As UNICEF Country Offices seek to integrate new technologies and innovative approaches into their programme delivery, there is a need for new organizational structures and strengthened capacities to better support these initiatives. The ESAR T4D Team has been working with Country Offices to document their challenges in terms of managing T4D projects, and to identify some best practices for arranging the necessary support structures. The following section includes summaries and case studies of current support structures, recommendations for choosing a support structure, and additional resources or trainings that might be useful for organizational capacity building.
As part of our T4D Capacity Building Workshop, the Regional Office has been working to consolidate shared challenges for managing and scaling T4D and Innovation projects. Regardless of the maturity of a Country Office’s T4D initiatives, many face challenges in determining internal roles and responsibilities for T4D management. While there was a consensus that T4D should be driven primarily by Programme needs, deciding who would do what, and who “owned” the initiatives internally varied largely depending on the context of the Country Office, the support from Country Office Leadership, and the effectiveness of the communication channels between Programme and IT sections. In addition, given that T4D initiatives can often offer benefits to multiple Programme sections (such as data collection or monitoring), there are also challenges in prioritizing how T4D initiatives will be integrated into Programmes. Many Country Offices in the ESAR have cited the long-entrenched silos between Programme sections as a barrier to facilitating this kind of cross-sectoral cooperation. Understanding internal capacity and what aspects of the project should and can be “outsourced” was also often a challenge.
These challenges indicate that there is a need for more formalized structures or functions for supporting and managing T4D and Innovation projects. However, the Regional Office recognizes that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all model for T4D support structures. Over the last few months, the Regional Office has taken stock of the current organizational support structures utilized by Country Offices. These include:
Diagram 1: T4D Support Structures in ESAR
- No Formal Structure: For those Country Office just beginning T4D projects, there typically is one Programme section, or even one staffer, leading the way or acting as the “champion” for T4D in the office. This can be beneficial in promoting a Programme or problem-driven solution, and allows for strong leadership if a motivated staffer or Programme section takes the lead. However, it does not ensure that T4D is institutionalized in the organization, and could lead to a technology solution that is not sustainable or useful for other Programme sections.
- ICT Manager or M&E Officer +: Some offices have added T4D responsibilities to either ICT staff or M&E staff due to the correspondence of these competencies with many of the key competencies needed for typical T4D projects. Depending on the nature of the project, it could be beneficial to have existing expertise with software/hardware or with monitoring and evaluation (especially for data collection projects). It should be considered that some risk exists with adding additional responsibilities to staff who may not have the time or desire to work on T4D projects.
- The T4D Task Force: In cases where there is sufficient momentum and interest, a task force can be comprised of Programme and ICT volunteers who act as the steering committee for all innovation and T4D initiatives. This structure can be useful in improving communication, helping set priorities, and bringing together a multidisciplinary team (which may not require as much capacity building as a result), but it still runs the risk of putting too much responsibility on already over-stretched staff. It is still recommended to have a single focal point within the task force who is responsible for driving projects forward.
- T4D Coordinator: Some Country Offices in ESAR have chosen to create a dedicated function responsible for liaising between IT, Programme sections, and external vendors for the overall management of T4D projects. These positions usually require a hybrid set of skills (See Sample Terms of Reference below), and can be ideal for relieving other staff from coordination roles. However, clearly defining the responsibilities and reporting lines for a T4D coordinator is especially important to ensure that s/he can work across Programme sections.
- The Innovation Lab: Is an independent body from the Country Office, with a full staff dedicated to both T4D and innovation. The Innovation Lab often handles all stages of projects internally, from development, to prototyping, to working with Country Offices on implementation. To learn about an example of a UNICEF Innovation Lab, check out the Uganda Innovation Lab and to learn about the process of setting up a Lab, see UNICEF’s Innovation Lab Do-it-yourself Guide
Case Study: Innovation Task Force in the Kenya Country Office
The Kenya Country Office (KCO) utilizes a model of “Innovation Task Force” to drive forward T4D and innovations projects in the office. KCO leveraged an already existing office task force, the Strategic Information, Research, and Knowledge Management (SIRK) task force, to ensure the participation of key actors within the office. Volunteers from Programme sections who already sat on SIRK then ensured that innovation updates were included in SIRK monthly meetings, which allowed for information sharing across Programme sections and with senior management. Supported by the Task Force, KCO’s Education team has worked with EchoMobile.org and Eneza education to develop evidence-based, real-time, SMS data collection on child-friendly school indicators, working to improve Level 3 monitoring and ensuring participation of head teachers, parents, and pupils in the process. The Task Force helped improve communication channels between the Programme sections, and, once data began to return from the project, the team was able to identify new opportunities for UNICEF programming in the areas of emergency response and advocacy.
Recommendations choosing a T4D support model:
- After discussing the models outlined above, Country Offices should consider supporting the creation of a T4D Coordinator position, task force, or other dedicated focal point which could function as the liaison between IT and Programmes and provide support for managing external vendors.
- Country Offices should then assess current gaps and develop a plan for Capacity Building and skills augmentation for current staff in order to update them with relevant T4D business needs.
- Making clear decisions about which aspects of T4D projects can be outsourced to third parties will help Country Offices identify their capacity building needs.
Sample Terms of Reference:
UNICEF Global Innovations has created sample Terms of Reference for Innovation Lab staff. Regardless of which model you choose, these give a good idea of the kinds of skill sets and competencies. See the sample ToRs here: http://www.unicefinnovationlabs.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/TOR-Annex.pdf
In addition, here is a Sample T4D Coordinator ToR from the Region:
For more information:
- Read the ESARO T4D Capacity Building Workshop Report to learn more about some of the challenges and solutions we’ve come up with in ESAR to deal with T4D and Innovation projects.
- Learn how other organizations are handling organizational change and implementing innovation processes from UNDP: http://europeandcis.undp.org/blog/2013/04/16/innovation-in-development-organizations-a-graphic-tour/
- Check out the World Bank’s Resources on creating “Ecosystems for Innovation”: https://strikingpoverty.worldbank.org/resources
External Trainings and Resources:
|Amani Institute||Various trainings on social entrepreneurship and innovation||Workshop/training: Design thinking, social entrepreneurship, storytelling, leadership development|
|Fraunhofer IAO||Technology and Innovation management||Consulting and Trainings: Organizational capacity and strategy for innovation and technology|
|Singularity University||Executive Program in Emerging Technologies||7 day Training: Emerging and disruptive technologies and practical tools to prepare and manage, $12,000|
|Thnk||Creative Leadership Program||6-12 mo Training : Program Innovation, organizational capacity, design thinking|
|Thnk||Start Innovating Now!||Online Course: Innovation, organizational capacity, design thinking, $1,200|
|TechChange||Why is it so hard to try something new in ICT4D?||Informational Video: Challenges to integrating technology into development work, Free|
|TechChange||TC108: Social Intrapreneurship: Entrepreneurial Strategies for Social Innovation within Insitutions||Online Course: Problem definition, planning, prototyping, concept notes, $445|