(31 March 2016) The following is UNICEF Innocenti Director Sarah Cook’s foreword to our 2016 Results Report. Download the report to get the full story of our work last year.
2016 saw significant achievements across all areas of Innocenti’s work, delivered by our committed team of researchers, analysts, communications and operations specialists, working in collaboration with a wide range of partners – from UNICEF country offices and their local counterparts, to colleagues in headquarters, UNICEF National Committees, academic institutions around the world, and our host, Istituto degli Innocenti, together with other partners in Italy.
Following leadership changes in 2015, the Office looked to 2016 as a year for consolidation of recent progress and expansion, continued implementation of an ambitious research agenda, and delivery of significant publications, events and impacts. We can look back with satisfaction at progress made in many areas of concern for UNICEF and for children. At the same time, from our location in Italy, we saw at close hand the effects of conflict and crisis, driving a wave of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean – creating urgent demands for evidence to which we have responded with a new programme of research on children in contexts of migration, displacement and conflict.
Evidence of the impact of our research and its uptake within and beyond the organization is visible at multiple levels – from the work of country and regional offices, to influence on government policies and global debates, incorporating children or child-related concerns into academic research and policy. Detailed examples can be found in the pages of this report. They include: national policy changes flowing from research on violence and bullying; replication and scaling-up of parenting programmes based on evidence; generating the evidence base on how children use the internet as a basis for understanding both opportunities and risks, as well as identifying key regulatory gaps in relation to children and the internet, data and privacy; and synthesizing research findings on adolescence through a series of Digests to support programming in the field. The influence of Innocenti’s long-term research project that evaluates cash transfer (and increasingly ‘cash-plus’) programmes across sub-Saharan Africa continues to grow. This collaborative initiative has provided detailed evidence to national governments and UNICEF offices to support the introduction and scaling-up of transfers, while also busting myths about the impacts of cash (for example, on fertility or dependence) and demonstrating impacts of cash in areas such as adolescent health and wellbeing, violence and safe transitions to adulthood.
A key role of the Office of Research–Innocenti is to foster the generation and use of good quality research and evidence across UNICEF. Led by the Research Facilitation Team at Innocenti, the past year has seen the establishment of a strong research governance framework for UNICEF. In February, the UNICEF Policy for Research was approved by the Executive Director. This sets out key principles, standards, accountabilities and coordination mechanisms for research across the organization, complementing existing procedures and guidelines on quality assurance and ethics. Innocenti staff have worked closely with regional and country Offices to provide technical support and undertake training programmes on research and knowledge management. For the fourth year in succession, the Best of UNICEF Research drew attention to some of the outstanding research produced or in collaboration with UNICEF staff around the world.
Supporting these efforts towards broader engagement and impact, 2016 also saw major steps forward in Innocenti’s communications with the redesign of our website, a more regular e-newsletter, blogs and more adventurous use of social media – all of which help to share research findings, stimulate debate and engage a wider audience.
Also in support of partnerships and impact, the Office is capitalizing on its location and convening capacity to create a vibrant space for debate on critical issues for children. Meetings hosted included a session with Council of Europe Parliamentarians, a consultation of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Children, WHO’s Child Friendly Hospitals initiative and an expert group meeting on social protection and violence in childhood. Events with UNICEF colleagues included the annual DREAM meeting of Data, Research, Evaluation and Monitoring staff, the Social Inclusion team network meeting, and a training course on public finance for children.
Building on these achievements, we enter 2017 in a strong position for achieving ambitious goals. We look forward to working with colleagues across UNICEF in developing a research agenda aligned with the new strategic plan, and to further strengthening our capacities and those of UNICEF in a broader sense, in generating and using knowledge to achieve positive change for children.