by Ayliffe Brown

June 1, 2016

The World’s First Wearable-for-Good™: Interview with Rajesh Anandan, SVP of UNICEF Ventures

UNICEF Ventures has began to look at the industry of wearable tech as a tool to help save world hunger – and if you ask me, it’s freaking awesome. They have created a great proactive business model that aims to eliminate global malnutrition. They do it by engaging children to get active and play. UNICEF is taking the power of children’s energy to provide therapeutic food for other children around the globe. The more kids move, the more points they create, and the more lives kids save by helping to provide therapeutic food for children that otherwise don’t have immediate access to nutritional food. Pretty radical if you ask me. They are able to use wearables as a tool to solve more than one social issue. Curious to learn more? Check out this interview I conducted with SVP of UNICEF, Rajesh Anandan. Then, register to attend WT | Wearable Technologies Conference 2016 USA, in San Francisco this July to hear him speak about this work in detail.

  • For those that do not know, can you share what Unicef Kid Power is?

UNICEF Kid Power gives kids the power to save lives. By getting active with the UNICEF Kid Power Band, the World’s First Wearable-for-Good™, kids go on missions to learn about new cultures and earn points. Points unlock funding from partners, parents and fans, and funds are used by UNICEF to deliver lifesaving packets of therapeutic food to severely malnourished children around the world.

People everywhere are joining the UNICEF Kid Power Team, working together to help end global malnutrition. Families can join the team by purchasing a UNICEF Kid Power Band — available at Target—and downloading the free companion UNICEF Kid Power App.

There’s also a UNICEF Kid Power school program – a teacher-led classroom experience that leverages easy-to-use technology and standards-based curriculum to promote fitness and global citizenship. The technology includes UNICEF Kid Power Bands for elementary school students and classroom tablets for syncing and tracking progress. The curriculum includes lessons, engagement opportunities and quizzes on malnutrition and global citizenship to keep kids inspired and engaged.

UNICEF Kid Power is a program of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and is made possible through the generous support of Presenting Sponsors Star Wars: Force for Change and Target, as well as local supporters, parents and fans

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  • How is the U.S. Fund for UNICEF impacting the WT | Market while also pursuing a better world? 

UNICEF Kid Power empowers kids to get active and save lives, and teaches them important lessons about global citizenship. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF wants kids to be part of the solution to end global malnutrition, and helping to save lives has motivated kids participating in UNICEF Kid Power to be significantly more active than their peers.

When we started working on UNICEF Kid Power, we found that even products that claim to encourage positive behavior rely on prizes and other extrinsic rewards that do nothing to sustain kids’ interest or attention. UNICEF Kid Power is the only technology platform to-date that permanently connects getting active to saving lives as part of its DNA. The platform is defining a new way for kids to interact with technology while promoting activity and minimizing screen-time.

UNICEF Kid Power has already yielded inspiring results. An independent evaluation conducted in Sacramento schools found that students who engaged in the program were 55 percent more active than their peers. A second independent evaluation, which covered schools in Boston, Dallas, and New York, produced similar results. That study found a 30 percent increase in the number of days when students met official daily requirements for moderate to vigorous physical activity. These findings show that empathy for others can be a  powerful and enduring motivator for kids.

  • Why did you wish to create this product? How long did it take?

We know that 1 in 4 kids in the U.S. is inactive, while 1 in 4 kids globally is malnourished – UNICEF Kid Power uniquely helps address both of these challenges with a single solution. Malnutrition is attributable to nearly half of all deaths of children under the age of five globally. 16 million children suffer from the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, severe acute malnutrition, which can require specialized feeding care with therapeutic food packets. 

The therapeutic food packets unlocked by UNICEF Kid Power contain a specially-designed protein and vitamin-rich peanut paste, which allows children who are severely malnourished to be treated successfully in their communities and can transform the lives of millions of malnourished children around the world. Primarily due to a lack of funding, UNICEF, along with its partners, was only able to reach 19 percent of the children suffering from severe acute malnutrition with lifesaving therapeutic food packets in 2014. UNICEF Kid Power’s immediate focus is to eliminate the funding gap preventing the delivery of therapeutic food packets to every child who needs it.

By operating like a startup within a nonprofit, in just 24 months, UNICEF Kid Power has grown from a handful of schools to over 3,200 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classrooms across 15 U.S. and  European cities. We’ve built the world’s largest real-time dataset on children and physical activity and begun to define a new way for kids to interact with technology while minimizing screen time.

  • What are some of the activities and games that kids can play with Kid Power?

The UNICEF Kid Power App takes kids on goal-based journeys where they learn about the countries they’re impacting – that is, the destinations for the therapeutic food packets they’re unlocking. The App comes pre-loaded with a global mission, and additional country-specific missions to Uganda, Haiti and Burkina Faso are available for purchase from the App Store and on Google Play.

The App is designed to resemble a global passport, with a log for mission-related content, including digital postcards, souvenirs and passport stamps. Kids can also use the App to learn about new cultures, connect with other participating kids, track their progress and receive rewards and surprise content.

UNICEF Kid Power Champions – including sports and entertainment stars – present Kid Power Missions, challenge kids to get active and celebrate the impact achieved by the UNICEF Kid Power Team. Current UNICEF Kid Power Champions include UNICEF Ambassador and professional basketball player Tyson Chandler, Olympic Gold Medalist and professional soccer player Alex Morgan, professional baseball player and Home Run champion David Ortiz, Olympic Gold Medalist and professional basketball player Maya Moore, and more!

  • How can being active unlock points to provide food packets?

As kids play, run and jump with their classmates and friends while wearing a Band, they earn Kid Power Points. When kids are on a mission, 10 Kid Power Points unlock one packet of therapeutic food. When not on a mission, 25 Kid Power Points unlock one packet of therapeutic food. The Kid Power companion App converts their activity to impact, and unlocking therapeutic food packets for children around the world.
Kids are encouraged to earn 5 Kid Power Points a day, which requires a level of activity equivalent to taking 12,000 steps, the daily activity goal for kids recommended by the National Institutes of Health. The more kids move, the more points they earn and the more lives they save.

  • What countries/regions of the world do you send your food packets to?

When families and schools participating in UNICEF Kid Power get active and earn points, they are increasing the global supply of therapeutic food by unlocking funds that UNICEF can use to procure and deliver therapeutic food packets to children in need.

Countries and communities receiving therapeutic food packets are determined by UNICEF, based on the magnitude and urgency of need for therapeutic food, and local capacity to implement and scale-up programs combating severe acute malnutrition. Therapeutic food packets that are unlocked during a country-specific mission will be delivered to that country.

  • What are you looking for most when you step to our international stage at WTus16?

I am excited to share the world’s first Wearable-for-Good® with the audience. UNICEF Kid Power was a big, bold idea, with tight deadlines, a multitude of partners, and any number of marketing, production, legal and distribution challenges. With the support of our partners, united by the common cause of putting children first, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF was able to deliver an innovative solution that meets both market demand and community need.

I’m looking forward to sharing the insights that led to Kid Power, and the work that has enabled its rapid evolution and scale-up. I’m also excited to see what others are sharing, and learning more about the industry.

  • What is your favorite wearable? 

My UNICEF Kid Power Band! And, ROAR for Good safety products for preventing violence against women.