Product Innovation at UNICEF
Identifying, developing and scaling fit-for-purpose and value-for-money products that respond to the unmet needs of children.
Product innovation at UNICEF is about turning ideas into tangible and scalable solutions. It involves the identification, development and scaling of fit-for-purpose and value-for-money products that respond to the unmet needs of children. By working with field partners and programmatic experts to understand those needs, businesses and academia to develop products that meet those needs, and programming partners and donors to bring the products to scale, product innovation is having a tremendous impact for children. To learn more, read our two-page brief on product innovation.
The High Performance Tent
UNICEF spearheaded the innovation of a new generation of multipurpose tents to improve emergency responses worldwide. The new tents are a result of an innovative co-creation process with industry. The High Performance Tent includes multiple add-on features to meet the needs of children in emergencies worldwide.
Learn more about the High-Performance Tent.
Product innovation portfolio
UNICEF manages a portfolio of Product Innovation Projects (PIPs) that respond to the needs outlined in UNICEF’s Strategic Programme areas, including child curvival, child protection, education and emergencies. The current portfolio is constantly changing with new projects emerging and others leaving the innovation process once they are fully scaled or closed because they did not fulfill the desired impact.
Product innovation process
Product innovation at UNICEF has five phases: Exploration, Need, Research and Development (R&D), Validation and Transition to Scale. UNICEF actively engages in the initial and final phases whereas R&D is generally undertaken by industry with UNICEF driving the process.
The governance process follows a system of phases and gates where projects live in one of five phases and can pass through a gate to the next phase when they receive approval from UNICEF Supply Division’s Innovation Review Board. The board meets monthly to review project submissions and decide if to advance a project through the next phase, suggest more work is required in the phase, or close a project.
UNICEF’s comparative advantage to product innovation
With over 70 years of delivering life-saving products to millions of children worldwide, UNICEF is uniquely positioned to be a leader in innovating for children. With an enormous procurement power of nearly US$ 3.5 billion annually, UNICEF can drive businesses to invest in the development of quality products. UNICEF also brings strength in programming as the leading humanitarian and development agency working globally for the rights of children where the organization can drive scale through its respected relationships with local governments.
This global status – both in procurement and programming – gives UNICEF the ability to negotiate with industry to develop the best-of-the-best products for children at an affordable price for programming.
Other Product Innovation activities
Other ongoing efforts involve developing target product profiles to communicate the product needs to manufacturers, introducing assistive technology devices to programming so children with disabilities can gain access to essential services, and working hand-in-hand with other activities at UNICEF Supply Division to ensure sustainable access is created for life-saving products.