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Discover the Best of UNICEF Research and Evaluation 2020

 

(15 December 2020) In these chaotic and uncertain times, evidence and objective assessment are needed more than ever to help enhance the rights and well-being of the world’s children. Researching the changing world around us and evaluating progress are critical to reimagining a better future for children everywhere.

In recognition of this, UNICEF celebrates and showcases innovative and influential research and evaluations from UNICEF offices around the world every year, helping to share emerging knowledge with the UNICEF community. For 2020, the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti and the UNICEF Evaluation Office joined forces to find the most rigorous UNICEF studies with greatest influence on policies and programmes that benefit children.

The result of this exercise is the Best of UNICEF Research and Evaluation 2020. 18 finalists are grouped according to UNICEF's five strategic priorities, as well as those who cover multiple goals. Below you can read more to learn why these finalists were selected.

 

 

Some of this research is especially relevant amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The importance of understanding the influence of community linkages and social inequalities on Ebola virus disease preparedness in Uganda reveals essential principles for shaping policy responses to other epidemics. An analysis of impacts on Chad of the 2014–2016 oil price crisis holds lessons for oil-dependent countries now facing a much deeper price shock. A youth-led exploration of social media use across East Asia has significant potential for impact as more of life moves online than ever before. 

 

 

Other finalists went to great lengths to bring young voices into their research. In Italy, unaccompanied and separated children shared stories of their transition into adulthood, while adjusting to a new context and healing from traumas. Research on child labour in Ethiopia enriched existing national data by surveying ‘hard-to-reach’ children, especially those with disabilities and those without a home.

 

 

The prevalence of locally owned and conducted research is another encouraging trend. Researchers from Belarus captured the effects of social and fiscal policies on children while applying the first measurement of multidimensional child poverty in the country. The most comprehensive assessment of student learning ever conducted in Uzbekistan, as a collaboration between UNICEF and the Ministry of Public Education, is informing ongoing education sector reforms. A comparative analysis of maternity, paternity and parental leave and breastfeeding support across 24 Latin American countries makes a compelling case for policy change throughout the region.

Several research pieces expertly applied rigorous, yet innovative mixed methods. UNICEF Mozambique reviewed its school readiness pilot programme using a strong mix of tools, including a longitudinal trial, cost analysis, qualitative interviews and parent-led focus group discussions. Research on integrated safety net programmes in Ethiopia also combined quantitative and qualitative instruments with a substantial process evaluation.

 

 

One factor leading to influence is the articulation of alternative approaches that can support a world fit for all children. In Bulgaria, which has significant rates of institutionalized children, an evaluation of a more family-centric approach to childcare, based on alternative care and risk prevention, showed a different pathway. Evidence on an early childhood development strategy in Nepal demonstrated the need to coordinate action across the multiple sectoral ministries responsible for service delivery. An evaluation in El Salvador proved the benefits of a pilot programme that connected education and early childhood care to violence prevention and a culture of coexistence.

 

 

The best evaluations lead not only to the reimagining of our world, but also to commitments that can help to realize this vision. An evaluation of the national Birth Registration Programme in Nigeria spurred political commitment to support more registration centres, while also influencing within UNICEF the integrated programming approach to registration. In the State of Palestine, fading commitment to community- based family centres was revitalized when an independent evaluation revealed the essential child protection services they provide.

Other finalists demonstrated, and enabled, better targeting through better evidence. An evaluation of UNICEF responses to complex humanitarian emergencies worldwide influenced the development of UNICEF’s current Strategic Plan (2018- 2021) through an evidence-informed understanding of how to reach the most vulnerable. In Thailand, an evaluation of a child support grant successfully argued for an expansion of the programme that avoids excluding significant numbers of families in need. Both of these evaluations also have strong relevance in facing the COVID-19 emergency and its socio-economic fallout. So, too, does an evaluation of a community-led sanitation and hygiene programme in Malawi, which assessed solutions in a country where 15 million people lack a place to wash their hands.

 

 

From where we are now, the path to a better world for all children will not be a clear and well-paved one. Yet we know that high-quality research and evaluations, combined with a commitment to enhancing influence and use from the outset, will help show the way.

 

Read the Best of UNICEF Research and Evaluation 2020 and explore the microsite. Join the conversation online using #BOURE2020.

