Start Up to Scale Up—a Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit brought together ‘thought- and action-leaders around the world to accelerate development for the most disadvantaged children and youth.’ The Summit was hosted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and UNICEF, in cooperation with the startup and technology conference Slush. The Summit took place 9-10 November in Helsinki, Finland, and was attended by over 550 ‘innovators’ from the private sector, governments, development, and academia. The two-day programme can be seen here, and webcasts of the sessions will soon be available. View Storify summaries of Day 1 here, and Day 2

Here are some highlights of the two days from the lens of the UNICEF HIV Global Team (this summary is also attached as a PDF):


Day 1: Panel on Challenging Stereotypes and Promoting Behavior Change among Young People

Challenge your thinking on gender, identity, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, HIV prevention, violence against women, racism, and more in this interactive workshop drawing on theater, poetry, media, and technology.

The session was chaired by Amaya Gillespie, HIV/AIDS Partnerships and Special Initiatives Manager, UNICEF NYHQ. It opened up with a poetry slam video by Timothy Du White, where he poignantly expressed his thoughts on the meaning of life and joy, before and after getting diagnosed with HIV. Watch here.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 10.02.49 AMLeonard Fontes and Mariah Gama: Youth Activists, Corpolitica are college students from Brazil who are passionate about fighting prejudices against LGBT, sexuality, and race. The two teenage activists conducted an interactive workshop, where they discussed ideas on how to construct a new world without LGBT phobia.

Dr Ruslan Malyuta: HIV/AIDS Specialist, UNICEF CEE/CIS shared his perspective working in Central Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where very few adolescents know their HIV status. In an effort to increase testing and prevention, Ruslan teamed up with a start-up to create and pilot a free mobile app – the HIV Risk Calculator. “Young people often under- or over-estimate their risk for HIV, and this app could give them honest, evidence-based and personalized information, and empower them to learn about their risk given their own behavior, information on where and how to get and HIV test, among others” said Dr Malyuta. Available in Russian, Spanish and English, you can download the Android app here.

Georgia Arnold: Senior Vice President, Social Responsibility, Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) / Executive Director, MTV Staying Alive Foundation spoke about how media can, not just create awareness, but also catalyze  action and behavior change. “It’s important to get content messaging right to demand action.” She used the example of MTV Shuga,  an African TV soap opera for young people with sexual reproductive health messaging embedded in the story lines – reaching more than 500,000 households. The TV show has been complemented with a range of other interventions such as peer education and radio programs. Recently in Nigeria, MTV hosted a music festival and encouraged HIV testing.  As a result, over 50,000 young Nigerians took the HIV test and learned about HIV, sexual and reproductive health.

Day 1: Panel on the Flightpath of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Judith Sherman Chief of HIV and AIDS, UNICEF Malawi, shared the potential of autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to transport samples for early infant diagnosis for HIV from health facilities to laboratories in Malawi. Currently, samples take 20 days, on average, to go by road from facilities to labs. UAVs can substantially reduce that time, decreasing both costs and the amount of time caregivers must wait to learn of their child’s HIV status. Most importantly, it may lead to children with HIV accessing treatment earlier, significantly contributing to their chances for survival and well-being.


Day 2: Panel on Creating the Narrative of the Future

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How do we find or create ways of communicating the change that we need to make in the world quickly?  What lessons can governments, international organizations, and private sector companies learn from some of the world’s strongest story-tellers?

This ‘mega’-plenary panel session was facilitated by Funa Maduka, a content strategist leading content acquisition for Film Africa & Europe. The panel was composed of an inspiring cast of VIPs and key influencers from the entertainment and media industry, who shared their experiences on using storytelling – from music, filmmaking, television to journalism – to promote social good. Two of the speakers articulated a strong voice that focused on HIV and health:

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Sammy Sheik: Egyptian Actor and UNFPA Y-PEER Ambassador, helps empower young people to protect themselves from HIV through sexual and reproductive health information and skills.  He believes that those affected by a situation (e.g. negative portrayal of Arabs in the media) should take responsibility in telling their own story, and not just put all the blame on Hollywood. As a Y-PEER Ambassador, he encourages young people to write their own story and express themselves. He also emphasized the importance of tailoring your narrative to your audience. Working with 14 to 24 year olds, he shared that shorter forms of content (ie, capturing attention in the first five minutes), or getting young people to participate in the telling of their own narrative, are key strategies to creating a compelling story for this generation.

