New York, 2014. Strong and interesting hybrid prototypes in the making. Photo credit: Zhiyao Ma, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ.
New York, 2014. Strong and interesting hybrid prototypes in the making. Photo credit: Zhiyao Ma, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ.

Here are Chris and Erica’s predictions (keep scrolling down).

Chris Fabian, Co-Lead

Overview (analysis):

Slightly accelerated tech curve this year, based on strong prototypes and financial performance over the last two years, will open the gates to some interesting hybrid prototypes (in the field of drones and Heads Up Displays (HUDs)) – though not mature products in either. A crowded market-place of new (mixed) funding vehicles and options will emerge (including venture-like funding for development projects)


  • Drone / unmanned aerial vehicles trials in emergencies / humanitarian interventions will yield hybrid forms of drones – however probably still not ready for large scale deployment.

See also:

The promise and perils of disaster drones
UN Peacekeeping deploys unarmed drones to Eastern Congo

  • Proprietary / private interests trying to cash in on the trend of “public school systems run by private companies” will aggressively approach the development sector for trials, endorsement, and partnership – particularly in the “global south” – to build their value / prove concept for higher liquidity markets.

See also:

Funding education: New models for our times
Microsoft partners in learning
Does IKEA hold the secret to the future of college?

  • Crowd-funding will be a way to engage new audiences both on the creative development of ideas, as well as the funding of small interventions with large potential.

See also:

Equity crowdfunding has arrived: 5 things to know about the future of raising money online
Kano: A computer anyone can make

  • First examples of wearable, HUD technology applications for humanitarian and development work will be prototyped – not for just recording videos of project work – but for creating efficiencies in tasks where wearable, smart, connected devices can add enormous value.

See also:

I, Glasshole: My year with Google Glass
Google Glass for nonprofits: 7 ways it could help your organization
Separated from your family in a natural disaster? There’s an app for that

  • Development funders (and fundees) will explore the metaphors, mechanisms, and models developed by venture capital as a way to create transparency, monitoring of projects (against “financial” “returns”) and an ability to fail. We will see several agencies and NGOs launch funds specifically focused on promoting innovation through these mechanisms.

See also:

Philanthrocapitalism in 2014
USAID and DFID announce global development innovation ventures to invest in breakthrough solutions to world poverty
UNICEF Innovation Fund

  • More innovation units will shape themselves around designers – and the ideas that good design brings to the creative process. This will help create common language among “sectors” (or “silos”) and also encourage different types of collaboration.

See also:

Leap Symposium outcomes – Commitments, documentation and media highlights
Why non-profit design should be free

  • Fellowships, and co-ops and field work will become increasingly valuable options vs. the traditional University MA program for gaining experience, legitimacy, and a network in the space of innovation for global good.

See also:

Peter Thiel’s graph of the year
Rochester Institute of Technology co-op program
Napster, Udacity, and the Academy

New York, 2014. Our predictions for 2013 recently got marked B+ in another blog post ( Photo credit: Zhiyao Ma, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ.
New York, 2014. Our predictions for 2013 recently got marked B+ in another blog post ( Photo credit: Zhiyao Ma, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ.

Erica Kochi, Co-Lead

Overview and continuing issues and challenges (analysis):

There will be an increasing focus on developing and funding innovations for fragile states and pockets of poverty within emerging economies. Donors and international development practitioners will grapple with innovative ways to work in insecure conditions and with marginalized communities. Information communication technology will be key as we increasingly need to work through existing networks on the ground, and be able to access to real-time disaggregated information. This will also mean partnerships with and larger investments into companies that provide these communication technology services, and a change in composition of international development staff.

The aid industry will continue to struggle with new models for international development. Donors will increasingly start to ‘rethink’ traditional forms of aid. While sustainability is already the name on everyone’s lips, and there are alternative models that are emerging such social innovation startups model, private sector partnerships to deliver social services, innovation funds etc., most of these have proven to be unsustainable and have not delivered impact at scale.

International development players who do not revamp their HR programmes will increasingly become uncompetitive and irrelevant. Those who start will need to reduce the number of full-time staff with long contracts, put in place opportunities that attract a new types of talents, put in place better metrics on performance, and cultivate a culture of acceptability of fast failure and risk-taking. International development organizations need staff that are not only experts in health, education, protection etc but also have expertise and comfort in using technology, data, and design in their work. Developing, recruiting, and retaining this type of staff will be a significant challenge as competition in the private sector is already high.


How do you scale social innovation startups?
Social innovation
Partnerships with the private sector in health

New York, 2014. The past. Photo credit: Zhiyao Ma, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ.
New York, 2014. The past. Photo credit: Zhiyao Ma, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ.

Specific Predictions

  • Many US and European-based tech companies (beyond the mobile network operators are already starting look towards consumer bases in emerging markets to through initiatives such as, Loon etc, but most have little context and are not approaching the opportunity fully. This year will involve creation of meaningful physical presences in emerging markets, devoting sufficient engineering resources towards these markets, creating a culture and environment of app developers, and either competing or partnering with groups (in these new markets) who better understand their context and consumers.

See also:

Emerging markets are the key to unlocking the next billion users

  • Better and more built-to-environment smart-devices: Android along with handset manufacturers will begin in earnest to look towards designing with the context and constraints of emerging markets as a priority. This will not only mean lowering of the price point of devices, but also creating power solutions for longer battery life, lowering data usage, and the developing more rugged devices.

See also:

Andreessen: Android poised to explode in emerging markets
Google launches Kitkat with a push for emerging markets and in-app search, plus the Nexus 5 we know so well
Google looks to emerging markets for android’s growth

  • We will see more projects from the international development sector that embrace user-centered design and agility as a key element of their design; more project plans will have user-centered language built into them from the beginning.

See also:

User-Centered Design: Applying lessons from successful product companies to development
UNICEF Human-Centered Design
Backpack PLUS Toolkit created to help empower Community Health Workers
Agile global development: Using technology to fight extreme poverty

Written by Chris Fabian (Co-Lead, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ) and Erica Kochi (Co-Lead, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ)

Related reading:

UNICEF Innovation Unit predictions for 2013
B+ for Chris & Erica’s 2013 predictions
UNICEF Innovation Unit Annual Reports