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Background to Active Talks


Challenges to children’s rights demand new ideas and fresh thinking. With the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals fast approaching, global leaders and the development community have been examining the progress made. For children there have been significant improvements: the number of out-of- school children has dropped, more girls than ever before are in school, and there has been a huge decrease in under-five deaths.

Not all children have benefitted, however. Existing challenges and disparities have combined with emerging problems to deprive many children of their rights and the benefits of development. Innovative approaches designed with equity in mind can help bridge the technological, financial, institutional, cultural and political barriers that stand in the way of conventional efforts to reach the most marginalized children. Without concerted collaboration around, investment in, and use of new products, systems, and models, we will not be able to deliver transformational results for children at scale.

To rise to this challenge in the 25th anniversary year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC@25), UNICEF has declared 2014 as the Year of Innovation for Equity. To make this a reality, UNICEF and partners will bring together and work with change makers from all walks of life to rethink and rework how we can collectively deliver results for children. In the spirit of innovation, the Year will include a series of dynamic events and seminars with experts, innovators and thought-leaders. The activities will take place throughout 2014, culminating in a high-level global event in November 2014 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the CRC. 

ACTIVATE TALKS                

‘Activate Talks’ are a driving component of the CRC@25. By engaging global audience – including youth – on issues of innovation, equity, and children’s rights they will complement other components of the CRC@25.

Inspired by the success of TED and Ignite talks and the Social Good Summit, UNICEF offices and National Committees around the world will be invited to convene a series of innovation events between end of February and November 2014.

The ‘Activate Talks’ are an advocacy tool to drive change for children. They are an opportunity to convene a wide range of different actors and citizens in each country and at global level to bring new ways of thinking to address those issues around children’s rights that have not progressed in the past 25 years.

UNICEF offices and National Committees will organize a series of events around the world featuring inspirational speakers to highlight issues and share innovations that can deliver progress for the most vulnerable and marginalized children.

The discussions will focus on unpacking the concept of innovating for equity, showcasing successful innovations as well as examining why innovations fail.

Each event will:

  • Focus on a theme that is relevant to the local context: an event in Amman, for example, might focus on ensuring a path to gainful employment for young people, while a conference in Malawi might focus on delivering healthcare in the last mile.
  • Bring together key thinkers and doers (entrepreneurs, young people, donors/investors, relevant private sector, international development partners, and government) who are committed to, or already making significant investments into social innovations for children.
  • Curate talks/discussions which unpack the concept of innovating for equity; showcase successful innovations which have improved outcomes for children and narrowed gaps in children’s enjoyment of their rights; and which examine why many innovations fail and what can be learnt from these failures. The focus should be on showcasing non-UNICEF innovators/innovations. Further details on what is meant by innovation are provided later in the document.

The format should resemble TEDx or Ignite events: between 3-6 speakers speaking for 5 minutes followed by discussion. Each event should last approximately one hour. Between 10 and 15 events will be selected as headlining global events which will be live streamed and featured prominently on the innovation dialogue online platform.

To reach as many people as possible – and to invite participation and comment, in particular from young people– the themes and ideas from the global innovation events will be captured on a global online platform. The online platform will promote widespread engagement and feature live-streamed and recorded events, discussion forums, blog posts and other rich content to inform State of the World’s Children (SOWC). The report for the first time will have a strong crowdsourcing element and focus on innovations for children. UNICEF’s global and local social media channels, as well as online communities like Voices of Youth and others, will strategically feed into these discussions.

Events will take place between the end of February and November 22.  The pilot event will take place in Kampala on 28 February, followed by an event in New York in April. It is envisioned that one headlining event will take place per week between the end of February and the end of June.  A planning period of 1-2 months is suggested for the event. Events which take place after the end of June can still be featured on the online portal.

The Year of Innovation for Equity will culminate in a high-level event that captures the most exciting personalities, ideas and solutions from the global series, aligning with the 25th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The high-level global 2-day event will feature 30-40 speakers and 200-400 audience members. At this event, UNICEF will launch (i) a ‘State of the World’s Children’ dedicated to the theme of Innovation for Equity and (ii) the ‘Innovation for Children’ Alliance with key partners.                        



  • Thinking differently – solving problems and tackling issues following different approaches.        
  • Doing something new that will add concrete value to our work.                                  
  • Changing established processes and structures – slowly or dramatically.                        
  • Drawing on unconventional sources of knowledge.                        
  • Using available resources for simple, low- cost solutions.                        
  • Accepting the willingness to take risks and to fail and to discuss failure openly; to learn from it.
  • Not limited to what happens in UNICEF.                        
  • Not necessarily technology-related.


  • Inclusive, accessible, equitable: addressing the needs of the marginalised
  • Targeted – where have traditional approaches failed?
  • Anchored in child rights
  • Participatory and locally adaptable
  • Accountable – based on evidence, monitored, evaluated
  • Sustainable
  • Scalable 



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