By Hannah Godefa, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia
On November 20th 2014, UNICEF and friends from around the world celebrated the 25th anniversary for the Convention on the Rights of a child. Musical talents and great supporters, including Yoko Ono gathered to present a powerful “Imagine” tribute for all the efforts in uniting the world for the benefit children everywhere. In the afternoon, a panel of government representatives, entrepreneurs, academia and young innovators gathered together to discuss the importance of social innovation – aptly named, as it is the heart of UNICEF’s fully digital State of the World’s children report for 2014. The report this year focuses on innovation, and how new ways of thinking and working are necessary in order for every girl and every boy to exercise their rights. The major challenge of our world today is that there are still millions of children whose rights are being denied on a daily basis. In order to make sure each one of them is able to survive, get an education, and live out their dreams and their potential, innovation is essential. That means finding new ways to solve existing problems, but it also means making improvements to the way we’re currently doing things.
We heard from the Danish government, who is known for their great support of innovation – not just in a development context, but in every aspect. Ambassador Petersen emphasized the importance of governments being willing to take more risks politically and financially to support innovative ideas. Andrew Zimmerman of Frog Global Design, introduced the role of the private sector in bringing about social change and the corporate world’s responsibility to reach those being left behind. In contrast, Rebecca Richards-Kortem shared insight on academia’s role in the innovation process and the importance of understanding it in a local context and needs to its development.
Perhaps the most impressive of the SOWC panel were the two young advocates, 14 year old Viraj Puri and 16 year old Bisman Deu who completely captured the attention of the room and captivated many with their well-developed ideas that have already been implemented to create change in their respective communities. They were extremely articulate and confidently led the youth-centered discussion. Bisman presented her revolutionary construction material from rice husks named Greenwood that is used as building material. She also highlighted the importance of investing in girls as they are an essential part of the growth for our world’s future. Viraj restated the value behind projects such as Bullyvention, his online heat map that can demonstrate where bullying is happening in real time based on social media algorithms.
This year’s report is truly innovative not just in its presentation, but also in its interactive, crowd-sourced and inclusive content. Its features allow anyone around the world to contribute and define what innovation means to them. One of the reasons the State of the World’s Children report has been set up in this way was to create a way to engage problem solvers in a space where problems will be solved through systemic changes that transpire from individual ideas to the community, to the global level. It was an incredible opportunity for me to moderate this intelligent, innovative panel and to champion bright ideas, especially from young people who have unique insight into the challenges that affect our world.