Why Innovate?

Innovation As A Solution

Innovation is vital to the state of the world’s children. Challenges have never been larger, or coming faster – urbanization, climate change, lack of employment opportunities, broken education systems, increased disparities, and digital divides.

Drawing upon leading principles for innovation and development, the Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator cultivates ecosystems that foster and support promising innovations that address the most pressing challenges faced by children around the world.

 

Duke-UNICEF Design Principles

UNICEF has a 70-year history of innovating for children. We believe that new approaches, partnerships, and technologies that support realizing children’s rights are critical to improving their lives. For us, innovation is about taking emerging approaches and tools, and testing how they can be applied across contexts. If successful, we scale them to positively impact children and young people around the world. For the purpose of this Accelerator, Duke and UNICEF have adapted the Principles for Digital Development, as developed by UNICEF and others. Eligible social enterprises must adhere to these principles to qualify.

Design with the User

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that incorporate (or are open to incorporating) a human centered design approach to sanitation and hygiene products and services. Paying special attention to the needs of women and girls’ and other vulnerable populations including  the socio-cultural, biological, environmental, and economic factors that influence their lives. Designing with this in mind not only increases the chances of improving program development, but also the delivery, evaluation, and scaling of social enterprises.

Understand the Existing Ecosystem

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that recognize and pursue opportunities to leverage the ecosystems in which they operate in order to have greater impact. Social enterprises seek to improve enabling environments and strengthen or form new partnerships with governments, private sector, and civil society organizations to increase collective impact.

Design for Scale

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that have the potential and ambition for significantly increasing their outcomes and impact. Preference given to social enterprises that are beyond start-up stage, can provide some evidence of meeting customer demand, and that are actively considering a longer-term strategy to scale their impact.

Build for Sustainability

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that have (or have a promising potential to create) business models that are built on sustainable social, environmental, and financial principles. Both for-profits and nonprofits are encouraged to apply, but nonprofits should also have–or aspire to have–a significant earned income, market-oriented approach, or consumer payment component to their revenue.

Be Data Driven

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that are evidence-based, impact-oriented, and have developed and are using metrics and evaluation to validate, refine, and prove their theory of change. We’re looking for social enterprises with strong quantifiable data, rather than just anecdotal stories. Participants will be asked to share performance data (e.g., outputs, outcomes, total clients, internal capacity, etc.) and financial data on a semi-annual basis.

Use Open Source

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that seek to maximize their resources — and ultimately their impact — through open standards, open data, open source technologies and open innovation. What being “open” means for applicants will depend on practical and technical constraints, security and privacy concerns, and the dynamics of the people, networks, and institutions in the space of each social enterprise.

Reuse and Improve

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that look for ways to adapt and enhance existing services, products, resources, and approaches to improve their overall quality, applicability, and impact. Where possible and desirable, social enterprises develop modular, interoperable approaches instead of those that stand alone.

Do No Harm

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that act ethically and responsibly in designing, delivering, assessing, and disseminating their innovations. Social enterprises identify and test assumptions, mitigate risks, and commit themselves to diversity, inclusivity, and equity. Social enterprises take measures to minimize collection of and to protect confidential information and identities of individuals represented in data sets from unauthorized access and manipulation by third parties.

Be Collaborative

We seek social enterprises with promising innovations that are committed to sharing information, insights, strategies and resources across projects, organizations and sectors. Social enterprises seek to strengthen or form new partnerships with governments, private sector, and civil society organizations, leading to increased collective impact.

Our Focus Areas

Menstrual Health and Hygiene:

In the Accelerator’s first cohort, we focused on supporting innovative solutions to a specific Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) issue that has an enormous impact on the lives of adolescent girls: menstrual health and hygiene (MHH).

Sanitation and Hygiene:

In the Accelerator’s second cohort, we focus on supporting innovative solutions to sanitation and hygiene issues broadly, which have an enormous impact on the lives of children everywhere.

Stay Up to Date

Keep up with our social entrepreneurs’ progress and the impact we’re making together.