On Monday 25th June 2018, a very diverse range of enthusiastic individuals came together in Tehran to exchange ideas on finding innovative solutions for problems facing children and adolescents in Iran. More than 120 experts from a variety of government bodies, civil society, UN and the private sector including start-up managers and entrepreneurs put their heads together in the first-ever workshop on “Innovation for Children” organized jointly by Iran and Tehran Chambers of Commerce and UNICEF Iran Office.
UNICEF Representative in Iran, Dr Will Parks, opened the workshop by extending UNICEF support to the private and public sectors in Iran to form an Innovation for Children in Iran or ICI Initiative and said: “Our collective goal is to build a nationwide innovation network focused on children, uniting and supporting problem solvers who are passionate about finding and delivering new ways to accelerate sustainable results for children in Iran.”
The facilitation and content-planning of the Innovation for Children workshop was done by Mr Chris Fabian, Senior Advisor, UNICEF Ventures, in UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, who guided a series of brainstorming sessions on a range of issues such as setting up innovation platforms for children, financing innovations and accessing UNICEF’s Global Innovation Fund.
Mr. Fabian provided the audience with examples of UNICEF-supported innovation projects for children around the world and said: “The world is changing rapidly and we need to figure out how to connect quickly to that change in a way that is positive. I believe not only can the technology help young people to achieve their potential and opportunity but conversely, it is the young people that can help us make sure we have a world that is safe and ready for the future. Because they also have the creativity and innovation that we can benefit from.”
The workshop provided the first-ever opportunity for interactions and fruitful discussions among individuals who would not otherwise sit together for such discussions on children.
Mr. Hossein Abtahi, Director of the Digital Media Department at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance was one of the participants who was impressed by the diversity of people in the workshop as a positive factor contributing to the outcome of discussions: “I really admire the diversity of participants. Today I talked with different people from those working in child care centers, to NGO staff and even a director of an advertising agency. At first, they didn’t seem to relate to each other. But after some discussions, we found out so many commonalities in our innovative thinking for children.” This type of discussion among diverse groups of partners, and focused on investing in children, follow UNICEF’s global agenda of helping create and foster entrepreneurial technology ecosystems. UNICEF Egypt, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan have hosted similar workshops and are all sharing knowledge and experience through the Venture Fund.”
There were also several participants from academia including a young lady, Yasaman Parandian, who has submitted a proposal to UNICEF’s Innovation Venture Fund. She admired the connections she had made in the workshop which had immediately improved her innovative ideas for children and said: “I found lots of connections in this workshop for innovation on children which can help me improve my project. My proposed project for UNICEF’s fund is a platform where all charity NGOs for children can define their projects and get their funds through crowd-funding by donors and receive clear reports on the coming funds.”
Among participants were also some successful and well-known figures from the private sector, such as M.r Mohammad Abolhassani, the director of a famous animation series in Iran called ‘Dirin Dirin’. M.r Abolhassani thanked UNICEF for organizing the first Innovation for Children workshop and said: “It was a great opportunity. We have many Venture Capitalists working in Iran, but I’m so happy that UNICEF stepped forward to sensitize us on Venture Capital for Children. I hope we can work hand in hand to establish Venture Capitals and come up with attractive proposals on innovation for children.”
At the end of the workshop, participants were asked to sign up to a group of informal innovation advisors for children who would work together in the future with the two Chambers of Commerce and UNICEF to shape the contours of a potential national Innovation Fund for Children in Iran.
Within one month from the worksho,p a report containing all the inputs from the brainstorming sessions will be produced and shared with participants. The post-workshop consultations are expected to lead to an official launch of the Innovation for Children in Iran (ICI) in October this year. The initiative will contain three elements: (1) maintaining a formal network of innovators and innovation platforms focusing on children’s issues; (2) delivering a Think-Tank Series at which blue-sky dialogues will be facilitated amongst diverse groups to seek new solutions to chronic and emerging problems facing children and adolescents in Iran; and (3) establishing the Iran Innovation Fund for Children which will be used to support viable innovations generated out of the Think-Tank Series.
Dr Pedram Soltani, First Vice-President of Iran Chamber of Commerce, the main co-organizer of the Innovation workshop and a key corporate partner of UNICEF Iran, expressed his appreciation to UNICEF for sensitizing people on innovation for children and hoped that by holding a future series of workshops, Iran could become a model of cooperation between the private sector, NGOs, Government, as well as international organizations to innovate for children.
More on UNICEF’s Venture Fund (which can invest in country office work or private sector companies) visit: www.unicefinnovationfund.org