Why 500 change-makers from around the world are coming to Helsinki to innovate for children, and why you should join


The world is changing fast. To meet the challenges all children are facing, we need innovations from the ground-up, developed by the people they aim to serve. We also need new types of partnerships and collaborations for scaling startups and taking local ideas global. How then, do we bring people together to create solutions that can solve the challenges for the world’s children today as well as tomorrow?

This is why UNICEF designed the first Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit, co-organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland from 9-10 November in Helsinki, Finland.

At this Summit, thought- and action-leaders from private sector, government, academia, and development will answer two questions:

  1. How do we get important products to a billion people?
  2. What opportunities from tech/private sector will have the biggest impact on children in the next 5 years?

On the first day, we will look into the future – jobs and automation, ubiquitous connectivity, personal and planetary health, digital- and crypto-currency, financing (venture vs. crowd) and other emerging market areas where there is a clear overlap between private sector interests and the needs of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

On the second day, we will bring together experts who have scaled ideas into reality and answer questions about what has helped and hindered product expansion, how you measure success (capital vs. community) and what happens between a million and a billion users.


To provoke the best ideas, we’ve put together an inspiring and varied lineup of speakers, panelists, and discussion sessions including:

  • Yoka Brandt (@yokabrandt), UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, will open with how innovation for development is key to helping the world’s children.
  • Lenita Toivakka (@toivakka), Finnish Minister of Trade and Development, will tell us why Finland invests in innovation.
  • His Highness Prince Fahad Al Saud (@yolofahad), NA3M Founder & CEO, will demonstrate how gaming can empower girls, and how we can create new narratives through entertainment.
  • Pal Brekke (@pbrekke), Senior Adviser, Norwegian Space Center, will amaze us with galaxy size accomplishments most people told him he could never do.
  • Kamran Elahian (@KamranElahian), Chairman, Global Catalysts Partners, will wow us with his success stories on scaling innovations, and help us understand what it takes to go big.
  • Fabio Sergio (@freegorifero), VP, frog design will prove to us how “doing good” can also be good business.
  • Kate Courteau (@ycombinator), Director of Nonprofits, Y Combinator, will explore the benefits of risk-taking in global markets.
  • Tayo Akinyemi (@Tayo_Akinyemi), Executive Director, AfriLabs, will remind us how a lot more can get done when we effectively work together.
  • Rui Ma (@ruima), Partner, 500 Startups, and venture capitalist from China, will impress us with her experiences inspiring and empowering female entrepreneurs and changemakers.
  • Christopher Fabian (@hichrisfabian), Co-lead of UNICEF’s Innovation Unit, will help us see where we can play a role in solving challenges for the world’s children.
  • Casper Aarlit Jensen (calvins2A), Programmes and Partnerships Manager, LEGO Foundation, will delight us with a chance to play.
  • Peter Vesterbacka (@pvesterbacka), Chief Marketing Officer, Rovio Entertainment, will give us an excuse to keep playing.

Join us in person or remotely!
For those who cannot physically be in Finland, good news. The plenary sessions will be livestreamed at:http://summit.unicef.fi/  

To follow along and take part in the discussion, tweet with #uinnovate.  Follow @UNICEFInnovate, @UNICEF, and @UNICEFTalk – we’ll be live tweeting from Helsinki.

Here’s a preview of the sessions:

  • Future of Connectivity
    Ubiquitous connection does not mean equal utility.  Looking with, and past, exponentially advancing technology to provide vital services for all.
  • The Future of Emergencies
    More emergencies (from wars to natural disasters) leave children, in 2015, incredibly vulnerable. What comes next, and what tools will we have at our disposal?
  • The Future of Data
    (Almost) everyone, and everything will be producing data.  How will governments, citizens, and companies benefit (and suffer) from this new reality.
  • The Future of Skill
    What skills should we be teaching kids to prepare them for the automated, connected, fragmented, global, local, crazy world of 2020..and beyond?
  • Refugees and Human Movement
    Today there are more than 50 million people displaced from their homes and their past – and this trend is growing.  How can we harness the great minds of a moving generation and work with refugees to create change.
  • The Maker Culture
    Do maker spaces and labs work to create change? What are their successes and failures? How can you interact with maker networks?
  • Partnerships – Doing Good is Good Business
    What new models of partnership are making cross-discipline (and cross-field) partnership work better? What are barriers to collaboration in 2015?
  • Financing: New models for investment
    Investing in start-up businesses is traditionally considered an activity reserved for the wealthy. Crowd-funding and other innovations are changing that.  What does this mean for your work?
  • Scaling Small
    How do we identify (and talk about) successes that have small scale, but are still vital changes in the world?  How do we reach small communities with specific, niche needs? Should we challenge traditional notions of “scale”?
  • Playfulness and Genius
    What global potential can we unlock if we focus on play as a significant tool? What would it mean to focus on how kids (and adults) play -both for development and for business?
  • From Personal to Planetary Health
    How advances at both edges of scale has created new fields of health innovation – from the small and individually focused to the macro and environmental.  What will this shift mean for how we look at health, and what can we learn from it in other areas of need.
  • Charging Up
    “Without electricity, all our health centers mean almost nothing” said one of the panelists recently.  What are the implications of renewable energy on innovation and development in the world’s most difficult environments?
  • Proof – or Persuasion? Playing the Agile Innovation Game
    We’ll consider a number of different frameworks to measure the value of having an innovation portfolio and potentials for projects. Looking beyond traditional development metrics, what numbers did we wish we had? What are others using? How do you prove your value?
  • “Why doesn’t this stuff just *work*?”
    What are the biggest blocks to scaling up great (and successful) ideas? From infrastructure, to legal, to financing – practical tips and stories from leaders in the area of “the new.”
  • “Maybe we should just jump?”
    How do you encourage risk-taking and exploratory behavior in large, public systems?  How can a government or traditional business keep up with the “risky” behavior of a startup…and do they even need to?

Innovation at UNICEF


To meet the challenges all children are facing, we must remain agile — adapting to the evolving crises that impact children. This means we need to innovate in the way we approach development issues affecting children globally.

Innovation at UNICEF is doing something new or different that adds value. UNICEF uses innovation to create solutions that strengthen its work in child protection, health, education, and other areas, bringing essential services to the world’s most vulnerable children.

UNICEF has a history of innovating for children for nearly 70 years, with solutions like the MUAC band, oral rehydration salts, and the Mark II Handpump.

To enhance our innovation abilities, UNICEF recently launched the Innovation Venture Fund, which provides technical and financial resources to early-stage projects. UNICEF also created the Global Innovation Centre to help scale up proven solutions.

UNICEF’s approach to innovation is based on its Innovation Principles, which highlight the importance of designing with the end-user, understanding the local ecosystem, designing for scale, using open source and open data, and being collaborative.

To learn more about our innovations at UNICEF, visit www.unicefstories.org, check out our brochure which includes more information about our work, or follow us on social media!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/unicefinnovate
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unicef.innovation
Instagram: https://instagram.com/unicefinnovate

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