Evaluating Innovation at UNICEF: What did we find?
Sustainable Development Goals: 9
- SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
The world is changing faster than ever before, and so too are the challenges facing its most vulnerable. Conflict and displacement, disasters and climate change, urbanization and disease outbreaks are growing increasingly complex and inter-related, demanding new strategies and approaches. Innovation for development – exploring new ways of delivering programmes, with new partners and new technologies – is increasingly recognized as crucial to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNICEF has made innovation a corporate priority. Yet the extent to which this investment has translated into meaningful and sustainable outcomes for children has not been systematically analysed. Neither has the organization undergone an assessment to determine the extent to which it is optimally positioned (‘fit for purpose’) to implement innovation as a strategy. As UNICEF moves into the second year of its current Strategic Plan (SP), addressing these knowledge gaps has acquired renewed urgency, and is the subject of the present evaluation.
The overall purpose of the evaluation is to generate important information for organizational learning and accountability. The evaluation objective was to assess UNICEF’s ‘fitness for purpose’ to employ innovation as a key strategy to achieve the outcomes and goals defined in its strategic plans for the period 2014-2021. It also sought to provide insights on how innovation contributes to UNICEF’s goals and objectives, as well as how innovation might contribute to increasingly effective organizational responses in the coming years. Accordingly, the evaluation examines innovation in both a retrospective and formative manner.
This section describes the methods used in the three component elements of the evaluation: the OA, the innovation case studies and the synthesis. Overall, the evaluation utilized a mixed methods approach with a summative emphasis (2014-2017). The timing allows for a complete review of the earlier strategy period (2014-2017) as well as capturing events that unfolded as the new strategy cycle (2018-2021) and its associated planning documents (e.g. office management plans) were being launched. The evaluation methodologies are primarily qualitative and based on key informant interviews.
Recommendation area 1: Develop a shared strategic vision and approach that directly addresses fundamental constraints in the current approach and drives decision-making across the organization.
Recommendation area 2: Act on needed structural change to advance innovation as a means of achieving results for children.
Recommendation area 3: Utilize a portfolio management approach for innovation.