Research is fundamental to UNICEF’s mission. The struggle to safeguard the rights of all children in all circumstances can only succeed when supported by the most reliable evidence and the latest knowledge.
The Office of Research – Innocenti is UNICEF’s dedicated research centre. Its core mandate is to undertake cutting-edge, policy-relevant research that equips the organization and the wider global community to deliver results for children. To achieve its mandate UNICEF Innocenti must work closely with all parts of its parent organization as well as a wide array of external academic and research institutions.
Innocenti’s research seeks to inform policy, guide action and also to challenge assumptions. The credibility and relevance of findings rest as much on the quality of inquiry as on independence. Innocenti’s position, firmly rooted in the global UNICEF network and fully engaged as an independent research body with leading universities and institutes in all regions of the world promotes a dynamic, real-time discourse on the generation of knowledge about children.
As the research centre for UNICEF, Innocenti is uniquely positioned to understand and respond to research questions on the ground, and to feed research into policy and practice – through its programmes of cooperation with more 150 low and middle income countries, its links to UNICEF National Committees in 33 high income countries, and as an arm of the world’s leading normative agency that shapes global policies and outcomes for children.
UNICEF Innocenti also supports and facilitates research conducted by other parts of its parent organization. It is responsible for developing appropriate guidelines, establishing standards of research ethics and quality, facilitating the wider organization’s research agenda, providing technical assistance and promoting best practice.
UNICEF enjoys the unique privilege of locating its global research function at the nearly 600-year-old Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence, Italy. Established as a foundling shelter in 1419 by the influential Silk-workers Guild, Innocenti can be viewed as one of the earliest efforts by secular authorities to elevate the concerns of vulnerable children to the level of civic priority.
UNICEF’s presence at Innocenti was inaugurated in 1988 by then Executive Director James Grant, with a broad mandate to contribute to an “emerging global ethic for children.” Research quickly became a defining mission with provision of crucial early research support for an expanding mandate in child rights, urban programmes, social policy and protection of children, among others.
Today UNICEF Innocenti maintains a small team of about 40 researchers, evaluators, knowledge management specialists, communicators, operations and support staff at its centre in Florence. UNICEF Innocenti develops its research agenda in consultation with other parts of UNICEF and with external stakeholders.
The agenda is selected to support intensified research efforts coordinated across the wider organization where there is demand for a concerted effort to build evidence, usually in a rapidly expanding intervention area. Priorities are also driven by critical issues facing children which have been either overlooked or which do not fit neatly into discreet sectors.
Current research projects:
Emerging areas of focus include: migration, gender, and the intersection of humanitarian and development work. We also host a global network of longitudinal studies (GLORI).
Using the Florence location and the convening power of UNICEF, the office hosts a range of high level events, expert working groups, senior research fellows, workshops and seminars. Events bring together UNICEF staff, academics, policy makers and practitioners. UNICEF Innocenti works through partnerships with academic and policy research institutions as well as think-tanks and NGOs. Strategic communications and research engagement activities ensure that Innocenti research is widely disseminated and translates into practical impacts and policy influence.