A Conversation with Jeanette Duffy, Managing Director, UNICEF Ventures
By Bryan Kitch
What are some of the challenges that inspired the creation of the UNICEF Kid Power program?
Jeanette Duffy: Every child, regardless of gender, ethnicity, income or geography, has the power to make a difference. However, based on research done by UNICEF USA surveying 5,600 3rd-5th grade students across the United States, most elementary-aged students do not believe their actions can make a positive difference in their community or the world. Most educators recognize the importance of implementing programs to empower today’s youth, as demand for social emotional learning (SEL) and purpose is growing. However, the lack of proven, scalable, cost-effective interventions has prevented widespread adoption of SEL programming.
In schools across the U.S. there is a need for an effective and affordable program to help children realize they have the power to make a difference, a need most felt by the eight million elementary school aged children nationwide in underserved communities.
How has the curriculum evolved since its inception?
Jeanette Duffy: In response to the feedback we’ve received and the actions we’ve observed across the U.S., we have begun to develop a new feature that will become a central element of the band-free Kid Power experience.
Beginning next spring, classrooms across the country will be able to support local causes and charities via the Kid Power Exchange. The Exchange, the world’s first kid-directed giving platform, will give students the necessary tools to decide what impact they want to make in their communities — and without friction — do something about it.
From supporting local food banks to planting trees in their neighborhood, the Kid Power Exchange will offer a number of ways for kids to positively impact their communities and understand the importance of giving back at a young age.
What drives you most in this work?
Jeanette Duffy: Especially with UNICEF Kid Power’s rapid growth with a community of engaged teachers, we are constantly connected to real life stories of the program’s impact. For example, in Klamath Falls, Oregon, Dana Bird’s class credits UNICEF Kid Power with opening their eyes to how they could impact their own community.
Through a vote, Ms. Bird’s team decided that they would lead a community food drive. By the end of their drive in spring of 2017, the Kid Power kids of Klamath Falls gathered 4,200 pounds of food.
The drive, just like UNICEF Kid Power, has become an annual tradition; this spring Klamath Falls students gathered 12,000 pounds of food. Knowing that we’ve created an offering that is having the desired outcomes, and teachers and students are excited to share these stories with us, is what inspires us to continue our work everyday.
What does impact mean for you and for the Kid Power program?
Jeanette Duffy: We want every child in America to grow up with agency and purpose, empowered to make a difference in their own communities and around the world. In UNICEF Kid Power, we believe we have a program that can do just that.
By 2025, we aim to empower 10 million elementary school-aged children, including 3 million students from underserved schools, representing a critical mass of children from underserved communities nationwide.
How do you plan to monitor performance and track impact across all your programming?
Jeanette Duffy: UNICEF Kid Power’s efficacy will be based on its ability to instill agency and a sense of purpose in the children that it reaches, aligning with established frameworks for measuring SEL.
Progress towards these goals will be measured by looking at the number of children between the ages of six and 14 engaged with UNICEF Kid Power, gains in agency and purpose among the children reached, and the percentage of underserved elementary schools implementing UNICEF Kid Power.
Thanks very much to Jeanette Duffy for her time! You can learn more about UNICEF Kid Power via their official website. This story originally appeared on our blog, Data for Good, on Medium.