On the morning of 1 November 2012, a group of 30 experts convened at UNICEF Supply Division Copenhagen for the UNICEF Innovation Leaders’ Consortium. This session, which aimed to tackle challenges in pre-commercial procurement, was the first innovation-oriented workshop held at UNICEF’s Copenhagen Innovation Lab. A combination of UNICEF staff and external delegates brought their unique perspectives to address challenges in the areas of “Ready to Use Therapeutic Food” (RUTF),  water quality detection, pneumonia diagnostics, and new Jerry Can pilots at the workshop.

By bringing together representatives from various disciplines for the purpose of knowledge sharing and value creation, the workshop reflects the underlying principles for which the labs were created. While observing the various groups deep in discussion on their assigned case studies,the role of bringing external delegates to the event became apparent.  Comments such as “Can I share how a similar situation is handled at [XYZ]”, “in the automobile industry they do it like [XYZ]”, “for example, it is similar to Facebook when they did [XYZ]” were frequently raised. This is a strong indication of participants drawing from external influences as inspiration to come up with innovative solutions. It is also representative of how people with different specializations can build off one another to create something new.

The opportunity to take part in the UNICEF Innovation Leaders’ Consortium was a truly valuable experience for me. In a way, I received a “crash course” into UNICEF’s operations and its perspective on innovation by observing the various group discussions and presentations that occurred during the day, as well as by talking to participants. I was really impressed at how open and approachable all the participants were. I also found experiencing a familiar environment of case solving and group work to be refreshing and stimulating. Seeing groups working on case studies was nostalgic as it brings back memories of university days where teams of students could be seen working on similar projects on campus. It was very interesting to see a similar feeling of cooperation amongst UNICEF experts, professionals, and academic experts as it takes case solving – something that I have always associated with university studies – to another level, one with the potential to create solutions that are life-changing. As this appears to be the path that innovation at UNICEF is taking, I am excited for the future experiences to come during my internship.

My involvement in this workshop has given me a first-hand perspective into the potential of UNICEF Supply Division’s Innovation Lab and what it can achieve. This serves a source of inspiration for developing the Innovation Lab in a way that encourages UNICEF staff and external parties to exploit it as a creative space for knowledge sharing, is the focus of my internship here in the Innovation Unit. It is very likely that I will be meeting many users of the space very soon to discuss how to improve the Innovation Lab to better suit UNICEF’s needs. Updates on my project will be shared on this blog for duration of my internship period, which ends in February 2013…so stay tuned for upcoming blog posts about the new and improved Innovation Lab!

Finally I’d like to share the DIY Guide to UNICEF Innovation Labs and the press release on the workshop.

Chuthida (On) Phichaiphrome
Innovation Unit,
UNICEF Supply Division.

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