UNICEF Innovation Labs are open, collaborative incubation accelerators that bring business, universities, governments and civil society together to create sustainable solutions to the most pressing challenges facing children and youth. The Lab model creates opportunities for young people, who have a unique insight into the challenges that affect their communities, to team up with local leaders to develop creative and sustainable solutions. The model also engages all of these constituents with UNICEF and its local networks of partners to facilitate best-in-class thinking, practices and applications necessary to enable and expedite systemic, sustainable change.
The UNICEF Afghanistan Innovation Lab uses mobile technologies to monitor programme inputs and quality. Key upcoming activities are a monitoring service using SMS and voice for polio field teams and frontline health workers, and UReport for community-based reporting on polio campaigns, health, nutrition, and water and sanitation.
Primary focus: Health and polio innovation.
Up and coming.
UNICEF Burundi Innovation Lab is a creative space bringing children and young people, technologists, academics, business experts and policymakers together to unlock some of the greatest challenges facing Burundi's children. The Innovation Lab provides unique opportunities to connect leaders in universities, business and civil society directly with users. It is currently working with UNICEF Next Gen to further this goal. The lab has two core challenges: strengthening delivery of essential social services to the most vulnerable, and developing new tools and platforms to harness the ideas and opinions of young people and community volunteers, feeding them into resource decisions. Given that only 3 per cent of the population has access to the electrical grid (which is mostly concentrated in a small number of cities), the lab became particularly interested in creating solutions for renewable energy and lighting.
Primary research focus: Technology for development (T4D); micro-energy rural entrepreneurship models; digital education tools; mobile-based information platforms (U-report Burundi, Project KiraMAMA)
The Chile Innovation Lab is managed in close collaboration with Socialab and focuses on connecting global problem solvers to emergencies. This innovation lab will unite ideas of entrepreneurs with a global public in order to diminish the consequences of catastrophes. The Global Innovation Challenge was launched to find ideas that will help the world respond better to emergencies. From sketch to product, the contest seeks world-changing ideas that will improve humanitarian responses at the onset of a crisis. Proposed ideas can be for affected communities or humanitarian actors and should focus around one of four areas: Energy, Health, Communications and Information, and Food and Water.
Partners: Socialab, Projects: 72 Hour Challenge (http://www.first72hours.org/)
Located at UNICEF Supply Division, the lab is a hub for engagement across cultures, distances and disciplines. It brings together a global network of external and internal partners, using real and virtual communication tools in an inspiring environment - a space that fosters creativity, innovation, sustainable development and cost-effectiveness.
Primary focus: Collaboration through a flexible work space which harbours Product Innovation across UNICEF Supply Division.
Specific products: ARIDA, School Furniture, Weight Measurement Tapes, Visual Vaccines
One of the newest innovation labs, the Indonesia lab will seek to focus on adolescent and youth engagement projects—specifically through involving Indonesian students in the Global Design for UNICEF Challenge in the upcoming year. Through this challenge and other youth engagement projects, the lab will partner with young people to explore solutions around issues such as birth registration and disaster response. Another project the lab is working aims at establishing a two way communication platform where young people through social media channels (twitter/Facebook) can be actively involved in social development and policy on issues ranging from health, education, protection and rights to participation, through their opinions and responses.
Primary focus: Adolescent and Youth Engagement and Emergency/DRR.
The Kosovo innovation lab consists of a multidisciplinary team (project managers, engineers, advocacy practitioners, designers, social entrepreneurs, educators, communications and marketing specialists, and graphic/ web designers). They seek to advance the use of information and technology and to evolve youth's relationship with UNICEF from beneficiary to partner, by developing a method of training young entrepreneurs. The Kosovo lab is managed in 3 separate pillars:
- By Youth For Youth (mentorship program offering grants)
- Youth Advocacy Platform (partner youth participants with consultants and experts)
- and Design Centre (leverages their technical expertise for making Kosovo an open-source technology hub for the region)
Primary research focus: community engagement, youth partnership
The Lebanon Innovation Lab is working to develop key technologies, including:
- Equitrack, which is based on open-source software and can be replicated in other offices. This tool enables UNICEF to have all partnership-related information in one repository, to map partnerships, and to aggregate planned results, progress and budgets
Data Collection using tablets and smart phones to enhance rapid data entry and analysis for quick action.
