UNICEF Innovation Fund to invest in open source technology start-ups
A conversation with Kidus Asfaw

By Pilar Lagos

Hi there UNICEFStories Readers. It’s been an amazing year! Thank you for all your incredible contributions throughout the year. Here are some of our highlights of 2015.

1. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Pays a Visit to the Innovation Unit

 On 7 January 2015, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visit the Innovation Unit led by Christopher Fabian at UNICEF House.

In January 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (#UNSG) accompanied by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, visited UNICEF’s Innovation Unit to hear about the work our organization is doing around the globe. Hearing the #UNSG state: “This team has changed the way I think about innovation,” pretty much sums it up.

2. UNICEF’s Global Innovation Centre and Innovation Fund Launch

People attending the launch of UNICEF's Global Innovation Centre and Innovation Fund listen to a member of UNICEF's Innovation team (wearing blue) explain the Digital Kiosk. An increasing number of jobs and educational opportunities in today's connected world require a basic understanding of how to use a computer, basic word processing, and the internet; and youth who do not have these skills will have a difficult time. UNICEF's Digital Kiosks aim to bridge this gap by providing a rugged and easily maintainable technology package, especially for youth centres located in rural areas that can make use of solar energy. On 7 May 2015, UNICEF launches Global Innovation Centre and Innovation Fund at UNICEF House to bring to scale creative and cost-reducing approaches to better the lives of the poorest children. So far, over USD $9 million has been raised to support the Global Innovation Centre and the new Innovation Fund - allowing UNICEF’s seven-year old Innovation team to adapt successful approaches to improve the lives of children in the poorest places. Approximately 300 innovative projects focusing on priority issues to promote the survival, growth, and development of children and reduce inequity are currently in development. UNICEF country offices that are piloting innovation programmes will now be able to apply to access the Innovation Fund – a pooled funding mechanism – which will allow them to generate sufficient evidence and results to facilitate the expansion of the programme across countries or regions. The fund model is based on successful venture investment structures including a focus on early-stage investments, a portfolio approach, and meeting selection criteria for investment. Founding members of the Innovation Fund – which currently holds USD $4 million – include The Walt Disney Company and the Government of Denmark. The pioneering funding from both entities will kickstart the work of several innovation labs and programmes. UNICEF’s Globa

On 7 May 2015, UNICEF launched the Global Innovation Centre and Innovation Fund in New York. Over 200 UNICEF staff and special guests learned about innovations that UNICEF Innovation takes from early stage innovations to scale-up to reach the lives of the children who need it the most.

3. U-Report Global reaches more than 1 million responders


In July 2015, more than 1 million responders joined hands to become agents of social change in their communities through U-Report.  U-Report, the SMS- and social media- based social messaging tool that enables two-way communication between young people and their community’s decision makers.  To join the global movement visit: www.ureport.in and follow @UReportGlobal on Twitter.

4. Tsinghua-UNICEF Youth Forum highlights cross-content innovation


The Tsinghua-UNICEF Youth Innovation Forum held on 17-18 October 2015 in Beijing ignited forward-looking conversations and helped build networks between young people from China and the global South, as well as inspire new ideas for the world’s most disadvantaged children.

5. Tanzania’s mobile birth registration initiative highlighted on South Africa’s Power FM #PowerHour


Hawi Bedasa, Knowledge Management/Innovation Specialist at UNICEF Tanzania talks on South Africa’s radio show #PowerHour, about how a simple innovation led to the rollout of birth registrations by mobile phone in Tanzania.

6. Things we recommend post launching U-Report Chile


Earlier this year, Lucha and Julio wrote a blog post on lessons learned before launching U-Report in Chile. Good news, U-Report’s launch in the Land of Poets was a hit. Lucha shares recommendations on what UNICEF Chile did to recruit young people to join. Hint: use a hashtag, aim for national trend, and throw a free concert.  

7. Why 500 change-makers from around the world are coming to Helsinki to innovate for children, and why you should join


On 9-10 November, UNICEF and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland convened 521 change-makers to discuss and come up with solutions that can solve challenges for the world’s children today as well as tomorrow. If you want to know what the event was all about, read this article.

8. A digital necklace and a wearable soap win ‘Wearables for Good’ Design Challenge with UNICEF, ARM and frog

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Khushi Baby, a necklace that stores electronic health data to track child immunization, and SoaPen, a wearable soap that helps limit the spread of infectious viruses by encouraging handwashing, have won the Wearables for Good challenge run by UNICEF, ARM and frog.

9. The case of Prospera Digital: Digital tools and data driven strategies to transform the largest social program in Mexico – Part 1

Did you know that Prospera is the largest social program in Mexico and the second largest Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) in the world? Learn how UNICEF Mexico is implementing Prospera Digital using RapidPro technology to help improve maternal and newborn health programs in Mexico.

10. La Caixa Foundation, UNICEF launch new partnership to fight childhood pneumonia


In November 2015, La Caixa Foundation pledged to give UNICEF a 5 million euro contribution to identify innovative ways to improve the diagnosis of pneumonia among children.

11. UNICEF launches Social Innovation Lab to address challenges affecting children in Myanmar


In Myanmar, UNICEF launched the Social Innovation Lab, a creative space which brings youth, academics, business experts, and policymakers together to design innovative solutions to the challenges affecting children’s lives across Myanmar.

12. EduTrac officially launches in the Central African Republic


EduTrac, a real-time data collection system that uses SMS for school-related information, has officially launched in the Central African Republic. Across the country, EduTrac makes the data collection process for school headmasters faster and more efficient.

If you’d like to submit a blog post, email Dana Zucker at dzucker@unicef.org or Pilar Lagos at plagos@unicef.org

UNICEF Innovation Fund to invest in open source technology start-ups
A conversation with Kidus Asfaw