Primary School Children in Kenya Become Forces for Change
Open-source tech in the Burundi Lab and beyond: a Junior Programmer's story

This week we have told stories about the UNICEF’s Next Generation field trip with the Burundi Innovation Lab in April. The remote volunteer opportunity and working trip these eight NextGeners participated in is just the start of a revolutionary partnership between the UNICEF Innovation Unit and the public. For the first time, individuals have the opportunity to lend their particular expertise to support UNICEF programs in the field and have the chance to impact programs that could change the lives of children and entire communities forever. The success of this collaboration has inspired the development of similar opportunities in countries like Vanuatu and Kosovo, and hopefully many more to come.

photo (13)
NextGen team members Pat, Rhys, Brittany and Leila with Henriette, a leader in Murago’s Nawe Nuze savings group, in her kitchen with some of her children and the Nuru light in hand. Credit: Rhys Marsh, 2014

This pilot experience and those that will come after demonstrate the strategy and ingenuity of the UNICEF Innovation Unit-bringing great minds, ideas, expertise and knowledge together to formulate new approaches to help make kids’ lives better.  Similar to the concept behind the UNICEF Innovation Labs themselves wherein youth and community members have the opportunities to develop solutions to unexamined challenges, this remote volunteering experience allows UNICEF to leverage the skills and expertise of new parties and enable their transformation towards change-makers and influencers. The goal of the Innovation Unit is to create solutions that are sustainable and scalable- and this project allows the public, specifically through UNICEF’s Next Generation, to help us do just this.

Henriette, a leader in Murago, Burundi's Nawe Nuze savings group demonstrates an LED Nuru light in her darkened home. Credit: Rhys Marsh 2014.
Henriette, a leader in Murago, Burundi’s Nawe Nuze savings group demonstrates an LED Nuru light in her darkened home. Credit: Rhys Marsh 2014

The results of this experience were solutions and processes that the Burundi Innovation Lab can use as launching points for even more progress.  This two month pilot program, at minimum, helped the lab staff shave hours off their data visualization daily and could enable 500,000 new households to have access to electricity in just two months!  We look forward to what will come by partnering UNICEF’s access, reach and knowledge with entrepreneurs, technologists and specialists looking to do what they can to help spark innovation, sustainable solutions and address some of the world’s most important challenges.

Two boys at Mitonto primary school, the one at right dressed in the school uniform which is unaffordable for many families. By switching to LED light from kerosene, both boys could study more at home and afford uniforms.  Credit: Rhys Marsh 2014

If you are excited by what you read here and want to support programs like this, good news! Right now, you can support UNICEF’s Innovation Labs and programs through Star Wars: Force for Change, a brand new initiative from Disney and Lucasfilm in collaboration with Bad Robot, that allows fans to contribute at for a chance to appear in Star Wars: Episode VII, while benefiting UNICEF’s innovative work worldwide.

If you want to learn more about UNICEF’s Next Generation and/ or join our UNICEF community, please visit

By Casey D. Rotter
Deputy Director & Founder UNICEF’s Next Generation



Related stories:

Open-source tech in the Burundi Lab and beyond: a Junior Programmer’s story

Project Lumiere

UNICEF Lights Up Burundi

Video: Next Generation’s first volunteer field trip with Burundi Innovation Lab

Notes from the field: Using energy to empower communities in Burundi

UNICEF Next Generation travel to support Burundi Innovation Lab

Next Generation offer expertise pro bono to support global UNICEF innovation work

Join Star Wars & UNICEF Innovation to be a “force for change”

Primary School Children in Kenya Become Forces for Change
Open-source tech in the Burundi Lab and beyond: a Junior Programmer's story