How might we foster the development of collaborative, human-centred solutions as part of the Innovation Fund cohort experience?
UNICEF requires strong collaborators with innovators on the ground to build and test new solutions at the pace required to keep up with the rapidly evolving challenges facing children. Entrepreneurs in UNICEF programme countries often lack access to flexible funding and the global networks to connect to other problem solvers, mentors and platforms to grow their solutions quickly.
To solve this problem, the Venture Fund is a $16 million investment fund that makes $50-100K early stage investments in technologies for children developed by UNICEF country offices or companies in UNICEF programme countries. It allows UNICEF to quickly assess, fund and grow open-source technology solutions that show potential to positively impact the lives of vulnerable children. Promising technologies will be used to develop scalable platforms that UNICEF can use in a range of applications and country settings. To make this happen, UNICEF’s multidisciplinary team works together to create a holistic portfolio experience that supports this development.
The changing role of design
As the Venture Fund portfolio grows, we constantly think about the role we play both on centre stage and behind the scenes as designers working in this space. How might we foster the development of collaborative, human-centred solutions as part of the Innovation Fund cohort experience?
As generalists, we aim to connect the dots between innovative solutions and collaborative approaches. For this reason, our work consists of three main activities:
We use visual/communication design to clarify the architecture and value of the Fund, as well as set expectations around the cohort experience.
Workshops and Sensemaking
We facilitate and co-design workshops so that portfolio companies can design better user testing processes, and identify opportunities to integrate new technologies into existing products. We also kickstart collaborations across cohorts working on similar underlying technology stacks and products to build platforms that can more easily be brought to scale.
Advising and Mentorship
We advise portfolio companies on establishing best practices for human-centred design and product development.
As portfolio companies start to graduate from the Fund, we’re excited to see them understand their ecosystems better, test their products rigorously, and prepare to collaborate at an even larger scale. It’s been a learning process, and we’re excited to see where the next iteration will take us. As we test new processes, tools and cross-collaborations, our biggest goal is to share our key learnings and skills with the rest of our team – both designers and non-designers alike. Stay tuned.