The Global Innovation Centre (GIC) comprises an international team of experts and practitioners, with backgrounds in human-centred design, technology, change management and international development. We take gamechanging innovations and deploy them at scale, across multiple countries and contexts. Our goal is to implement and scale global solutions that will help the world’s most vulnerable children, using funds efficiently and effectively. We ensure that our projects can be easily replicated, set up and utilized anywhere, allowing us to help children and families in the most hard-to-reach places. This approach is economical, adaptable to the local context and open to constant improvement.
How we work?
The GIC never works alone. We collaborate with private sector partners, governments, universities and communities, leveraging opportunities and technologies that will transform children’s lives. Whether it’s providing free online information to mothers in South Africa or empowering young people in Viet Nam through our social impact programmes, we are harnessing the power of innovation to help children, families, and communities worldwide.
Identifying the next big idea.
In such a crowded landscape it can be challenging to spot the next big thing. That’s why we have developed a rigorous framework to screen and prioritize promising innovations. We take on projects that will deliver the best outcomes for children and have significant impact.
The Global Innovation Centre oversees a portfolio of innovations that are scaling in multiple countries. Our portfolio covers four main areas:
U-Report is a messaging tool that empowers young people around the world to engage with and speak out on issues that matter to them. It works by gathering opinions and information from young people on topics they care about – ranging from employment and discrimination to child marriage. U-Reporters respond to polls, report issues and support child rights. The data and insights are shared back with communities and connected to policymakers who make decisions that affect young people. U-Report is available via SMS or social media and works on even a basic mobile phone. It’s free, anonymous and easy to use. There are now more than 4 million U-Reporters in 39 countries – including Syria – and a new U-Reporter joins the platform every 30 seconds.
Unmonitored and unmeasured problems go unsolved. The ability to access credible, up-to-date information about the situation of children is indispensable to improving their lives and protecting their rights. RapidPro is a powerful tool that allows workers in even the most remote, far-flung corners of the world to reach those most in need using accurate and timely information. RapidPro’s open source software enables UNICEF and partners to gather data on vital areas such as health, nutrition, education and child protection. The platform allows users to easily design, pilot and scale services that connect directly with a mobile phone user, without the help of a software developer. RapidPro can now reach even more people by integrating with popular channels including Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Line, WhatsApp, and Viber. With easier access through these everyday channels, expectant mothers in Mexico can get essential health information and young people in Malawi can access free counselling advice. The possibilities are endless.
The UPSHIFT programme supports the most disadvantaged young people to become social innovators. UPSHIFT helps vulnerable young people identify challenges in their communities and create entrepreneurial solutions to address them. Through a combination of training and mentorship, participants gain valuable transferable skills, including problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and leadership. They have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to experts, and the most promising solutions receive seed funding. Participants gain confidence, build resilience and learn how to create change. Their local communities benefit from new solutions. Most importantly, these young people walk away with new hope for the future.
Right now, around 4 billion people remain offline, unable to access the knowledge economy. UNICEF is working to bridge the digital divide and give all children and families access to essential information. The Internet of Good Things (IoGT) is a set of free mobile and web-based resources and applications. It delivers life-saving and life-improving information free of charge, even on low-end devices. People can access the platform at any time, without the cost of a data plan. Information on IoGT is customized for each location and available in local languages. Topics cover child online safety, violence and protection, health for mothers and children, early learning materials for younger children as well as emergency information.
The first of UNICEF’s innovation principles is ‘design with the user’ – making sure that a project takes a user-centric approach. Human-centred design (HDC) takes this a step further by using a set of tools to tailor solutions for children using repeatable, human-centred methods for creative problem solving and innovation. This approach to developing new innovations takes inspiration from real people, works within market and technological constraints, and ensures the entire design process is rooted in the real world. An HCD approach has huge value for the creation of child-centred policies, programmes and services. It also helps service providers and systems to deliver better results for children. As a methodology for improving the effectiveness of UNICEF’s work, HCD is helping to strengthen results across the board.