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Press release

UNICEF Innovation adopts new models of investment to give poorest children better opportunities

New Global Innovation Centre and Innovation Fund created to accelerate programmes and projects that reduce inequities

NEW YORK, 7 May 2015 – UNICEF today launched a Global Innovation Centre and Innovation Fund to bring to scale creative and cost-reducing approaches to better the lives of the poorest children.

So far, over USD $9 million has been raised to support the Global Innovation Centre and the new Innovation Fund - allowing UNICEF’s seven-year old Innovation team to adapt successful approaches to improve the lives of children in the poorest places.

“Innovations – using mobile technology to register births, sharing real-time data to improve education and health, and giving young people a way to connect with their governments – are already changing the way we work,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.  “These are not just ideas anymore.  They’re working, right now – helping us drive change for the children in greatest need.” 

“But we need more innovations – urgently – and the new Global Innovation Centre and Innovation Fund will help make that possible,” he added. 

Approximately 300 innovative projects focusing on priority issues to promote the survival, growth, and development of children and reduce inequity are currently in development.  UNICEF country offices that are piloting innovation programmes will now be able to apply to access the Innovation Fund – a pooled funding mechanism – which will allow them to generate sufficient evidence and results to facilitate the expansion of the programme across countries or regions. The fund model is based on successful venture investment structures including a focus on early-stage investments, a portfolio approach, and meeting selection criteria for investment. 

Founding members of the Innovation Fund – which currently holds USD $4 million – include The Walt Disney Company and the Government of Denmark. The pioneering funding from both entities will kickstart the work of several innovation labs and programmes.

UNICEF’s Global Innovation Centre, based in Nairobi, Kenya, will be guided by a Steering Committee, which includes:  the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, the Philips Foundation, and the UNICEF National Committees of Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.  Partners in the Steering Committee bring their networks and technical “know-how” to help UNICEF expand their innovations to several countries and regions, as well as to foster collaboration, including overcoming challenges and accelerating progress, between countries where the programmes are being implemented.  

“With the Global Innovation Centre and Innovation Fund, UNICEF is building new forms of engagement between businesses and development organizations that bring resources and expertise, to bear on children’s issues,” said Dr. Sharad Sapra, Director of the UNICEF Global Innovation Centre.

“UNICEF welcomes the valuable contribution of the founding members of the Global Innovation Centre and Innovation Fund for their willingness to approach collaborations in an innovative way, and for their commitment to improving children’s lives and futures,” he added.



Quote from HE Ambassador Ib Peterson, Permanent Representative to the UN, Denmark: “I encourage other governments - like Denmark - to support both politically and financially the innovative ideas that are being developed by UNICEF and other UN funds and programmes. Innovation is risky business, because we never know in advance if the new ideas will work. We need to be willing to take risks and accept failures as long as we learn from these failures.”

Quote from HE Ambassador HAHN Choong-hee, deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN: “The Government of the Republic of Korea commends the endeavors of the UNICEF Global Innovation Centre to harvest, incubate, educate, and disseminate innovative tools and solutions with a view to reducing inequality and enhancing development effectiveness.”

Quote from Ronald de Jong, Member of the Executive Committee at Royal Philips and Chairman of the Philips Foundation:  “Supporting the UNICEF Global Innovation Center is a natural next-step in our partnership with UNICEF as it allows us to leverage Royal Philips’ technology, innovation know-how and employees in a really meaningful way to bring scale to social innovators in communities around the world in support of children. Innovation as a means to improve people’s lives is at the heart of who we are at Philips and we increasingly seek engagement and co-creation with strong partners like UNICEF.”

Quote from David Morley, President and CEO, UNICEF Canada: “UNICEF is developing innovative, new responses so that more children can survive and thrive—yet another way to ensure that no child is too far. Canada’s commitment to maternal, newborn and child health and the innovative responses that have been developed here, like the micronutrient powder Sprinkles, are saving lives. We believe the Global Innovation Centre will make a profound and lasting change to children and families around the world by scaling up these types of critical approaches to reach the most vulnerable children and mothers.” 

Quote from David Bull, Executive Director, UNICEF United Kingdom: “UNICEF must be at the forefront of innovation if we are to continue pushing the boundaries in our work protecting and supporting children around the world. Over the years, UK partners have funded early pilots of life changing innovations like mobile phone based system, RapidFTR, which allows humanitarian workers to quickly gather and share information on children separated from their caregivers in disasters and reunite them with their families. The new Global Innovation Centre and Fund will mean Unicef can identify, fund and scale up ideas like this and use them to help give children around the world a better future.”

