By: Emma Ohana

November 16 and 17, 2016, marked the fourth meeting of the Global Innovation Center Advisory Committee (GIC AC). The meeting was well attended with representation from frog, the Republic of Korea, Overlap Associates, Point B, UNICEF Canada, UNICEF UK, US Fund for UNICEF, and the University of Cape Town.

The meeting was held in Amman, Jordan, with the objective being to immerse GIC AC members in how UNICEF facilitates innovative approaches and applies innovation in delivering results for children particularly in complex programming environments. 

The group spent the first day in the field in Za’atari Refugee Camp, home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees for the past 4.5 years. The visit was extremely useful in illustrating the challenges of families, youth, and children; the power of designing responses with the community and considering the context. This trip was most relevant given one of the meeting’s focuses was on how Human-Centered Design can enhance and shape more effective services and solutions on the ground.

During the field visit, we spent time at one of the 225 Makani Social Innovation Labs for vulnerable youth. The lab we visited is part of a Relief International youth center and includes equipment, incentives, and training to enable young people to provide their perspective on challenges they face, and design and implement solutions to those challenges through a human-centered design process. Particularly impressive was the dynamic approach to interviewing, hiring and training lab facilitators who work with youth to engage their minds and creativity.

We visited one of two NRC vocational training centers providing training in sewing, welding, woodwork and painting. Once graduated, a small percentage find work inside the camp, including as entrepreneurs of their own start-ups. The NRC are examining how to create a co-working capacity, so the graduates – now numbering 600 – can continue to access equipment and materials that are not available in the camp. While these skills are valuable for future, the current situation remains challenging for young graduates.   

Young people learning life skills at the Global Innovation Centre at Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan.
Young people learning life skills at the Global Innovation Centre at Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan.

UNICEF manages the sanitation services in this city-sized camp and is innovating an Uber for Sanitation’ model. This will introduce sensors with layers of real-time information from residents, drivers, and others via RapidPro to improve the service. During the visit, designers and engineers identified challenges and the need to approach in a different way — a real time example of Human-Centered Design.

The second day focused on “Design for Children,” how human-centred design can accelerate results for children, and the GIC AC agreed to scale this up in 2-3 countries, reflecting on lessons learned from current global experiences. The committee reinforced the value of the GIC as a means to engage external expertise and non-UNICEF perspectives and kicked off a process to review and expand the membership approach.

Training of Makani Social Innovation Lab facilitators
Training of Makani Social Innovation Lab facilitators

We are looking at the horizon and are already planning our next GIC AC meeting for 2017.

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