By Pilar Lagos and Kate Pawelczyk

#uinnovate

UNICEF kicked off the first Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit, co-organized by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. An incredible mash-up of speakers and game-changers convened in Helsinki to unlock the way new technologies can drive change for the world’s most vulnerable children.

innovation-summit_fb_9_EN

To highlight the unique perspectives that speakers and participants are bringing to the Summit, we asked two questions:

  1. What’s one innovation you expected to have by the time you were an adult?
  2. If you could create/design ONE thing that would improve lives for children around the world, what would it be?

They answered…

Dr. Mariana Amatullo, @DesignmattersCA
CoFounder and VP, Designmatters at ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California

Q1. Back when you were a child, what’s one innovation you expected to have by the time you were an adult?
A driverless car.  While the autonomous car is not fully there yet and ready for the consumer at large, it is very close in our horizon. In a few states, legislation is already in place to test new vehicles on our public roads.

Q2. If you could create/design ONE thing that would improve lives for children around the world, what would it be?
I would design a system that would guarantee a child’s access to literacy because as an educator, I firmly relate to the inspiring statement of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”


Katherine Lucey, @Solar_Sister
Founder & CEO, Solar Power 

These solar lamps allows students to study without having to rely on candles –which are expensive. Increasing energy access has the potential to deliver large improvements on health, small businesses, and gender issues. Photo: Solar Sister

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question we ask to children all around the world. Kids are creative, curious, resilient, and hopeful– their vision of the future is one we want to invest in. They want to be doctors, teachers, pilots, explorers, and presidents– and we want to help them get there. Every single child that wants to study at night, or stay up too late reading a book, everyone who wants to learn more about the world and how they can contribute to it, should be able to do so. But many can’t.

Because throughout much of rural Africa, there are communities without electricity at all, or with unreliable grids that go down for days at a time. In those communities, students have to rely on kerosene lamps, which flicker dimly and release an acrid, smoky fume. Or on candles, which are expensive, and easily tipped over. Reading at night, if your family is able to afford the fuel, means leaning in close to flames, in a dark room, and breathing in smoke.

Q2. If you could create/design ONE thing that would improve lives for children around the world, what would it be?
I would design a portable, durable, affordable solar light for each of them to have all their own. That light would give them the power to dream their dreams… and to actually pursue them.

The amazing thing is, the technology I dream of already exists. There are small, bright, solar lamps that only costs eight dollars. They have a warranty of three years. They save money for families that are able to buy them, and cease buying health-and-habitat-destroying kerosene or coal. Grace, Amina, and Valentine’s grandchildren all already have solar lights. For Amina, the fifteen year old student in Tanzania, it means being able to finish her chemistry homework whether or not the unreliable electrical grid in her town is working. For Grace, it means not holding a candle flame next to the page while she tries to practice her letters at night. For Valentine’s children and grandchildren, it means reading together by a light that is three times brighter than kerosene.

The dream exists. The technology exists. But for many families, there is still the gap. We must bridge that gap and bring the technology right to the dreamer’s doorstep. That is where Solar Sister comes in.  An innovative solution to delivering technology to the last mile using the power of women’s enterprise.


Lauren Slowik, @laurenlacey
‎Design Evangelist – Education at Shapeways

Q1. Back when you were a child, what’s one innovation you expected to have by the time you were an adult?
When I was a kid I always wanted the encyclopedia to be as colorful and interactive as it was when I added my imagination to it. The Internet has gotten close to being that endless fountain of information. But now it’s up to us adults to make sure that all kids have equal access to these empowering digital and connected resources.

Q2. If you could create/design ONE thing that would improve lives for children around the world, what would it be?
The one thing I would create is a portable learning, making and building space that could be brought to any school, town or village anywhere in the world. It would be solar powered, have satellite WiFi, and simple computer stations and tools for making. Skills-based learning allows children to apply traditional education such as literacy, logic and the sciences to real-world scenarios. The skills needed for a successful future are more about creative problem solving and building resilient systems. Though not everyone has the best of every technology at their disposal, open-source code and hardware make it possible for advanced tools to be built by anyone. By providing access and training to teachers and students we can support a generation of kids who can make anything with the resources they have at hand and build resilient and flourishing communities.


Kirsi Ekberg, @Vilike_liikunta
Founder at Vilike

Q1.Back when you were a child, what’s one innovation you expected to have by the time you were an adult?
Besides being made to live, we are made to play and learn. In order to do so, we need a time to sleep, drink, eat, and be heard. For children, some of these basic needs can be easily fulfilled in some places. However, there are certain places where it’s hard to have access to basic needs. I call this “Where I Place My Dream.”

In the last decades, our ways of communicating, learning, and building have taken a leap. That leap should be headed toward those living in places where these needs aren’t met.

Q2. If you could create/design ONE thing that would improve lives for children around the world, what would it be?
I would design an easy-to build “school-in-a-box” that would help enhance the lives of the children going through hardships and living in poverty.  This “school-in-a -box” would give children water, food, and a place to play, learn and live well. I would love to live to see that leap reach the children that are growing in the periferia of well-being and knowledge.


Nuno Crisostomo, @kanimambo10
Programme Officer-Emergency, Operations Centre (OPSCEN), UNICEF

Q1.Back when you were a child, what’s one innovation you expected to have by the time you were an adult?
As a child, I always imagined that some day, vaccines could be chewable –preferably sweet.

2.If you could create/design ONE thing that would improve lives for children around the world, what would it be?
I would make sure that clean water is accessible to everyone.


For those who cannot physically be in Finland, good news. The plenary sessions will be livestreamed at:http://summit.unicef.fi/stream/ To follow along and take part in the discussion, tweet with #uinnovate.

Follow @UNICEFInnovate, @UNICEF, and @UNICEFTalk – we’ll be live tweeting from Helsinki.

To learn more about our innovations at UNICEF, visit www.unicefstories.org, check out our brochure which includes more information about our work, or follow us on social media!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/unicefinnovate
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unicef.innovation
Instagram: https://instagram.com/unicefinnovate

Print This Story