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In Chile, we have our work cut out for us. The high levels of on-going violence against children, inequity between families, and natural disasters are challenges that require constant focus and resources. There is a lot to do here, but the UNICEF Chile Country Office‘s commitment is both to children here at home, and to children and adolescents worldwide.

Yet, as with all other regions of the world, Latin America has a great deal to offer in solving on-going social problems, especially in the areas of emergency relief and innovation. The region’s disaster history and multiple levels of economic access – both low and high – open doors to explore new ways of solving old problems, both in Chile and beyond.

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The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2010 left houses completely destroyed in Chile. Photo credits: www.boston.com

The First 72 Hours Challenge, a global innovation contest around emergencies, has been a clear and concrete way for the Chile Country Office (CO) to have universal impact, and be a force for change. Deciding to take on this monumental project was not immediate. At first, the CO questioned if it could really make a global difference. Ultimately, the decision to co-lead the First 72 Hours was born out of answers to questions like: Can Chile be a force for change for others? Can the CO help to ensure every child, everywhere, can be protected in times of catastrophes? Can we best fulfill our mission with this project? All clearly answered with “yes, yes we can.”

Through coordinated communication with the UNICEF Innovation Unit in New York it was agreed that the CO wanted to make a global difference, and actors naturally emerged that could work side by side with the CO. The partnership with Socialab was central to the success of the competition as they are a complementary partner to select and promote the best ideas. Similarly, it was important to have on-going coordination with NY Headquarters, the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office and other COs in the region. Once the CO expanded its perspective of how to be a force for change, new doors opened to help advocate for the rights of children and adolescents.

Photo credit: Anahita Arora, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ
In February, Mac Glovinsky, Lead of Innovation in Humanitarian Action at UNICEF, got Columbia students excited about the First 72 Hours Challenge by sharing insights from his deployment to the Philippines after the Typhoon Haiyan disaster. Photo credit: Anahita Arora, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ

Since the introduction of any new idea requires awareness building, the CO focused time on doing just that through emailing, skype meetings, and presentations. And, soon enough COs worldwide were participating in the First 72 Hours Challenge, taking it on as their own initiative. Thanks to these efforts, ideas were received from all regions of the world, and in all thematic areas of the challenge.

In July we will welcome the winners to Chile, Aquapallet and Instanet (read more here in the coming days about the winning teams), and by the time the Challenge is done we will have not only two, but three prizes. Two new innovative projects on how to address the first 72 hours after the onset of a disaster, and the third prize, the knowledge that COs can be a force for change at a global level, promoting the development of life saving solutions for children and adolescents worldwide.

Julio Cezar Dantas
Encargado – Innovación y Participación Adolescente, UNICEF Chile

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