My work with the UNICEF Innovation Unit

My work with the UNICEF Innovation Unit

(end of term post by Laura Tedesco)

I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience and work with the UNICEF Innovation Unit. If I would have to summarise my thoughts in 3 small descriptions about my permanence with the Innovation Unit team, there will be: a great time, a lot of learning possibilities to make them my own and challenges vis-à-vis satisfactions. It is important for me to start mentioning the team atmosphere which was always open and honest when exchanging information/experiences and hearing about different views. This created a natural teamwork atmosphere and a very nice work environment. It was a really pleasure working in the office thanks to Chris and Erica who tried to make my experience a continuous learning process, a possibility to overcome challenges and grow professionally.

I started mentioning the team first, because I believe that a good working atmosphere is the right way to maximize the learning curve and it brings the best out of you.

There were a lot of aspects of this experience I liked; however one of the most relevant ones was the possibility to express myself in the job, being able to take decisions and responsibilities. This is an aspect that I certainly will carry with me for my future professional challenges.

Below you will find some of the interesting work I developed during my permanence with the Innovation Unit.

1) “Programmabilities project”


This project, besides other responsibilities, was my main task during the first part of my work with UNICEF Innovation Unit. The purpose of the project is to develop a method for training young deaf computer programmers and be able to scale it to other countries. This way young deaf students will be able to work independently and have a fair chance in the employment market. One of the main aspects of this project is the use of open source technology and content, making the technology and materials free of charge, customizable and adaptable by anyone.

The main components of the project are: make use of open source technology, be user-friendly, have a basic IT infrastructure that takes into account environmental constrains etc. This is just a starting point that will help to define the best and easiest ways to create a method for training young deaf adolescents to become computer programmers.

I have been working on developing a set of documentation and materials that shaped this project. You can find the documents below via the following link:

  • The Prototype document based on a “project hypothesis document” (see below) gives an idea on the project components developed through research, analysis and content discussions.
  • The Hypothesis document was first developed by a core of experts/practitioners on the subject, then revised by me and adapted to newly defined needs of the project.
  • The FAQ reflect the first conceptualization of the project. It is not up to date but I believe still useful to read.
  • A Research Framework was developed as a useful basis to define the state of the art on projects/programmes with the following components: (i) the use of technology, (ii) disabilities and (iii) the developing world.
  • Two lists of potential partners (one of them potential companies/institutions and one academia) were developed as a starting point to create possible partnerships. In each list, I emphasized how the company/institution is related to the project and how they could help to scale up/implement the project.
  • I also worked on a budget draft which gives a better idea on the required funds to start the project, especially the part related to the prototype.
  • Drawings of the project process:1. 1. Programmabilities project part 1: In this 1st document I proposed a current view of all project components in the 3 main focal points of the project (UNICEF HQ, Zimbabwe Country Office and Uganda Country Office). I underlined in yellow the parts of the projects in which a development has been made in terms of project documentation, TOR, inputs for the projects etc.

    1. 2. Programmabilities project part 2: In this 2nd document I give some examples on how and what kind of contributions external companies, academia, NGOs could give to the implementation of the project.

    1. 3. Programmabilities project part 3: In this 3rd document I proposed further aspects that the project needs to concentrate on, including job placement, market research on jobs trends etc.

  •  The Request for Proposal (RFP) was developed in order for UNICEF to look for an experienced company or team of companies to prototype a method for training a cohort of young deaf computer programmers.The RFP includes also:

    • List of evaluation criteria and requested submissions

    • Excel temple-staffing (staffing required for the RFP)

    During the development of the first phase of the project I also wrote a blog post on my experience that can be found via the following link:

2) TOR for consultants

3) Child friendly Technology

Based on the Child Friendly Technology Framework (CFT) I developed a visual presentation on what the CFT is and integrated it with the disability topic as a cross-cutting issue. See the following link:

[slideshare id=15623587&w=427&h=356&sc=no]


4) TEDx Juba July 2012


Being part of the organizational team for the TEDx Juba event was for me a great work experience. I had the opportunity to work daily with the UNICEF Juba Country Office in organizing a very important event in South Sudan. I supported the team with the development of both content and technical parts of the event. In this context I would like to share the following documents I particularly work on:

  • Proposed TEDx Videos. This was a research of several TEDx videos on different topics (including: innovation, disabilities, peace, art etc.) and a few of them were finally chosen to be displayed during the event.
  • How to Engage in a TEDx Event – Guidelines for UNICEF. These guidelines have the main purpose to help other UNICEF Offices to engage in a TEDx event. Therefore, in this document you will find, in particular: (i) What to know before engaging in a TEDx event; (ii) What to do as the first steps; (iii) Useful recommendations and lesson learned. 

    You can find the documents above via the following link:

5) Framework: Design for UNICEF – NYU ITP Class 2011 and 2012

Another very interesting task was my involvement with the NYU class Jorge (former team member of the Innovation Unit) and Chris are teaching. My task was to develop a Framework “Design for UNICEF class for 2011 and 2012. It was a challenging and very interesting work and allowed me to learn about their methodology and ways of teaching.

Please find below Frameworks “Design for UNICEF class for 2011 and Design for UNICEF class for 2011 2012”:

Additional link for reference:

6) Open Policy creation and open research


One of the key principles of the Innovation Unit is the concept of open source technology, which means technology that is free and open source so that it can be shared with interested parties and adapted by others.

This concept of open source can be, of course, extended to other topics like open policy creation and open research. One of my favorite tasks was to expand the concept of openness to research and policy creation and introducing the components that I thought would be useful. Here below the documents I developed:

7) Other documents and research produced

Please find below links to a series of documents produced during my permanence with the Unit: You can find the documents above via the following link:

  • Social Media and Disabilities Resources
  • Universities dealing with ICT and Disabilities

8) Additional tasks


In addition I was involved in other small and short-term projects like supporting different meetings, participating in events; giving my input and contribution to different topics, creating an interactive database for ICT and disabilities topics and contacts (Zotero). This and other more organizational tasks integrated very well with my actual responsibilities which were more content oriented and I can truly say that made my work interesting every day.


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