Friday, 1 August 2014

Engaging global partners to innovate for Indonesian children

by Jeff K Hall, UNICEF Indonesia Innovation Lab Lead
Quick question: What do you get when you mix Schneider Electric Country Presidents with UNICEF innovators?

Here’s our answer: Creative arts, storyboards, and video skits!

In a recent workshop run by UNICEF Indonesia with WDHB (Worldwide Experiential Learning for Executives) and KIBAR (an Innovation group from Jakarta), UNICEF presented Schneider’s Country Presidents with a development challenge – the problem of natural disasters in Indonesia, a major issue in this country – and asked the team to come up with innovative solutions for young people.

For these senior corporate members, this had to be a fun-filled learning day, but one that would enable them to get what innovation means to UNICEF, through hands-on activities and exchange.

Schneider Electric Country Presidents creating video skits
©UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Suba Umathevan

While focusing on the creative learning process, we also shared information on the realities of vulnerable children and communities whose lives are often disrupted when natural hazards occur.

Our ice-breaker was relatively easy: the pictures of some of the public schools in north Jakarta that had water levels above a metre and a half generated immediate interest and concern amongst the audience. So we kick started the workshop with a question: How might we create a product or service to allow urban adolescents and youth to safely continue their schooling without interruptions during urban flooding emergencies?

This topic directly addresses one of UNICEF Indonesia’s Innovation projects to develop an “Emergency Kit for Adolescents”. The lab has been working on this capacity building project with young Indonesians from two northern-Jakarta districts that are often affected by floods – Kampung Melayu and Rawajati. It was really awesome to share the experiences and challenges of these communities with this group of senior leaders.

The team of Schneider Presidents I worked with brainstormed around 30 to 40 ideas, addressing the issue from three different angles: access, stress, and hazards. The ideas were playful and fun, ranging from a supply box with surprises for children to reduce stress in emergency shelters, to concepts like reorganising the school year to make moving out of flooded areas less disruptive.

Brainstorming ideas for an "Emergency Kit for Adolescents"
©UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Suba Umathevan  

The atmosphere was non-critical; different ideas were discussed and anecdotes shared within the group, creating enough excitement and energy in the room. It surely did not feel like an ordinary day in the lives of senior corporate executives. Far from the woes and anxieties of serious business, there we were, heavily engaged in coming up with tangible solutions for children, with scissors and tape in hand!

After organizing their ideas and voting for the same, the team selected the concept of a “mobile school”: one which would help the community to overcome physical barriers to educational access that flooding creates. The buzz from brainstorming carried over to anticipation and excitement towards applying the planned rapid prototyping methods - creative arts, storyboards, and video skits.

In spite of working under time pressure, the team jumped into the prototyping session. With rapid-fire conversations, jokes and humour, the scene of work resembled a playground, with our newly found ‘friends of UNICEF’ staying laser focused on developing the proof of concept. The concentration and teamwork got us through all three activities right on time, leading all the Country Presidents on my team to let out a raucous cheer!

Schneider executives using the creative arts to come up with innovations
©UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Suba Umathevan  

The workshop was an effective way to actively engage, educate, and inspire the Schneider presidents to innovate for children. For UNICEF in Indonesia, building partnerships with the private sector on innovations and sharing knowledge on issues faced by young people is extremely important as it creates awareness and understanding of the social environment in which companies operate. Finally, we believe that collaborations with companies such as Schneider Electric will lead to innovations and solutions for children and youth in Indonesia.

Read more about Schneider Electric

Read more about UNICEF's Emergency Kit for Adolescents