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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently launched its Innovate for Children platform, underscoring the agency’s commitment to innovation for social change.
The site allows users to offer comments and feedback to challenges that UNICEF staff members submit to the public. Users can also apply to get involved in projects that the agency is currently working on.
UNICEF’s work focuses on improving lives for children and their families in a number of ways, including better education, protection and development. The Innovate for Children platform aims to enhance UNICEF’s innovation process by encouraging “dialogue and co-development to support the successful delivery of end-user driven and innovative services, products and systems.”
“Innovation and the partnerships around innovation have always been part of UNICEF’s DNA,” Shanelle Hall, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said in the press release.
The platform, which launched on August 23rd, so far has a handful of challenges, all of which have gotten at least one response from the crowd. These ideation-stage suggestions are open to the public and provide the agency a number of leads to explore when tackling a challenge in the future. Projects, generally, are further along the development path than challenges, and not all allow input from the crowd. Those that do ask users to fill out a form explaining how they can support the projects.
For an agency that prides itself on having a grassroots network to "turn the most innovative ideas into reality,” opening up its ideation to the public only makes sense. Open innovation, when done correctly, can decrease the cost and time it takes to bring an idea to the market.
As Devex pointed out, the speed factor likely played a part in UNICEF embracing a more open approach to innovation, as the agency looks to meet its Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Indeed, the organization mentioned the Goals in its ten-step innovation business plan and strategy overview.
UNICEF is highly regarded for its social work and should have little trouble attracting individuals to the platform. Turning them into a community, and keeping that community engaged and satisfied, however, will take significantly more effort.