It’s been 25 years since the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child and UNICEF is marking the milestone with an interactive call to action.
The UN agency, which works on behalf of children globally, has published an online versionof its yearly “State of the World’s Children” report. While the assessment praises improvements in child mortality rates, water and education over the last quarter century, it also stresses advancements yet to be made and the people around the world who are coming up with ways to make them happen.
But, for further progress to be realized in vulnerable populations, innovators need to reach beyond gimmicks or niche services for the world’s elite.
“More is at stake than the need to provide high-end consumers with the latest gadgets,” the report, titled “Reimagine the future: Innovation for every child,” reads. “Innovation must not only benefit those who can afford it the most. It must also meet the needs and advance the rights of those who have the least.”
Some 60 entrepreneurs are highlighted in this year’s report, culled from a year’s worth of research in UNICEF’s 135 country offices. They’re solving big problems in their communities in unique and often simple ways, even when faced with limited resources or structural limitations.
Chris Fabian, who co-leads UNICEF’s innovation unit, said in an interview that the report shows “how absolutely possible it is to find those rich ideas in the environments that we work.” (The unit, which helps identify, fund and scale technologies germane to the developing world, is like a “startup accelerator” within the organization.)
Fabian had just returned from Liberia to explore how SMS technology, which has served an important role in HIV/AIDS outreach, could be employed to help combat the Ebola crisis. Classic private-sector startup strategies, he noted, are as effective in innovation labs in Burundi as they are in Cupertino, with some adjustments for the development sector.