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Best of UNICEF Research 2019 Winners Announced
Article Article

Best of UNICEF Research 2019 Winners Announced

(26 July 2019)  Now in its seventh year, the Best of UNICEF Research competition continues its tradition of inspiring rigorous and influential evidence across the global organization. Each year, UNICEF offices around the world – including country offices, regional offices, national committees, and headquarters – are invited to submit their best and most recent examples of research for children. The aim is to bring attention to work that contributes to shifting policy agendas and has a high potential for impact on policies and programmes that benefit children. Showcasing some of the most innovative and rigorous research coming out of UNICEF, this year’s winners cover a range of topics, locations, cultures and levels of economic development, including education in India, violence in the Middle East and North Africa, humanitarian aid in the Democratic Republic of Congo, migration, child rights, sanitation and more. This year, UNICEF Innocenti identified 10 finalists which were then independently reviewed by an external panel of international experts. Acknowledging their originality, strong conceptualization, sound methodology, and high potential for impact, the 2019 external review panel identified the following three research projects for special recognition among the 10 finalists:The India Early Childhood Education Impact StudyProduced by the Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED), the Aser Centre and UNICEF India. The panel commended the rigorous nature of this research as well as the methods adopted to assess the quality of early childhood education programs. As an observational, longitudinal study, poor and marginalized children were followed for 4 years in two districts of the 3 Indian states of Telangana, Assam and Rajasthan. The choice of measures and assessment tools are considered appropriate and clearly highlight the links between school readiness and subsequent early grade outcomes.Violent discipline in the Middle East and North Africa RegionProduced by UNICEF MENA Regional Office. The panel lauded this piece for its original contribution to a sensitive, yet policy relevant topic for vulnerable populations in the MENA region. The report employs a multidisciplinary approach to analyze secondary data available in the region, notably the MICS and DHS modules on violence against children. It also provides a comprehensive analysis of survey data on violent discipline among children aged 2-14 years. Effects of Humanitarian Assistance: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo Produced by the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), DRC Humanitarian Pooled Fund, UNOCHA and UNICEF DR Congo. The panel found this report to fill an important gap in the literature by providing rigorous evidence with a counterfactual on the impacts of vouchers in humanitarian settings. Also, the researchers demonstrated their commitment to rigorous research within a complex environment and adopted creative solutions to overcome some implementation obstacles. Overall, the presentation is well-targeted to a practitioner audience, but at the same time demonstrates rigorous methods and high academic standards. UNICEF Innocenti is pleased to see that India is not only ranked as a finalist but also as a top three this year having previously ranked as finalist in 2017. We also note that research from the MENA region is now featuring as a top-three finalist for the third year in a row (the two previous editions being submissions from Egypt and Palestine). It is also exciting to see a new entrant – DR Congo – shortlisted as a finalist and a top three this year. Submissions for the 2019 Best of UNICEF Research were received from different thematic areas, the most prevalent being child protection, health and cross-cutting themes.THE IMPORTANCE OF ETHICSFollowing the introduction of the UNICEF Procedure for Ethical Standards in Research, Evaluation, Data Collection and Analysis in 2015 and a subsequent review of Best of UNICEF Research assessment criteria in 2016, ethical considerations are now being given an increasingly high priority, meaning that any submissions that fell short of ethical standards were not considered for shortlisting. UNICEF Innocenti is committed to ensuring that all research undertaken by UNICEF and its partners is ethical and is currently working towards establishment of a UNICEF-wide Ethics Review Board.THE TOP 10 SUBMISSIONSThe external panel noted the robustness and quality of research in all 10 finalists’ submissions and specifically noted their added policy relevance. The panel further noted the potential replicability of the reports in other countries/contexts. The panel also commented that they were faced with the challenge of selecting the best three pieces from a variety of high-quality research outputs. Congratulations to all 10 finalists for their particularly strong submissions:Ethiopia: Financing the child centered Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in EthiopiaEthiopia: Situation and access to services of people with disabilities and homeless people in two sub-cities of Addis Ababa Cambodia: Water quality for young children in Cambodia – High contamination a collection and consumption levelDemocratic Republic of Congo: Effects of Humanitarian Assistance: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo ECARO: Age Matters! Understanding age-related barriers to service access and the realisation of rights of children, adolescents and youthPhilippines: HiFive for HySan Pilot Evaluation WCARO: Lessons from the West Africa Ebola Epidemic: A Systematic Review of Epidemiological and Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities  MENARO: Violent discipline in the Middle East and North Africa RegionUnited Kingdom: Education for Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Children: Access and equality in England, Scotland and Wales India: The India Early Childhood Education Impact Study  UNICEF staff can read all 10 reports on our Teamsite.For those outside of UNICEF, the Best of UNICEF Research Report will be available online and in print by the end of the year. In the meantime, you can explore previous Best of UNICEF Research publications.Thank you to our external panel for their time and comments. The panel was composed of Marie-Claude Martin (Former Innocenti Deputy Director and currently Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Director of Global Initiatives at the Alliance for Human Development), Alex Ezeh (Professor of Global Health at the Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development), Ruth Levine (former Program Director of Global Development and Population at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation), Sabu Padmadas (Professor of Demography and Global Health at the University of Southampton), and Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva (Chief Executive Officer, OXFAM Mexico).   
Best of UNICEF Research 2019
Article Article

