach to innovation is based on our Innovation Principles, which highlight the importance of designing with the end-user, understanding local ecosystems, designing for scale, and using open source technology and open data.

Our principles

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