Innovation Specialist, NO-3, Pretoria, South Africa, Open for South African nationals only

UNICEF - United Nations Children's Fund

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Application deadline in 27 days: Sunday 14 Jul 2024 at 21:55 UTC

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This is a NO-3 contract. This kind of contract is known as National Professional Officers. It is normally only for nationals. It's a staff contract. More about NO-3 contracts.

UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives, defend their rights, and help them fulfill their potential, from early childhood through adolescence.

At UNICEF, we are committed, passionate, and proud of what we do. Promoting the rights of every child is not just a job – it is a calling.

UNICEF is a place where careers are built: we offer our staff diverse opportunities for personal and professional development that will help them develop a fulfilling career while delivering on a rewarding mission. We pride ourselves on a culture that helps staff thrive, coupled with an attractive compensation and benefits package.

Visit our website to learn more about what we do at UNICEF.

For every child, RESOURCES****.

UNICEF South Africa

UNICEF is committed to realising the rights of all children to help them build a strong foundation and have the best chance of fulfilling their potential. We believe that ensuring a child is happy and healthy begins before birth: from ensuring their mother has access to good health care to reaching adulthood as a healthy, empowered and informed young person of the next generation. This journey relies on every child having access to quality health care, good nutrition, education, and growing up in a safe environment free from violence.

The UNICEF South Africa Country Programme (2020-2025) is aligned with the Government of South Africa’ National Development Plan for 2030 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF). The programme supports the Government of South Africa to meet its commitment to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights in line with international conventions and standards. The country programme is guided by the principles of children’s rights, equity, gender equality, inclusion and resilience, and supports evidence-based, integrative and innovative programming.

The vision is that ‘all girls and boys in South Africa, especially the most disadvantaged and deprived, realize their rights’. The programme focuses on: early childhood development; early learning and quality education; adolescent development and participation; social and child protection; social policy and child rights advocacy and programme effectiveness (planning, monitoring, evaluation, HACT, innovation, external communication and partnerships).

The programme is based on ‘leaving no child behind’, realizing ‘rights for all children in South Africa.

The Innovation Specialist will support the country office to harness the power of innovation, especially the power of information and communication technologies (ICT) to improve programme effectiveness. The incumbent will provide technical guidance in piloting and scaling digital tools that inter alia empower young people and communities to make data-driven decisions, strengthen value chains, improve access to health, education and other essential services, promote entrepreneurship and financial inclusiveness, and facilitate accurate, real-time information for the Government of South Africa. The incumbent will provide technical support to programme sections, implementing partners, government and other relevant stakeholders in the deployment, revitalization and/or maintenance of UNICEF-supported innovation and T4D initiatives. The incumbent will also drive social innovation initiatives together with U-Report and social innovation officer, using human-centered design approach or other similar innovation methods.

How can you make a difference?

Under the direct supervision of the Deputy Representative, the Innovation Specialist acts as a business analyst by providing technical support and quality assurance to innovation planning/design, implementation, monitoring and documentation across programme sectoral areas and with partners, supporting achievement of UNICEF's priorities. The Innovation Specialist is responsible for supporting and strengthening internal capacity to implement social innovation and digital development tools and initiatives, identify emerging information and communication technologies and social innovation tools for UNICEF programming, engage with key tech and innovation partners, assess reusable and replicable technical building blocks and maximize potential for innovation/ T4D scale-up and roll-out.

The Innovation Specialist will work with programme sections to build and adopt scalable, sustainable, and demand-driven innovative solutions that address development challenges and accelerate results for children. The Innovation Specialist will be tasked to support the integration of innovative practices into traditional UNICEF programming, and to look for sustainable opportunities to launch projects with significant T4D components that are designed, supported, rolled out and maintained in partnership with the Government of South Africa and CSOs.

