Innovation at UNICEF: Do it for the kids

Cynthia McCaffrey, director of the Office of Global Innovation at the United Nations Children’s Fund. Photo by: UNICEF

SAN FRANCISCO — Ask about the leaders in innovation for international development, and you are likely to hear about the United Nations Children’s Fund, in part because it launched its innovation unit ahead of most of its peers.

Launched in 2006, the Innovation Unit has since evolved into the Office of Global Innovation at UNICEF. When Cynthia McCaffrey became director of the office in April 2016, her job was to make sure that all the work being done to leverage technology ultimately led to better outcomes for children. In an interview with Devex as part of the Meet the Innovation Leads series, McCaffrey spoke about her efforts to mainstream this innovation work at UNICEF.

Meet the Innovation Leads

Chief innovation officers at aid agencies and NGOs are tasked with changing the way development is done. How can these organizations make their work more efficient and effective, and can they keep up with the rapid pace of change in this technological revolution? Throughout 2018, Devex will be meeting the people doing this work to explore what they’ve learned along the way, and where we go from here. Follow the series, or keep an eye out for more of our innovation coverage.

“How do we use emerging innovations and technologies to really bring impact for kids and not just innovate for the sake of innovating?” McCaffrey told Devex.

She oversees three big innovation teams: Futures, which focuses on emerging technologies, Ventures, which invests in early stage solutions, and Scale, which deploys innovations across different countries and contexts.

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