Georgia Arnold: Senior Vice President, Social Responsibility, Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) / Executive Director, MTV Staying Alive Foundation talked about her experience of ‘robinhooding the system’.   She maximizes the MTV brand by placing sexual and reproductive health messaging into popular MTV shows and focused campaigns. She added: “Use the role that you have and work within the context you’re in” to create diverse narratives and promote positive social change. She also talked about the SHUGA series had been so successful in using a soap opera platform to reach young people with HIV and reproductive health information, as well as linking with other campaigns and services to increase HIV testing.  When asked about how to scale stories, she advised to tap on the power of social media like Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, but also to diversify by using other tools like radio, comic books, local screenings and peer education: “Use scale from top to bottom with impact and reach.”

Other speakers included:

His Highness Prince Fahad Al Saud: NA3M Founder & CEO, a transmedia incubator that produces innovative content aimed at Arab speaking audiences worldwide.

Craig Hatkoff: Co-Founder, Tribeca Film Festival and an American real estate investor and philanthropist from New York City

M.anifest an award winning Ghanaian rapper and songwriter

Nanjla Nyabola: Writer is in the inaugural class of fellows at FP Interrupted, a savvy project to bring more women’s voices into foreign policy circles.

Abiola Oke: CEO, Okayafrica, a multi-faceted digital media hub capturing the spirit of this unprecedented boom in youth culture, focusing on emerging and progressive artists.

Day 2: Panel on From Personal to Planetary Health

How have advances at both edges of scale created new fields of health innovation – from the small and individually focused to the macro and environmental. What will this shift mean for how we look at health, and what can we learn from it in other areas of need?

This session was chaired by Amaya Gillespie, HIV/AIDS Partnerships and Special Initiatives Manager, UNICEF NYHQ.

Illustration by Natalie and Marie-Claudine
Illustration by Natalie and Marie-Claudine

Professor Andy Haines, Chair, Rockefeller Foundation – Lancet Commission on Planetary Health discussed the concept of planetary health, and the conclusion of the Lancet Commission that the continuing degradation of natural systems threatens to reverse the health gains seen over the last century: “We have mortgaged the health of future generations to realise economic and development gains in the present.” He noted that climate change will have huge impacts, ranging from food yields, to the reduction of aquifers, to the loss of pollinators—all of which will have big impacts on human health. He emphasized that although we are faced with very serious threats, we can also enact solutions, such as a change in lifestyles, healthier diets and clean energy technologies. See the full Lancet report here.

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Robert Matiru, UNITAID, described how UNITAID is using innovative financing mechanisms to bring new diagnostics to scale. He emphasized many innovations in the area of HIV from treatment price and effectiveness to self-testing.  He noted that diagnosis is one of the biggest challenges related to getting people with HIV on treatment. UNITAID is currently working on addressing this challenge by bringing HIV self-test kits to market, which will empower people to know their status and is one important tool in helping to get people on treatment. He demonstrated the HIV self-test: a kit that includes a testing swab and buffer solution, which reduces the time for receiving your test results from weeks using the traditional lab system to 20 minutes using the self-test in your own home. He emphasized that the kit alone is not enough and that linkages to counseling and treatment will be critical. UNITAID is working with PSI to build evidence of effectiveness, feasibility and ethical implications for scaling the introduction of self-testing, particularly for young people.

Ruslan Malyuta, HIV/AIDS Advisor, CEE/CIS Regional Office, UNICEF. Faced with the challenge of improving clinical care services for children living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, UNICEF, supported by MAC AIDS Fund, is working to strengthen capacity among a network of doctors in the region. Over the past three years, 550 providers have undergone a training course, which includes a blend of online and residential coursework. Working within this provider network and providing a platform to share clinical challenges, is leading to improvements in HIV clinical care for children in this region.

UNICEF and the MAC AIDS Fund are supporting HIV clinical care for children in a very different context, through telemedicine in India—see a short video highlighting this initiative here.

Anu Acharya, CEO, Mapmygenome India, presented the work that her company is doing to offer personalized health counseling based on genetic tests and health history. By being more aware of genetic pre-disposition to certain diseases, such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, people can make adjustments to their lifestyles to lower their risk, and share this information with doctors to ensure appropriate screening and testing. She also explained how mapping large numbers of genomes could lead to databases that help to develop better prevention and treatment methods for a range of diseases.


Follow the rest of the discussions at the Summit via #uinnovate!