Quote from Rajesh Anandan, Senior Vice President, U.S. Fund for UNICEF: "The Global Innovation Center and Innovation Fund are thrilling new developments in UNICEF's efforts to solve the world's toughest problems facing kids today, "The U.S. corporate and philanthropic sectors have played critical roles in advancing UNICEF innovations, including embedding machine learning into U-report and providing seed capital for Project Mwana - tools which are now part of the RapidPro platform being scaled up thanks to the GIC. We are excited to continue to engage researchers, innovators and funders from Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley to put children first and support the next phase of UNICEF's life saving innovations."


Examples of UNICEF’s Innovations

Some of UNICEF’s innovations that are going to scale in 2015 include:

U-Report. U-Report is a program designed to empower people in developing countries to speak out on issues they care about in their communities, encourage citizen-led development and create positive change. U-Report began as an SMS program in Uganda in 2011 as an opportunity for young people in developing countries to express their views from a basic mobile phone.  Today the program, developed on RapidPro, is in 14 countries and over 700,000 people are sending or receiving SMSs every week.  Results are analysed and mapped in real-time using RapidPro open source technology.  By the end of 2015, U-Report is expected to expand to approximately 20 countries and reach 1 million.

By Youth For Youth (BYFY). The BYFY programme prepares young people from vulnerable communities to identify, analyse, and take entrepreneurial action against community challenges they care about—helping participants realize their role as agents of social change, and building their professional readiness and resilience along the way. Successfully piloted in Kosovo, elements of BYFY are being used in Nepal and will potentially scale to six countries in 2015-2016.

EduTrac and mTrac. EduTrac and mTrac are data collection systems that use basic mobile phones to send and receive information. This real-time information can strengthen education and health systems (respectively) and help frontline workers do their jobs better. These systems have reported on the whereabouts of millions of dollars of medical supplies in Uganda, and on the delivery of more than 6,000,000 textbooks, in real-time, in Zimbabwe.  They have also created the capacity for real-time birth reporting systems in Nigeria and registration systems in Uganda. EduTrac started in Afghanistan and may be in seven countries by the end of 2016. mTrac started in Uganda and may be in six countries by the end of 2016.

EquiTrack. EquiTrack is a new partner-tracking tool that is a one-stop shop for creating and managing partnerships in a centralized and online database. It serves as an online repository of partnership cooperation agreement documentation that can be easily accessed from anywhere. Partnerships are attributed and tracked against a multitude of result structures, donors, grants, geographical locations and gateways. EquiTrack was recently expanded to include a trip request and reporting feature, called EquiTrip. EquiTrack was developed by UNICEF Lebanon and could be rolled out to 30+ countries in the next few years.

Internet of Good Things (IoGT). IoGT is a set of mobile-ready web-based resources and applications that will bring good to your life. The IoGT initiative is delivering value-added information and lifesaving recommendations to the population most in need, directly on their phones at no cost to the end user. The information delivered includes, but is not limited to: educational content, health and hygiene information, children’ rights, information on Ebola and more. IoGT also serves as an amplifier for established UNICEF services such as U-Report. Through various platforms, IoGT is distributed in nine countries and could be in up to 100 countries by the end of 2015.

UNICEF’s Innovation Principles

UNICEF has been innovating for children for more than 65 years with solutions like the India Mark II Handpump, the auto-disable syringe, ready-to-use therapeutic food, and more. About seven years ago, a dedicated Innovation Unit was established to help recognize and formalize some of this work. Early on, UNICEF Innovation established guiding Principles for innovation and technology in development. They include:

1. Design with the user
2. Understand the existing ecosystem
3. Design for scale
4. Build for sustainability
5. Be data driven
6. Use open standards, open data, open source, and open innovation
7. Reuse and improve
8. Do no harm
9. Be collaborative

UNICEF’s Innovation Principles have been endorsed or adopted by other UN and aid organizations including: WHO, USAID, Gates Foundation, EOSG Global Pulse, WFP, OCHA, UNDP, SIDA, IKEA Foundation, UN Foundation, and UNHCR.

UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF visit: www.unicef.org.
To view UNICEF’s 2015 State of the World’s Children on Innovation, visit: http://sowc2015.unicef.org/.

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About UNICEF Innovation
UNICEF Innovation is an interdisciplinary team of individuals around the world tasked with identifying, prototyping, and scaling technologies and practices that strengthen UNICEF’s work. Through our network of 12 Innovation Labs and presence in 190 countries, we build and scale innovations that improve children’s lives around the world. For more information about UNICEF’s work in innovation, visit: www.unicef.org/innovation and www.unicefstories.org. Follow us on Twitter.

For photo of UNICEF Innovations, please visit:

For further information, please contact

Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, +1 212-326-7452, kdonovan@unicef.org

Dana Zucker, Communications Lead UNICEF Innovation, +1 973-462-3855, dzucker@unicef.org





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