(1 June 2018) The conclusion of UNICEF’s 2014–2017 Strategic Plan and accompanying Office of Research – Innocenti Programme provides an excellent moment to reflect on the impact and influence of our work over this period.
The quality and relevance of the research we undertake, and our contribution to results, depend on many factors: a stable financial base; excellent staff; our embeddedness within UNICEF and close relationships, particularly with country and regional offices; and partnerships with a wide range of research and policy institutions.
Progress has been made in all these dimensions over the past four years, and translated into impacts on programmes, policies, advocacy and research capacities across UNICEF, as this report demonstrates. Looking back to 2014, we now see an office that has grown rapidly – in its budget and staffing, in its outputs and activities, in its partnerships, and in its visibility and influence.
At the start of the 2014–2017 Strategic Plan, the former Innocenti Research Centre (IRC) had only recently taken on the functions of the Office of Research for UNICEF. Now its mandate has expanded to leading the research function across UNICEF, creating a stronger evidence base for programming, and strengthening institutional and staff capacities for evidence generation and use.
"Through the quality of our work, Innocenti is increasingly recognized as a leader and sought-after partner in key areas of research relating to children and adolescents – such as poverty measurement, social protection, violence, digital use and ethics."
Demonstrable results over this period are seen in the establishment of a research governance structure for the organization. This includes: a research policy, quality assurance and ethics procedures, a research framework, and committees to ensure quality oversight and coordination. Research management training in most regional and some country offices has been welcomed, along with a broad range of technical support services. The annual Best of UNICEF Research competition, now in its sixth year, recognizes good, policy-relevant research by UNICEF staff, and has clearly incentivized greater investment in such research across the organization.
Many of the achievements by the Office of Research – Innocenti covered in this 2017 Annual Report are an outcome of efforts over many years. They benefit from the endeavour, underscored here, of building the institutional infrastructure and processes that support high-quality research and a wider appreciation and use of evidence. They are achieved through solid partnerships with research institutions and with country offices in ways that firmly link the research with programming.
Through the quality of our work, Innocenti is increasingly recognized as a leader and sought-after partner in key areas of research relating to children and adolescents – such as poverty measurement, social protection, violence, digital use and ethics. We have been forward-looking in identifying issues before they are priorities for the wider community, including research on child rights and internet use, which is informing both UNICEF positions and broader child rights and protection debates; or research on adolescence, which now forms an evidence base for a stronger focus within UNICEF’s new Strategic Plan. We have been innovative in adapting rigorous methodologies to understand the impacts of interventions in humanitarian contexts, assessing how cash transfers enable education among Syrian children in Lebanon – studies that will be replicated elsewhere. And we have been responsive – including having a staff member deployed to Cox’s Bazar to work with the Rohingya refugees, where we have demonstrated how good, timely research inputs can inform and transform the emergency response.
"The quality of our research as measured by peer-reviewed publications continues to rise, while we have also increased our dissemination to wider audiences through social media, and to policy and programme audiences through more targeted briefs and short outputs."
The quality of our research as measured by peer-reviewed publications continues to rise, while we have also increased our dissemination to wider audiences through social media, and to policy and programme audiences through more targeted briefs and short outputs. Our signature publication – the Innocenti Report Card – focused on Children and the Sustainable Development Goals, and was the first report on this issue for industrialized countries. An edited volume, Children of Austerity, based on an earlier Report Card, has been widely acclaimed and used for advocacy purposes.
2017 was also a year of planning and preparation – both for the new work plan, aligned with UNICEF’s 2018–2021 Strategy, and the imminent move into expanded office space, still within the historic Ospedale degli Innocenti. Our new premises provide an opportunity to enhance our role as a physical and virtual convening space for dialogue and critical thinking on issues concerning child rights, well-being and development in support of the new Strategic Plan. Over the next four years, the Office of Research – Innocenti has the opportunity to strengthen its role as a leading hub in a global knowledge network – generating and sharing evidence that can improve the lives of the world’s children, and strengthening UNICEF’s position as the global thought leader and policy advocate for children.
We look forward to working with colleagues across UNICEF and partners around the world to achieve our ambitious shared goals for children.
You can download the full 2017 Results Report here.