The Accelerator Model

A Win-Win-Win Model

The Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator, housed at Duke University, was established to help social entrepreneurs acquire the knowledge, tools, and networks necessary to improve the lives of children around the world. Our goal is to increase the effectiveness, sustainability, and scale of impact of some of the most promising solutions to critical challenges facing the world’s children. Ultimately, the Accelerator supports UNICEF’s goal to give a fair chance in life to every child, everywhere, especially the most disadvantaged.

A Pipeline of High-Potential Innovations to Better the Lives of Children

The Accelerator identifies innovative and impactful approaches, products, technologies and business models to address critical challenges facing children across Africa, emphasizing issues of greatest priority to UNICEF.

Each two-year cohort will consist of five to eight social enterprises selected for their potential to address a pre-determined theme drawn from UNICEF’s development priorities. The first two cohort themes are menstrual health and hygiene and sanitation and hygiene in Africa specifically.

Collective Impact

Through a collaborative approach, we will build a more supportive innovation ecosystem that results in greater collective impact for social entrepreneurs across the Continent, UNICEF, and the Duke community.

Social Entrepreneur Benefits

Strengthening social entrepreneurs’ capabilities to achieve increased impact.

Social enterprises accepted into the Accelerator benefit from the following opportunities:


Social entrepreneurs will receive a variety of training, coaching, mentoring, and other services to help them implement, assess, and refine their approaches, design viable business models, leverage their ecosystems, and attract additional resources.

Peer Learning & Collaboration

Social entrepreneurs will share insights, offer feedback, and forge alliances within and among cohorts via in-person and online gatherings. Social entrepreneurs will also engage with the Accelerator to co-create and disseminate knowledge that has wide-scale benefit for social enterprises with innovations for children around the world.

Resources for Greater Impact

Each social enterprise will receive an initial grant to be used for testing or refining a program or business model, or to achieve another capacity-building objective identified in collaboration with the Accelerator team.

Success at Scale

The reach and networks of the Accelerator and its partners can help prepare the social entrepreneurs to more successfully pursue financially sustainable, ecosystem-sensitive strategies to scale their impact for children.

Social Innovation Ecosystem Benefits

UNICEF Benefits: Enhancement of UNICEF’s innovation and market engagement capacity

Through this partnership, UNICEF and its participating Country Offices will have a strengthened ability to select and support innovations with the potential to scale, and work confidently with the private sector on market-wide and individual corporate engagement.

Duke Benefits: Increased impact through transformative learning, research, and thought leadership

The Accelerator has become an important hub for engaging faculty, staff, students and alumni around social innovation and entrepreneurship, global health, international development and civic engagement. The Accelerator draws on diverse perspectives and expertise from across Duke, while also engaging students in meaningful projects in an effort to inspire the next generation of social entrepreneurs and changemaking leaders. Finally, Duke captures and disseminates lessons learned and policy implications that will foster scalable, sustainable innovation to catalyze change for greater impact.

Partner With Us

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