What I learned after my work experience at UNICEF

Dagmar Coppens, 15, reflects on her work experience at UNICEF East Asia & Pacific

Students at my high school in The Netherlands had the opportunity to spend a week doing a work experience project at companies ranging from small businesses like vets to large ones like international banks.

The focus of our project this year is on sustainability and human rights, as well as to understand what management and administration is needed for the work the organization does.

I always wanted to do something that contributes to society, so I was happy when UNICEF’s Global Innovation Centre (GIC) said they would welcome me, and surprised when they said they expected to learn from me too.

Innovation by girls for girls

UNICEF is very famous and I was very curious to see how it works. I didn’t know much about it apart from the fact that it works for children. And it uses the colour blue a lot!

Our work experience project means we get to follow the work for 8 hours a day for four days. I was included in activities and got to meet many people.

Everyone was so nice!



They encouraged my questions and added explanations so that I could understand what they were talking about.

I think that innovation can mean anything from a small change that makes things better to something brand new, never done before. UNICEF also thinks about it this way. I got to see how innovation connects to all parts and types of work and how it helps children.

One innovation project I got to know more about was the Period Tracker App for girls. This is designed by girls, involving girls from Mongolia and Indonesia, so they can plan for their period. I met the Regional Gender Adviser who leads the project and with a specialist in adolescence (which is what UNICEF calls us teenagers.)

Just this one innovation project connects many parts of UNICEF, like partnerships and gender, the environment and even learning. This team were really excited because this project has been chosen by UNICEF to go to a special UN innovation event in Munich.


5 things that surprised me

There are a few things that surprised me:

  1. Meetings were not as formal as I expected. People also dressed less formally than I expected. That made it welcoming to me as a young person.
  2. There are a lot of conversations with people who are not there. Around the office, people will be speaking with their headphones and having meetings with people in other countries around the world.
  3. There was a lot more parts than I expected that are needed to make an organization run in a good way. I didn’t think about what might be needed behind the programmes that work with children. For example, raising money for all the work UNICEF does around the region. And looking after the staff and their wellbeing.
  4. I don’t think I would mind a desk job. At UNICEF people get to get out of the office and go “on mission” to see stuff. It made me think that I would like that combination in a job.
  5. I was surprised to see boxes everywhere in the office. That is because UNICEF is renovating their actual office. We went to see the renovations. It is really nice! I also saw that sustainability is part of the work with children and also in how the office is being renovated too. The carpets are made from recycled plastic. There is energy efficient glass in the windows. And I was the first person to test whether the motion sensor lights are working. They are!

5 things UNICEF learned from me

UNICEF also asked me from the start to help them learn from me too.  I worked with Tanya Accone from the GIC who called this “reverse mentoring.” We talked about what parts of the work may be interesting to teens and how to communicate it better.

As an adolescent, my generation spends a lot of time online. We like to know what people our age are doing. One of the platforms we frequently use is Instagram. I looked at some of the UNICEF accounts and posts on it. Here are the five tips I shared to help them be more appealing to teenagers.

  1. Video works better. UNICEF posts often include a lot of text under it. Though this can work, it is not very tempting to teenagers. A short video, no longer than a minute, is more appealing.
  2. Use stories. Stories are short 24-hour posts. They are at the top of the screen. They are the account’s profile picture surrounded by a purple ring. Several interactive stickers can be added.
  3. Post frequently. The key to keeping your followers interested is by posting often. If you have captured our attention you have to post more to keep it.
  4. Expect change. Teenagers’ interests can change. One moment stories and stickers may be very popular, a month later they may not. It can be subtle but sometimes change happens overnight. This is why it’s important to be adaptable and inventive.
  5. A separate account. Consider setting up an account just to talk to teens. We will not be so interested in the usual posts, they might cause us to not follow you.


I learned and shared a lot in my work experience week. I got to see many parts of what it takes for an organization to work well. And I am excited that the prototype video idea I developed could be taken up further.

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  1. This is really inspiring. Its really my passion

  2. I congratulate UNICEF and Dagmar for that exemplary relationship. Am sure many firms can learn from this powerful way of inspiring and developing young generations to realize their dreams. It’s the most pragmatic way of triggering desire to participate in society activities.

    The interest shown by Dagmar is powerful and I am sure she will never be the same again and the experience will influence her future decisions and choices for better. This should be applied by all other firms. Impressive.