By Rinko Kinoshita, Deputy Representative, UNICEF Nicaragua
Sunday July 6th, Managua, Nicaragua – It’s past midnight…I am still up and working on the final report for the Action Learning Project (ALP), due today. I have been working on this for the past 6 months as a part of the Leadership Development Program .
UNICEF is making significant progress in promoting innovation. Among the many achievements is a global Innovation network connecting innovation hubs and over 10 innovation labs including the newest lab in Nicaragua.
As UNICEF leaders or future leaders, how can we further contribute to making innovation the “new normal” for UNICEF?
In search for answers, I did a comparative study (UNICEF vs 12 external organizations) for my ALP to identify challenges and leadership solutions in doing this.
Now I am trying to get an “ally” of people to “prototype” a small action based on my report. Evidences will be used for advocating with the senior leaders, while strengthening UNICEF’s strategy network for innovation.
My prototype came from a long-term question on dealing with resistance to innovation, as many leaders I interviewed are having to tackle it, with “perseverance.”
Q: “Innovation takes time and energy and we have other priorities. What to do?”
A: “Innovation is a part of our work to help you accelerate delivering results for children.”
But how can I demonstrate this?
Last week, our programme team (including drivers and an operations saff) visited Bilwi, a remote indigenous area in the Caribbean Coast. I decided to prototype “innovator’s method” during this visit.
The opening session consisted of a 15-minute presentation on theory and 40-minute exercises. Colleagues, in pairs, shared and re-designed a “gift giving experience” (a replica of an exercise, N. Furr@ INSEAD, May 2015).
Suddenly, our meeting room became a bit chaotic art class.
Then people in groups replicated the “innovator’s method” in the field: a maternal home, a teaching school, adolescent entrepreneurs, home visits for early childhood development, and a birth registration campaign, all UNICEF-supported initiatives.
Mission of the first group: “listen, observe and analyze” to discover “a job-to-be-done” and find possible solutions. To do this, one needs to get to the insights of users by listening with “empathy.”
Groups consolidated their findings and initiated the ideation stage, shared potential solutions in plenary to get feedbacks from other groups.
The following day, groups switched their sites. Mission of the second group: virtually prototype the solutions of the previous group on the site, by incorporating users’ views and quickly adapting them.
My intention was not creating 5 brilliant solutions (although some of the ideas will definitely be incorporated in our future work plan). I wanted my colleagues to “get indulged” with the innovator’s method and feel that “I can do this in my work.”
“…it is a process of having people feel like I have something to say which is going to be valued. It doesn’t matter who I am…” Tanya Accone, Senior Innovation Advisor, UNICEF innovation Center
The result was positive. During the post-workshop evaluation, everyone gave a “green light” to their field visit experience!!
Now, a call is open: do you want to join us and prototype how leaders can promote innovation? Who is the leader? It’s you, yourself!
“[The] end game is not an innovation lab, [it’s] UNICEF being an innovation lab.” Joshua Harvey, Innovations Lab Manager, UNICEF Kosovo (UNSC 1244)
 UNICEF in partnership with INSEAD (Fontainebleau, France), one of the top business schools, has been organizing a Leadership Development Program for mid-level managers in UNICEF.
Quotes are from in-depth interviews with UNICEF innovation leaders that I conducted for the ALP.
All references to Kosovo are made in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).