Jeffrey Koh Hall, Innovation Lab Lead, UNICEF Indonesia Jakarta office
Tell us a bit about your background.
Originally born in Korea, and adopted to the United States. I am a Northern California boy, bay area. Worked doing innovation and Human Centered Design in healthcare for Kaiser Permanente in the United States after my undergrad in English Literature. Then did grad school in Los Angeles, Pasadena in Design.
What do you do?
Ha! I think the question is, what don’t I do? I’m doing a bit of everything, the major innovation programme U-Report Indonesia is a good example of this! I’m involved in the technical operation, content development, social media communication, youth engagement, hiring, partner development, strategy, planning, scale up, and advocating for the programme. Phew! This is similar to the other programmes the Innovation lab in Jakarta is running I’m involved in all aspects.
For example, supporting our Immunization colleagues to use RapidPro for real time monitoring and evaluation with SMS. Specifically to modernize reporting on immunization stock levels for our government partners in the Ministry of Health. We also are running an academic challenge programme with universities called the Design Challenge for UNICEF. Finally I like to use my background in Human Centered Design to provide innovation services to our programme colleagues in order build innovation skills and test how innovation can impact programmes. We are running a Human Centered Design based project on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) with our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) colleagues and our initial insights on how boys and girls deal with this issue with secrecy in schools is fascinating.
What’s your working day like?
Indonesia is a middle income country so it’s quite stable working situation. It’s a 9-5 type of situation, but with the traffic you have to be ready for things to run late. I come into the office, think about my day, check my to dos and make small achievable goals, like today I’m going to draft this Terms of Reference (TOR) and get it reviewed. Since there are always a ton of meetings and in the United Nations it can feel like a sprint sometimes, but really it’s a marathon you have to stay steady and focused! 🙂
How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old?
It’s like using your imagination every day and trying to figure out how to make it real.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Well, when the guidance counselor asked me that, I said “I have a no idea.”. We talked more about it and she asked “Really, you don’t have any idea?”. I remember saying, “Uhhhh..I can’t predict the future?” That always meant to me don’t start with pre-conceived notions go explore – find out.
How/when did you join UNICEF?
I joined UNICEF in 2013 right after Graduate School. I selected the graduate programme because it had this research component with the Uganda Innovation Lab. Best choice of my life, and that’s how I got the chance to come to Indonesia to build the lab here.
What are the most satisfying parts of your job?
Definitely getting to be in Indonesia and building platforms for the youth here, the energy, hustle, and amazing things Indonesian youth are doing is just jaw dropping.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Surprise! Process! It can be difficult because you just want things to happen and learn from vs. having the perfect plan. It works out though since that’s where having a team and great colleagues is helpful, you can’t innovate if you don’t get the contract through, and you can’t do that alone.
What’s your best UNICEF experience/memory?
I was really happy when we shared a U-Report poll on the National Plan of Action on Violence Against Children to the government at their development workshop where they would be developing the new National Plan of Action on Violence Against Children. We did this with our Child Protection colleagues, and delivered on our promise to young people that we’d put their voice meaningfully into the decision making processes that affect their lives.
What’s one of the biggest risks you’ve ever taken in your life?
Taking the job in Indonesia! No friends, no family, only a little experience with development, thank goodness my colleagues are awesome, UNICEF Indonesia really just wraps you up in a big hug and makes you part of the family.
What are your passions?
Martial arts, writing, long conversations, philosophy, tech, systems, and of course Human Centered Design.
What advice would you give others who are seeking a similar job as yours?
Be weird, find ways to be unique, zig when others would zag at least once or twice. Innovation is a lot about facing uncertainty so being confident in your ability to learn and adapt that will take you a long way. I feel like everyone on the innovation team has these qualities.
Who do you look towards for inspiration?
I look a lot to artists in the art world, a popular example is Ai Wei Wei, he does things that seem so silly or unlikely, but believes in them until something beautiful emerges, I think that’s what the innovation team does as well.
My colleagues don’t know that…
My favorite movie genre is romantic comedy, Lol – shhhh, don’t tell anyone.
You can read about Jeff and other UNICEF colleagues on UNICEF’s ‘Faces of UNICEF’