Best of UNICEF Research 2019

Publications

Best of UNICEF Research and Evaluation 2020
Publication Publication

Best of UNICEF Research and Evaluation 2020

Evidence and objective assessment are needed more than ever to help enhance the rights and well-being of the world’s children. Researching the changing world around us and evaluating progress are two sides of the same coin, both critical to reimagining a better future for children. In recognition of this, UNICEF celebrates and showcases innovative and influential research and evaluations from our offices around the world every year. For 2020, Innocenti and the Evaluation Office joined forces to find the most rigorous UNICEF studies with greatest influence on policies and programmes that benefit children.
Best of UNICEF Research 2019
Publication Publication

Best of UNICEF Research 2019

The Best of UNICEF Research is celebrating its seventh year. Once again, it showcases a collection of the best research undertaken or supported by UNICEF staff and offices around the world. The Best of UNICEF Research exercise has become eagerly anticipated throughout the organization. Staff in country offices particularly welcome the spotlight on work that helps to shape practice, programming and policy for children worldwide. 2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and we can see many pressing issues for children and young people, and for UNICEF, reflected in this year's selection of Best of UNICEF Research 2019 finalists.
Best of UNICEF Research 2018
Publication Publication

Best of UNICEF Research 2018

The Best of UNICEF Research initiative celebrates its sixth year. Once again, it showcases a collection of the best research undertaken or supported by UNICEF staff and offices around the world. The ‘Best of UNICEF Research’ exercise has become eagerly anticipated throughout the organization. Staff in country offices particularly welcome the spotlight on work that helps to shape practice, programming and policy for children around the world. As evidence of this engagement, the number of submissions which come from all parts of UNICEF, including National Committees continues to rise, as does the diversity of topics and methods. This year, our highlighted research projects were selected from 104 eligible submissions. All regions were represented, as were most major areas of UNICEF programming. While fields such as health, nutrition, education and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) have generally been strong areas of evidence generation for UNICEF, it is encouraging to see child protection – a relatively underdeveloped field of research – showing prominently in the submitted projects, as well as an increase in cross-sectoral research. 
Best of UNICEF Research 2017
Publication Publication

Best of UNICEF Research 2017

The Best of UNICEF Research (BOUR) initiative celebrates its fifth year. Once again, it showcases some of the best and most innovative pieces of research coming out of UNICEF. It reveals diversity in geography, themes and methodologies. The topics demonstrate the added value of UNICEF staff in the field identifying issues that are of relevance at national and local levels but which also have widespread application and the potential to shape the agendas of academic and policy communities. The studies demonstrate the particular capacity of UNICEF to facilitate research across multiple countries within a region, and even cross-regionally. A number of studies in this volume focus on child protection issues – a welcome addition to research in a field for which evidence is often limited or fragmented, and where the work of UNICEF has potential to drive a research and evidence agenda with global impact. Other studies focus on children in conditions of extreme vulnerability and exploitation – where issues of appropriate methods and ethical safeguards become paramount. The situation of children with disabilities is another welcome addition to the themes covered by BOUR – highlighting its growing importance on the agenda of governments and of UNICEF.
Best of UNICEF Research 2016
Publication Publication

Best of UNICEF Research 2016

The Best of UNICEF competition identifies a number of studies that are assessed to be of particular merit on a number of criteria: in terms of the relevance and interest of the topic and findings; the rigour of their methodology; and the potential for impact, including lessons that could inform programmes elsewhere, or the capacity for replication or scaling up. Issues covered include health, education, WASH, child protection and social inclusion. There was also a strong emphasis on qualitative and mixed methods research, demonstrating the value of rigorous qualitative studies. A number of studies selected as of special merit in 2016 involved research directly with children and there is an increasing recognition that children’s perspectives are of primary importance. There was also a welcome attention to gender in some of the studies, including research with both adolescent boys and girls.

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