How might we design a brand system that can be used by non-designers in countries looking to pilot the UPSHIFT programme?


UPSHIFT is a youth social innovation programme that empowers marginalised young people to identify and design solutions to challenges in their communities. Through this process they gain skills for employment and skills for life. Originally piloted in Kosovo, the success of the UPSHIFT workshop and mentorship programme pilot has led other countries like Jordan, Montenegro, Vietnam and Lebanon to being shaping their own UPSHIFT. As the programme scales up, we need to build a common design language and system of tools that can serve the contextual and cultural expression of young people from countries around the world.


Both can be focused on specific issues (e.g. climate change adaptations, water and sanitation solutions) or can be entirely youth-led, with young people selecting the issues that most affect them and their communities.

To support this approach, we started the design process by building over the identity that Kosovo initially developed. This ensured that there was continuity from the pilot to the rollout of the global brand system. As well, since UNICEF Country Offices each have different capacities, our goal was to build simple, modular assets that would be easy to use, adapt, and own by designers and non-designers alike.

UPSHIFT is a methodology and approach to providing skills development and empowerment to marginalised youth. It contains some core elements that are transferable across country and cultural borders, while being flexible enough to adapt to local contexts.

There are two main approaches to UPSHIFT, which can build on each other. One is focused on skills development; the other on social entrepreneurship. Both are built on human-centred design methodologies and are tailored to engage marginalised young people as co-creators of solutions, rather than just as beneficiaries.

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By design, UPSHIFT specifically seeks to engaged marginalized communities, including for example girls, young people with disabilities, young refugees and ethnic minority communities. In Vietnam, UPSHIFT has been very successful at engaging young people with disabilities as problem solvers; in turn leading to employment opportunities.

We are now developing systems that enable this experience to reach a far greater number of young people in each country, particularly through the education system and local government. The programme has also been included in the World Bank’s Solutions for Youth Employment Impact Portfolio.


UPSHIFT started its journey in Kosovo in 2014 and is now in 12 different countries, but more importantly, it is impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people. To develop a generation of skilled, civically engaged young people, we need to reach millions. We hope that this global brand system will enable UPSHIFT to continue to scale and be adopted as a methodology by young people around the world.

Read more about UPSHIFT: here