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UNICEF Innovation


The biggest challenges that face the world are not going to be solved by one organization or one group of people in just one country. They will be overcome by an interdisciplinary group of people working across industries, countries, and cultures. By drawing on the skills and expertise of academics, designers, technologists, computer programmers, entrepreneurs, community health workers, government, scientists, and engineers, and by creating solutions that build local talent and local capacity, UNICEF can help foster innovative solutions that have global impact.

UNICEF’s partnerships allow us to bring different sets of skills, viewpoints, resources and influence to focus on the challenges facing women and children. The Innovation Unit’s partnerships are built around our key principles which ensure that innovations developed in collaboration with our partners are available in the public domain, focused on end users, and created in a way that builds local talent and capacity.

UNICEF Innovation focuses on four types of partnerships: Private Sector, Government, Civil Society and Academic. For more information visit: http://www.unicefstories.org/category/partners/

Private Sector

UNICEF Innovation works with private sector partners in two main ways: integrated corporate engagements and innovative financing. 

Ideal private sector partnerships not only provide financial resources to support scale-up of UNICEF programmes and to facilitate the implementation of agreed activities in the emerging technology areas, but also leverage partners’ expertise, joint advocacy and communications, and respective networks. 

UNICEF is convening corporations, designers, entrepreneurs, and other development partners around the intersection of high-growth tech industries and social good. The focus is on how technology and business expansion in emerging markets can deliver both profit and social impact. These engagements focus on industries that can have a real impact on underserved communities, and will help UNICEF access new networks, pools of expertise, and funds for innovative work.

Partners like Philips Foundation and ARM are examples of this integrated corporate engagement, demonstrating that “Doing Good is Good Business.” 

Other private sector partners provide innovative financing, new ways of investing in innovation to drive change for children, such as through UNICEF's Innovation Fund. 

Case study: Star Wars: Force for Change was a giving initiative launched by Disney and Lucasfilm, which inspired Star Wars fans worldwide to contribute to the most innovative work of UNICEF’s country offices and labs, by supporting the UNICEF Innovation Fund. The UNICEF Innovation Fund is a portfolio of investments in UNICEF’s most cutting edge work -- finding new solutions to challenges in nutrition, water, health, and education. People from over 125 countries participated in the campaign and impressively raised over $4.2 million dollars.


 UNICEF Innovation partners with Governments in three main ways. 

1.  Governments are UNICEF’s key partners in taking successful solutions to scale. UNICEF works with governments to strengthen their systems to deliver programmes and policies that realise children’s rights. Successful innovations we have taken to scale are integrated into government systems and help strengthen their accountability. 

Case study: U-Report has been used with the governments of Brazil, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria and Sierra Leone to harness the power of young people during public health emergencies. It enables young people to access vital information and services -- about where to get help, how to act and whom to contact -- as well as enabling them to provide real-time information using multiple channels including SMS, IVR, and various social media channels.

U-Report Poll from Nigeria

2.  We partner with governments to scale-up innovations and support local entrepreneurs to become the next generation of problem-solvers. 

The Government of Denmark is an investor in the UNICEF Innovation Fund, a pooled funding mechanism that allows UNICEF to rapidly assess, fund and grow open source technology solutions for children. UNICEF has combined principles from venture capital with our expertise in development, and is investing in early-stage projects built by entrepreneurs in UNICEF’s programme countries. 

The Government of the Republic of Korea is a core sponsor of the Global Innovation Centre, funding the scale up of innovations at national scale in dozens of countries.

3.  We work with Governments to craft partnerships to scan and develop future solutionsOur Government partners and their networks are an important ally in helping us to be a convening force across the UN system and beyond, in innovative solutions for children. They can also help us identify new private sector partners that share the vision of “Doing Good is Good Business”.

Example: Our Government partners and their networks are an important ally in helping us to be a convening force across the UN system and beyond, in innovative solutions for children. They can also help us identify new private sector partners that share the vision of “Doing Good is Good Business.” In November, 2015 over 500 change-makers across private sector, government, the UN system and entrepreneurs gathered in Helsinki, Finland to explore how we can use innovation to improve the lives of children and young people everywhere. The Global Innovations for Children Summit, a joint effort of Government of Finland and UNICEF,  allowed new partnerships across agencies and sectors to be formed that will support scale-up of new innovations for development.

Civil Society

UNICEF Innovation works with the civil society including NGOs and youth organisations both at the global and country level. Types of partnerships vary from hosting an innovation lab to running a design challenge, to co-creating and implementing solutions, and also leveraging local and global networks of problem solvers. Case Studies:

1) Country-level partnerships 

Kosovo* - Peer Educators Network (PEN)

PEN is a non-governmental youth organisation in Kosovo that is established to activate young people as active citizens in development of the community where they live. PEN hosts Innovation Lab Kosovo (an intrapreneurial unit of UNICEF Kosovo), and through our collaborative work with PEN, we have been successful in developing innovative youth empowerment programmes such as “By Youth For Youth” and its social impact workshop “UPSHIFT.” 

*Kosovo is used here and thereafter pursuant to UN Resolution 1244

Vietnam - Viet Youth Entrepreneurs (VYE)

VYE is Vietnam’s first and only student-run organisation for start-up and entrepreneurship. In 2015, UNICEF Innovation Lab in Vietnam partnered with VYE to pilot UPSHIFT, the social impact workshop that started in Kosovo*, but this time it was in Ho Chi Minh City. 

VYE is an excellent partner for UPSHIFT because of the common focus on youth development and empowerment, expertise in delivering experiential learning programs, and a keen ability to leverage their student network to have youth-led volunteers that are able to work closely with the participants. 

Vietnam UPSHIFT Viet Youth Entrepreneurs

2) Global partnerships

Scouts & Girl Guides helping U-Report scale globally 

Each element of the U-Report scale-up strategy relies heavily on the support of strategic partners who can carry on the programme’s main goals: scale, engage and achieve positive change. One of our major global partners in these efforts is the Scouts and Girl Guides. Global youth organizations like the Scouts and Girl Guides, along with technology providers and the private sector, can help ensure that promotion and recruitment of U-Reporters into U-Report has the highest possible reach, that the necessary tools to engage young people are in place, and that the data can be channelled for use in major advocacy efforts.  Partnerships at the country and global level ensure that data are actioned and that referral and orientation mechanisms are supported to enact real change, including facilitating access to and the use of real-time data by decision makers.

Socialab - Global Innovation Challenge for Emergencies

In 2014, UNICEF, in collaboration with Socialab, a leading Chilean NGO working to generate social global impact, launched “First 72 Hours” - a global innovation challenge for emergencies. Nearly 300 projects from 50 different countries on five continents participated to design solutions for children in emergency setting. Socialab was instrumental in attracting ideas from all over the world, and also in helping incubate winning projects. 

Academic Partnerships

Academic partnerships bring shared value to universities and UNICEF through the exchange of ideas, joint capacity building, and opportunities for applied research. There are opportunities to work with universities along a spectrum of engagement ranging from very small, time-bound events, such as being a guest critic in a class, to things that are a bit more intensive, such as co-teaching a semester-long course, to partnerships that are happening at institutional scale, such as an Innovation Lab. We’ve found consistently that these relationships, such as our partnerships with Tsinghua University, University of Nairobi, and Singularity University, are about building up a community of practice and practitioners and connecting with a new generation of problem solvers.

For more information on our Academic Partnerships, visit:



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