UNICEF

Fostering Virtual Collaboration for A Global Conference

Our Expertise
“This virtual conference is the way to go and I think it will ease conferences in the future. After COVID, many of these bigger conferences and workshops will go in this way. People are more attentive, listen more and more engaged.
Dr. Will Zeck UNICEFHQ, Chief of Maternal, Newborn & Adolescent Health Unit
When the UNICEF-AstraZeneca Young Health Programme (AZ YHP) Global Planning Meeting could not meet in person due to COVID, we worked together to design a new kind of virtual conference with collaboration, creativity and inclusion at the forefront

A global conference to launch a youth-led advocacy movement for NCD prevention 

UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives and help them fulfill their potential. In a new partnership with AZ YHP, UNICEF tasked its country-level and regional-level teams with planning a multi-year initiative to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among young people. To launch this coordinated effort, UNICEF convened country teams, regional teams, partners and young people themselves, to establish the key pillars of this movement, share their activities, spark inspiration and foster collaboration as they begin this 5-year program. The resulting event was a three-day global virtual conference with participation from over 15 countries.

New constraints arise amid pandemic 

The COVID-19 crisis presented unique challenges for this global conference, which was forced to be held virtually. The organizers understood how valuable in-person collaboration had been for past conference goals, so they turned to frog to help co-create an entirely virtual conference using new digital tools, workshop sessions and human-centered design principles. We started by conducting a thorough technology audit to find the right platforms for the global conference. It was imperative that the chosen tools would be able to create a productive, engaging, efficient and memorable gathering across multiple time zones—one that provided the energy and intimacy of an in-person convening. 

 

frog’s expertise in designing user-centered experiences and products was what we needed to help develop a strategy at the inception of a new partnership, and on top of that to do so amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We were looking for innovative and creative approaches to support our planning and felt that FROG could provide us with that.  

– Joanna Lai, UNICEF NYHQ Adolescent Health Specialist  

 

Designing a new approach to virtual collaboration 

At the onset, we knew that we needed to co-create the event around the key focuses of enabling collaboration and elevating youth voices.  

Additionally, the UNICEF team came to us with three key design principles for the experience: 

  • Human-centered: We will retain and even improve upon the quality of outcomes expected from the original in-person conference design. 
  • Uncompromising: We will prioritize human experiences and connections, and acknowledge that the work itself is centered around improving the lives of humans. 
  • Inclusive: We will design so that all voices are heard, engagement is prioritized, and the best thinking of the group is captured in a way that is culturally appropriate across regions.  

This global event helped UNICEF, AZ YHP, their partners, and young people share, learn and strengthen relationships. By introducing Miro and Hopin, two new tools for remote workshops and conferencing, the teams were able to connect and collaborate, empowering them to continue pushing the boundaries of  young people’s health and well-being 

The format of the event was carefully calibrated to consider how we could enable the widest audience to participate at any given time and simulate the best parts of an in-person conference. This meant: 

  • Programming: In addition to live speakers, conversations and chats, the conference included asynchronous content like videos, polls and Miro boards that allowed participants to access the conversation on their time. 
  • Virtual spaces: To accommodate side conversations and spontaneous interactions, we included unassigned rooms people could enter to talk to each other. 
  • Networking experiences: Conference participants were paired up via video to connect, share and build their network. 
  • A space for breaks and fun: Meditation and dance rooms provided participants the opportunity to process, reenergize and refocus. 
  • Music and visual cues: Just like an in-person conference, these cues signaled transitions and changes in tone and energy. 
  • Wayfinding: Virtual signage and human guides assisted people in getting from room to room. 

In addition to designing the spaces and coordinating speakers, frog helped facilitate workshops for the country and regional teams, as well as for external partners and youth leaders.  

From the beginning, the UNICEF team knew the importance of elevating youth voices, so we actively designed ways to empower the Young Leaders by providing them ample stage time, outlets for collaboration, and dedicated time to craft and share their call to action to the group. 

3 DAYS
The remote conference had both live and asynchronous components, with high interaction during live sessions.
8 COMPANIES
We facilitated working session for UNICEF's Young Health Program partners.
15+ COUNTRIES
Attendees joined from multiple time zones, from Indonesia to Angola, the United Kingdom to Panama.
The resulting 3-day virtual conference, made up of participants from more than 15 countries, marked the beginning of both a new partnership between UNICEF and AstraZeneca, and a powerful youth-led movement to prevent non-communicable diseases. It also proved that human-centered design can always provide solutions by helping to ask the right questions and understand where true value lies. For UNICEF, it was not just about recreating the event as it had always been, but understanding that the key to success is the ability to collaborate—whether we’re together in one room or connected across continents.