The UNICEF Innovations Lab in Kosovo!!

Posted on Oct 17, 2010
We have been working hard these past few weeks here in Prishtina to refine a concept of an Innovations Lab relevant and appropriate for Kosovo. I”m happy to say that we have a clear notion of what this might be, after weeks of discussion, and are rapidly ramping forward.
On the one hand is the situation in Kosovo and the need for increasing youth participation and reliable data. Kosovo is a very young country, historically: it declared independence three years ago, and many nations and international institutions still don’t recognize it. But the youth is more than historical. It is estimated that 53% of Kosovo’s population is under 251. Opinion polls show that more than half of this group (“youth”) feels that they partipicate “little” or “not at all” in decisions that affect them. More than half of this group is also considered unemployed and unskilled.  And all the estimated figures I’m throwing around show another deep need in Kosovo: data. There hasn’t been a census for some thirty years, and the lack of reliable data comes out repeatedly in conversations.
On the other hand is the promise of open source, mobile, and social technologies. Open source: lets you adapt, scale, and work with a global community in an open setting. Mobile: loosens constraints around access, reach, and communication possibilities. Social: lets people organize, mobilize, and collaborate cheaply and easily.
So, we came up with an idea for an Innovations Lab that functions something like this:

part 1 UNICEF-specific component that helps UNICEF counterparts (various ministries, NGOs) and UNICEF use open source and mobile tech for data collection, monitoring, and and more. Think projects like ChildCount, or Nutritional Surveillance.

part 2 “By Youth For Youth” projects. This is kind of like an incubator for social change projects that youth can propose. There are only two criteria: the idea has to benefit Kosovar youth, and it has to have a project leader who is a Kosovar youth between 18 and 25. Examples of projects include things like establishing an electronic library and digitizing books for it, mapping polling stations before the next elections are here and distributing maps to young people.

We’re currently trying to ramp both the parts of the Innovations lab up, hiring a software developer for part 1 and actively helping youth with project ideas and proposals for part 2. I will share more details about By Youth For Youth part of the project lab soon.
Any feedback on either part, as always, is welcome.
[1] – When I first heard this (before getting here), it didn’t sound that drastic. But this statistic is really re-inforced by the streets of Prishtina. To compare, the median age is the US is around 35+ (ie, 50% of people are older than 35).
[Note: name is no longer UNICEF Kosovo Innovations Lab, it is UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo].


  1. Laura Fragiacomo
    November 30, -0001

    hey, great that you are blogging this… wonder if the rest of the office knows about it :) you mention child count/nutritional surveillance projects … any online examples of birth registration specifically?I have to say… this is hugely ambitious! glad to be a part of it :) It’s totally exciting…

  2. Prabhas Pokharel
    November 30, -0001

    Laura, the ChildCount project actually does birth registration! The scale is much smaller, but they have achieved 95% registration in quite a resource constrained area, and linked that to tracking of immunizations and other health records very well.Otherwise, I am as glad as you to be a part of it :)