Unleashing the power of data for children

Data hold more potential than ever before to shape the lives and living conditions of children. Much of that potential is the result of the rapid expan­sion of data sources and uses. We’ve seen firsthand what those results can be. Whether it is improving government data systems to improve the delivery of education and social protection in the Middle East or using private sector data to improve our response to public health emergencies in West Africa and Latin America, UNICEF offices around the world are proactively putting data to use for children.

With so many opportunities, it is increasingly critical that UNICEF make informed and strategic decisions about how to invest its data resources. Without a clear and agile plan, we risk diluting our impact with too many disconnected projects or being left behind with inflexible plans.

That is why, after extensive consultations, UNICEF has released its new Data for Children Strategic Framework. By defining key principles for our data work, the framework provides a broad overview of how UNICEF thinks about data for children and lays out initial steps – already underway in numerous countries – for getting the most out of our investments.

The framework highlights the importance of the demand, supply, and use of data for children. UNICEF is committed to driving demand for data because that demand – the needs and purposes of end users – should shape the data we engage within any given context. Our work on the supply side of data – whether we’re helping generate new information or using the data of others – must be responsive to that demand. Ultimately, the impact of data for children hinges on whether data are put to use when decisions are made for and about children, making UNICEF engagement on the use side equally critical. The framework outlines both the potential roles that UNICEF can play in each of these domains as well as initial work needed to shift our capacities and ways of working.

The release of the strategic framework is an important milestone in UNICEF data for children work, providing both the organisation and its partners clarity about how we plan to move toward more actively using data for children. It is also part of a broader scope of data for children work that is already underway, including significant efforts to improve country-level strategic planning and advocacy for data as well as strengthening our internal coordination and partnerships.

All of these efforts, in turn, feed into a much larger organizational commitment to elevate the role of evidence in UNICEF planning and programming, as reflected in our forthcoming strategic plan. This effort goes beyond data to include research, evaluation and other key areas of work, but we hope this framework will inspire some of the necessary conversations about how UNICEF can deliver on both the opportunity and challenges of harnessing the power of evidence to drive change for children.

If you share our excitement about the potential of data to drive results for children and are interested in learning more about our work (or sharing yours!), please join our mailing list by writing to us. We’ll send periodic updates about new work and advances in how the world’s data are being put to use for children.

UNICEF colleagues can access a new internal resource, the Data for Children intranet site, that provides a wide range of practical tools and experiences on data for children work. In just the first 48 hours of the site’s launch, colleagues in 114 countries made their way there. We look forward to building on that momentum and the wealth of UNICEF data for children experience in the months to come.

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