How can we apply human-centred design practices to the Office of Innovation's internal sensemaking projects?


We are big fans of using human-centred design on the ground to really understand people and the challenges they face in their local contexts. We want to apply the same techniques to the work we do internally, whether we’re working on huge initiatives or aligning the goals of a small innovation team. We use design-led processes to assist with problem framing, sensemaking, mission statement development and positioning of our work internally. By facilitating better collaborations, we can improve how we diagnose, structure and move forward with our work.


At UNICEF Innovation, we do everything all the time. As tinkerers, innovators, and creative technologists, we are set on collaborating with a diverse range of people. The challenges and opportunities we work on are complex, undefined, and often don’t have set outcomes. How do we get to a point where we can share our work, insights, and outcomes in a way that is accessible, clear and demonstrates the value of innovation in our organization?




The Science team at the Office of Innovation does work bridging the gap between new technologies and vulnerable populations. However, we found that many team members struggled with communicating the significance of this work and the techniques used to a non-technical audience. To tackle this issue, the design team worked with the science team to hold two work sessions to align the narrative and research lines for their work, and prioritize specific challenges and opportunities to address.

Through these sessions, we identified the need for a science portfolio, as well as complementary tools and strategies required to support communicating this work. This includes a framework to develop bite-sized versions of the science work; and a way to clearly demonstrate the value of tackling more research science-oriented problems to UNICEF Country Offices, one of our main stakeholders.

By spending time reframing the problems and identifying specific challenges, we were able to create a more actionable roadmap to build out the science team’s work.




Working with the Futures team, we organized a 1.5 day workshop that aimed to bring together people from different parts of UNICEF.

Urban Innovation at UNICEF is applying new and integrated approaches to tap into opportunities and address challenges facing women and children in an urbanizing world. As one of the newly identified priorities for the Office of Innovation, we wondered: what should this look like, and what do we aim to achieve? With several opportunities to participate in new projects, we found the need to clarify what we do, our objectives, and how we measure success. Urbanization work as a whole is huge undertaking that is cross-divisional, and so we have to coordinate across the organization on what makes urban innovation and its activities distinct and ultimately beneficial for UNICEF as a whole. Our goal was to identify how we can align objectives and work together in an actionable way.


Aligning the Urban Innovation Team

  • Establish a clear understanding of the organization’s bigger strategy on urban

  • Clear definition of urban innovation

  • A clear list of objectives and ideas of how to measure those objectives


Bringing in other UNICEF colleagues

  • Identify current challenges and limitations

  • List of collaboration opportunities, goals, and roles

  • List of partners and resources needed to move forward

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Share results for feedback across UNICEF

  • Urban Innovation overview

  • Workshop overview – describe 3 main outcomes

  • Q&A – 30 min open conversation about next steps/how others can get involved



Over the course of these workshops, we work together to clarify our objectives, clearly define responsibilities, and outline next steps for future collaborations.

Through initiatives such as this, we are modelling new collaborations and ways of welcoming others as part of our process. As we continue doing projects to build our the Urban Innovation portfolio, our hope is to further scale these ways of working across UNICEF and beyond. Stay tuned for more info.