The innovation portfolio management approach aligns technical and financial resources to promising projects from across the organisation that can accelerate results for children.
UNICEF’s global innovation portfolios focus our efforts on programme-led, problem driven innovations that have potential to scale and accelerate results for children.
What is an innovation portfolio?
UNICEF’s Global Innovation Strategy: Matching Today’s Challenges with Tomorrow’s Solutions, ensures that all investments we make in innovation fit with our global aim of ensuring that every child can survive, thrive and live and learn in a safe, inclusive space, and that innovation is applied to the most pressing problems faced by some of the most vulnerable children and young people.
The innovation portfolio management approach aligns technical and financial resources to promising projects from across the organisation that can accelerate results for children. Each portfolio is designed around specific programmatic challenges that UNICEF is trying to solve at scale.
Projects within an innovation portfolio are sourced from across the organisation and can benefit from:
- Access to resourcing opportunities, including supporting multi-country scale up
- Technical support (e.g. deployment support, toolkit development, business models for scale, M&E)
- Support in identifying and engaging partners
- Greater visibility under the “innovation” banner/platform across internal and external communication platform
What types of innovation are included within the portfolios?
Innovations from across UNICEF can be included within the portfolios. The Innovation Strategy defined five different categories of innovation and each portfolio contains a blend, depending on the nature of the problems that are being addressed:
- Digital innovation: New or existing digital technologies that are adapted into solutions to accelerate results for children. For example, virtual and augmented reality lessons, data and digital health tools that reduce stock-outs of essential commodities, accessible digital textbooks, and mobile youth platforms that empower millions of young people. UNICEF is committed to developing, contributing and scaling up Digital Public Goods.
- Physical product innovation: New or improved physical goods are created to meet the needs of children and young people, such as portable incubators, accessible latrine slabs for children with disabilities, compressed air for pneumonia, new diagnostic tools and multi-purpose lightweight tents.
- Innovative financing mechanism: Non-traditional mechanisms of raising resources to meet children’s needs are built. Examples include bridge funds, blended finance, crowdsourcing, catastrophe bonds and cryptocurrency donations.
- Programme innovation: Different approaches, processes and ways of working to improve UNICEF’s efficiency and effectiveness. Innovation in UNICEF Operations are also included in this category. Example of programme innovation may include ‘smart’ contracts, human- centred programme design, behaviour science-driven communication for development, and the use of creative tools to engage adolescents in preparing for emergencies.
- Frugal innovations: Simple products or services that are dramatically lower in cost, outperform alternatives and can be scaled up through adoption by people who do not need special expertise or equipment. For example, Kangaroo care and safe birth kits, youth social innovation & intrapreneurship. Frugal innovation is not always low tech, is also about making high tech more affordable and more accessible to more people. UNICEF champions low tech frugal innovation.
What are the focus areas for innovation portfolios?
Portfolio focus areas were selected as part of the Innovation Strategy development process, in partnership with key stakeholders from across UNICEF and have subsequently been re-prioritized following the Mid Term Review and for response, recovery and post-COVID.
What process is used to develop and manage an innovation portfolio?
The Innovation Portfolio Steering Committee has representation from Country Offices, Regional Offices, Programme Division, EMOPS, DAPM, Supply Division and ICT and is convened by the Office of Innovation. The SteerCo has designed a 7 step process to develop and manage portfolios.
There is a scoring process to select the most promising projects from the wider Inventory for inclusion in the portfolios. The SteerCo has defined the scoring criteria, which will be undertaken by relevant technical experts depending on the portfolio area and type of innovation.
Each innovation portfolio has a programmatic focalpoint (in PD or EMOPS) and a Portfolio Manager within the Office of Innovation.