Summary of key functions/accountabilities

  1. Provide T4D policy and strategy development support, as well as T4D technical support, to programmes:
    • Provide support to the implementation and monitoring of SACO T4D strategy, including assessment of ICT and digital development gaps, opportunities and scale-up strategies that align with Regional and Global guidance;
    • support the integration of digital development and technology innovation into the programme planning lifecycle in with programme priorities (AWP, etc.);
    • oversee development and quality assurance during planning and deployment of T4D initiatives; participate in establishing and maintaining standards, documentation and support mechanisms for T4D;
    • moderate the T4D coordination team and ensure compliance of T4D initiatives with the SACO SOP for T4D management;
    • provide support and technical assistance to the Country Office in the identification, selection, concept design, deployment and sustainability of T4D interventions to address bottlenecks towards the achievement of programme results;
    • assist programme sections to identify and assess new T4D initiatives, or new phases of ongoing initiatives, with immediate potential to improve UNICEF programming;
    • define technical requirements; document and match requirements and guide the design, development and deployment of appropriate T4D solutions;
    • assist the review of technical solutions to ensure UNICEF standards are followed; contribute to project management processes, generation and review of terms of reference and vendor selection; and
    • Advise and assist with implementation strategy of digital technology initiatives, including technical oversight, troubleshooting and the documentation of challenges and resolutions.
  2. Support the roll-out of non-tech, social innovations tools and approaches:
    • Support human/user-centered design methods to enable user-acceptance testing, evaluation, documentation and analysis;
    • support the coordination for testing and development of social innovation tools and processes that strengthen and improve UNICEF’s programming and results for children;
    • ensure cross-sectoral learning and fertilization among social innovation initiatives; and
    • building on the existing SACO T4D strategy for 2019-2023, support the development of SACO innovation strategy that covers both T4D and social innovation initiatives;
  3. Capacity Building:
    • Support UNICEF staff and consultants by providing up-to-date tools, knowledge and capacity in Innovation and T4D technology;
    • provide government authorities with technical support and guidance to plan and organize training programmes for the purpose of capacity-building and programme sustainability;
    • provide capacity-building and training to UNICEF and partner staff and end users in the use of innovation products and processes;
    • advise on negotiation with technology service providers and mobile phone providers, in consultation with internal ICT unit, ESARO ICT, and NYHQ Office of Innovation. Work closely with ICT unit including but not limited to requirement analysis, project management and quality assurance of the T4D initiatives; and
    • undertake field visits to monitor and assess programme implementation and decide on required corrective action, including in emergencies;
  4. Partnership, Coordination and Collaboration and Resource Mobilization:
    • Foster and develop partner networks with local innovators, civil society, academia and private sector to build and provide a space to nurture and test innovative approaches;
    • proactively scout for new and innovative ideas, opportunities and partnerships to deliver better results;
    • identify opportunities for resource mobilization and new partnerships;
    • support proposal and partnership development efforts in collaboration with programme teams, the donor management officer and RO; and
    • identify opportunities for resource mobilization and new partnerships with telecom operators, SMS aggregators, NGOs and UN agencies;
  5. Knowledge Management:
    • Identify, capture, synthesize and share lessons learned on T4D with members of UNICEF SACO T4D coordination team;
    • support maintenance of the Innovation Inventory, including on T4D interventions, assets, resources and networks;
    • contribute and share to country-wide, regional and global innovation networks and activities; and
    • ensure documentation and clear monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for innovation projects including baseline data collection, ongoing monitoring, as well as first phase data collection and analysis.

Impact of Results

The incumbent is expected to promote internal and external innovations aimed at removing programme-related bottlenecks for advancing children’s rights through innovative solutions, therefore sharpening the approach of all programme results and improving the targeting and monitoring of outcomes and outputs. He/she will be responsible for establishing systems and influencing the work of all sections to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the UNICEF supported programme, including in the priority areas of early childhood, middle childhood and adolescence, and communities. This in turn provides evidence, guidance, innovative tools and resources to expand the scope and leverage the scale of UNICEF programmes, and to improve effectiveness and efficiency of UNICEF staff and partners.

