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"While the challenges of poverty, conflict and violence might be outside our control, our responses to them are within our control…. As we consider the many challenges ahead, we know that we cannot keep up without a relentless focus on finding new and better ways to design, deliver and finance our programmes and services with our partners. In other words, not without a commitment to innovation." — UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore

UNICEF: a history of innovating for children

Within the UNICEF Office of Innovation is a creative, agile, interdisciplinary team tasked with identifying and advancing technologies and practices that strengthen UNICEF’s work for children. Uniquely positioned where major global issues intersect with startup thinking, UNICEF Innovation fosters collaboration across sectors and across borders, building partnerships around “frontier technologies” (drones, blockchain) to drive toward scalable solutions.

A huge part of the Innovation agenda is to connect the world’s most marginalized populations, to empower young people with access to information, opportunities and choices.

UNICEF's approach to innovation is rooted in the following principles for digital development:

  • Involve end users in planning, development and implementation
  • Understand the ecosystem you’re designing for
  • Design for scale; be replicable and customizable in other countries and contexts
  • Plan for sustainability from the start
  • Be data-driven
  • Use open-source technology and open data, and invest in software as a public good
  • Modify and extend existing tools, platforms and frameworks when possible
  • Consider privacy needs and assess and mitigate risks to the security of users and their data
  • Be collaborative; engage diverse expertise and work across sector silos

Pathways to scale, pathways to results for every child

2018 report from UNICEF’s Global Innovation Center (GIC), part of the Office of Innovation, looks at current efforts to scale what is working. To date, the GIC has supported 85 countries to identify, adopt and adapt innovative solutions — affecting the lives of 115 million people.