ActivityInfo, an online real-time reporting tool for partners; Open Data Kit and Formhub, which are both open source platforms for collecting data in the field using smart phones and tablets; and RapidSMS, a framework for real time SMS based monitoring systems such as UReport.
Primary focus: Technology development, Partnership development.
NAIROBI INNOVATION CENTRE
The Nairobi Innovation Centre identifies and field tests scalable innovations; in order to do this, they focus on four main activities, including:
- Harvesting innovations that are working as pilots but have not been tested for scalability, replicability, robustness and effectiveness
Incubating great concepts that do not yet have the financial support or be tested
- Educating youth, exposing them and connecting them to innovative processes
- Disseminating global implementation of successful innovations proven to be scalable, replicable, robust, and effective
The vision of the UNICEF Global innovation Center (IC) is enabling exponential change in reducing inequities and results for children. The centre focuses on innovations that benefit the most deprived people, and the areas with the highest levels of inequity. To do this, they focus on technologies, tools and solutions that can be deployed and used in remote areas and by people who do not have access to feature technology.
The new San Francisco lab is UNICEF innovation's first US-based venture, based in the San Francisco Bay Area at NASA's Ames Research Center. As an impact partner in the Corporate Innovation Exchange (CIX) program at Singularity University, UNICEF Innovation will work with partners that share the mission to reach impact at scale with innovations in areas of unmet need.
Primary research focus: Technology and social impact
On hold due to conflict
UNICEF Sudan builds collaborative networks to facilitate new technologies and approaches to apply them in the field. By making local communities a part of the innovation process, UNICEF and partners identify, adapt, and advocate for Government scale-up of solutions. A pilot project for the establishment of an Innovation Lab in Sudan was initiated in September 2012 in the University of Khartoum and the Sudan University of Science and Technology to provide an environment where students can interact with real world problems and stakeholders.
UNICEF Sudan will support the establishment of permanent Innovation Lab.
Specific projects include:
Rapid SMS for vaccination services (reminding mothers of the due dates for taking their infants for routine vaccination)
Rapid SMS for school kit distribution (tracking the delivery of school kits from the warehouse to end user)
Rapid SMS for increasing Birth Registration rate
Primary focus: Vaccination services, school kit distribution, and birth registration
This lab a physical prototyping workshop, a RapidSMS service development hub, an electronics workshop, a video production set, a place for hosting skills workshops, and an informal, accessible venue that allows for greater co-creation between UNICEF and community. The lab develops technology in the form of physical products and mobile services that provide the end-user with an unprecedented level of access to information and also create opportunities for real-time feedback loops and improved data collection methods. In this vein, the Uganda lab uses initiatives like MobiStation (a solar-powered multimedia kit) to address some of the biggest challenges of the education system: teacher absenteeism, poor-quality instruction, and lack of textbooks, and thereby bring quality education to marginalized groups. The Uganda innovation lab acts as the backbone for the UNICEF innovation team, rolling out existing and new solutions to other UNICEF country offices. For instance, the lab is working with partners to adopt RapidSMS2.0 (also called RapidPro) applications such as UReport.
Primary research focus: product and service development
The Zambia innovation lab will continue working on bringing U-Report to Zambian youth as a way to receive free, confidential, and real-time information on critically important issues such as how they can protect themselves from HIV. The lab is also pursuing innovative projects in the Water, Sanitation and Health programme, as well as partnering with local start-up incubator BongoHive to support projects across program areas. Projects/ initiatives created by the Zambia lab include: Programme Mwana, an innovative health initiative that uses RapidSMS mobile technology to deliver Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) health results, and facilitate communications between clinics and community health workers for post-natal follow ups; and Zambia UReport, an SMS based youth counseling system that connects adolescents and young people to trained counselors and also creates an essential, direct link between young people and government/media.
Primary focus: UReport
UNICEF Innovation Labs: Do-It-Yourself Guide
Laboratorios de Innovación: Una Guía Práctica