To qualify as an advocate for every child you will have…

Minimum requirements:

  • Education: An advanced university degree in one of the following fields is required: Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Computer Science, Information Science, Public Health, International Development, Community Development or a related field Social Sciences.
  • Work Experience:
    • A minimum of five (5) years of professional experience in innovative uses of technology for development, particularly in the areas of mobile-based data collection; training & capacity building experience; programme communication / communication for development; design experience
    • Experience identifying, developing and implementing solutions for large-scale technical projects – including liaising with engineers and software developers
    • Experience with ICT hardware, mobile phones and web-based technologies, particularly designing or deploying tools appropriate to low-bandwidth environments
    • Experience in other technical areas, i.e. network administration, support services management, messaging, database administration and data visualization
    • Experience with RapidPro, OpenSRP, DHIS2, ODK and other global public good technologies, and deploying, maintaining and rolling out these technologies is desirable
    • Working knowledge of SQL database and ArcGIS is preferred
    • Professional certification in ICT project management, programming, software engineering, business analytics, telecommunications and/or information security is an asset
    • Knowledge on human-centered design thinking approaches, information systems, requirements analysis and software development is an advantage
    • Proven capacity to work with and lead collaborative teams across different sections and with different technical skills
    • Proven ability to manage relationships with partners, including government ministries, youth coalitions, universities, intellectual leaders, UN organizations, NGOs and the private sector
    • Strong writing and communication skills and the aptitude to handle competing messages and priorities with multiple audiences
    • Background experience with the UN, especially UNICEF, is an asset
  • Language Requirements: Fluency in English is required. Knowledge of another official UN language is considered as an asset.


  • Developing country work experience and/or familiarity with emergency.

For every Child, you demonstrate...

UNICEF’s Core Values of Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust and Accountability and Sustainability (CRITAS) underpin everything we do and how we do it. Get acquainted with Our Values Charter: UNICEF Values

The UNICEF competencies required for this post are…

(1) Builds and maintains partnerships

(2) Demonstrates self-awareness and ethical awareness

(3) Drive to achieve results for impact

(4) Innovates and embraces change

(5) Manages ambiguity and complexity

(6) Thinks and acts strategically

(7) Works collaboratively with others

Familiarize yourself with our competency framework and its different levels.

UNICEF is here to serve the world’s most disadvantaged children and our global workforce must reflect the diversity of those children. The UNICEF family is committed to include everyone, irrespective of their race/ethnicity, age, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, socio-economic background, or any other personal characteristic.

We offer a wide range of measures to include a more diverse workforce, such as paid parental leave, time off for breastfeeding purposes, and reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. UNICEF strongly encourages the use of flexible working arrangements.

UNICEF does not hire candidates who are married to children (persons under 18). UNICEF has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNICEF, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority, and discrimination. UNICEF is committed to promoting the protection and safeguarding of all children. All selected candidates will undergo rigorous reference and background checks and will be expected to adhere to these standards and principles. Background checks will include the verification of academic credential(s) and employment history. Selected candidates may be required to provide additional information to conduct a background check.

UNICEF appointments are subject to medical clearance. Issuance of a visa by the host country of the duty station is required for IP positions and will be facilitated by UNICEF. Appointments may also be subject to inoculation (vaccination) requirements, including against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid). Should you be selected for a position with UNICEF, you either must be inoculated as required or receive a medical exemption from the relevant department of the UN. Otherwise, the selection will be canceled.


As per Article 101, paragraph 3, of the Charter of the United Nations, the paramount consideration in the employment of the staff is the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity.

UNICEF’s active commitment to diversity and inclusion is critical to deliver the best results for children.

Government employees who are considered for employment with UNICEF are normally required to resign from their government positions before taking up an assignment with UNICEF. UNICEF reserves the right to withdraw an offer of appointment, without compensation, if a visa or medical clearance is not obtained, or necessary inoculation requirements are not met, within a reasonable period for any reason.

UNICEF does not charge a processing fee at any stage of its recruitment, selection, and hiring processes (i.e., application stage, interview stage, validation stage, or appointment and training). UNICEF will not ask for applicants’ bank account information.

All UNICEF positions are advertised, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and advance to the next stage of the selection process. An internal candidate performing at the level of the post in the relevant functional area, or an internal/external candidate in the corresponding Talent Group, may be selected, if suitable for the post, without assessment of other candidates.

Additional information about working for UNICEF can be found here.

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