Data creates change for children

Hope and school.jpg

Recently, we worked with Nucleus Strategy to tell the story of UNICEF Malawi’s data-driven improvements to Early Childhood Development centres (ECDs) with a short animation. These technology-backed innovations are resulting in improvements to schools, the health and wellbeing of the children, and the betterment of the surrounding community.

You can watch the animation here.

In the film, Hope is a teacher in an ECD. There are many things Hope would like to be able to do to make a difference to each one of the children in her charge. She’s hampered though, by circumstances in both her work life and her personal life.

A lack of time to sort through student data, poor internet connectivity, and dual roles as a homemaker and a professional are just some of the circumstances playing a role. She realises there is a large network of players around the school that need to cooperate to make children’s lives better. This network includes healthcare officials, service providers, and the parents.

Data Hope could use is actually everywhere already, in documents like birth records and school attendance sheets school. The children’s facial expressions and voices can also reveal a lot about their wellbeing and their life outside the school.

But the quantity of data is not a problem. The challenge is to assemble data in compelling ways and then take action based on the findings.

In the closing scenes, Hope is seen with a UNICEF-issued tablet, while children in her school wear futuristic eye-pieces and arm bands. These accessories are equipped with sensors that interact with Hope’s tablet, enabling her to collect and monitor meaningful data about each child.

Automated data like this can offer a more holistic view of each child (a ‘360-degree view’). It also presents Hope with added options to share data with colleagues, parents, and other service providers. The film concludes with, “Data can be a catalyst for informed action, and create change for children.”

How we animated the Malawi story

The story of Hope and the ECD centre is conveyed with rich, lush coloured backgrounds and character designs. From Hope’s floral dress to the painted exterior of the brick-built ECD, everything pops and is based off the intrinsic beauty of the Malawi countryside.

A dancehall-inspired soundtrack which borrows influences from continental Africa, the Caribbean, and America rolls along underneath. The ensemble of instruments comprises drums, guitars, marimba and keyboards.

Learn more about the Nucleus Strategy, and UNICEF Malawi’s ECD programme

You can read up on UNICEF Malawi’s Early Childhood Development programme at Be sure to follow UNICEF Malawi on Twitter @MalawiUNICEF.

Learn more about the Nucleus Strategy at

Animation script

Hope works at an Early Childhood Development centre in Malawi. While she is dedicated to caring for and helping children grow, her job is hectic and she has a great many children and too little time to help each one as much as she'd like. She wants to make a real difference in these kids' lives. And she knows that it is not only the services she provides at the ECD centre that affect their ability to thrive, but the stability of their home life, nutrition, and healthcare, too.

It's clear to her that a whole network needs to come together to share information and expertise so that together, they may ensure each child is well cared for.

Data about students is abundant. Hope sees it all around her. From birth records and ECD center attendance sheets, to the facial expressions and voices of the children as she greets them and their parents each morning.

Signs of happiness or stress are often key indicators of success or trouble.

Structured and unstructured data come together and reveal vital clues about each child, from their family situations to their diets and more. But combining all these data points today depends upon people like Hope with sharp memories, great training and passion for their work. Formalising how this happen— combining data, mining it for insights and then getting better more holistic intelligence into the hands of the right people at the right time—could be truly game-changing in creating change for children at scale.

What if there were a program that could bring new technology-assisted intelligence to the ECD centre where Hope works? And what if it could help knit ECDs like Hope's more closely together with other essential institutions, ministries, the children's parents, and service providers?

If Hope's ECD centre was selected for that pilot program, the caregivers would share, for instance, a tablet they would use to check children in every morning. Outfitted with programs that may include voice and facial recognition, and collection of biometric data, Hope could have automated ways to collect attendance information. She could also instantly track critical learning and wellness indicators. This data may then be shared with parents, local health providers and many others. New data tools would not only increase the ECD centre efficiency, but also enable Hope to begin to create a 360 degree view of a child's life. She can now play a more vital role in helping children, their parents and the community.

When the data that surrounds us is captured, combined and made accessible to the community, it becomes a powerful tool for integrated care. Data can be a catalyst for informed action and create change for children.

Hope with kids.jpg