HOW MIGHT WE RADICALLY IMPROVE ACCESS TO, AND QUALITY OF, SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH EDUCATION AND SERVICES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE?
Young people from age 10-24 constitute a quarter of the world’s population; They bring forward fresh perspectives, shepherd innovation into new industries, and are eager to come together in new ways to make change. The youth-led revolutions we've seen around the world are a testament to their energy. Their reproductive choices and access to relevant support will shape not only their own futures, but future generations as well.
The term ‘Young People’ is comprised of two age groups -- adolescents (10-19 years old) and youth (15-24 years old). Adolescence is a key life stage during which young people can learn more about themselves, acquire new skills, form an identity and establish values. With this key transition and increased autonomy come opportunities and for many, elevated risks. For millions of young people around the world, the onset of adolescence brings not only changes to their bodies but also new vulnerabilities to human rights abuses, particularly in the arenas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing.
Millions of girls are coerced into unwanted sex or marriage, putting them at risk of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, and dangerous childbirth. Globally, pregnancy and childbirth-related complications were the leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15-19 years old in 2015.
Too many adolescents and youth face barriers to reproductive health information and care. Even those able to find accurate information about their health and rights may be unable to access the services needed to make informed decisions and protect their health.
That's why we’re running this Challenge because we believe young people have the fundamental right to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, as well as have access to relevant care. By providing access and education, and reducing the stigma around sexual and reproductive health, young people can live without fear, make smart decisions for themselves, and work toward their dreams.
This innovation Challenge, in collaboration with UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund, seeks to support organizations working to solve the question: How might we radically improve access to, and quality of, sexual and reproductive health education and services for young people?
Creating the Ideal Future State
In light of the very real risks that young people face from not having adequate access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, we'd like to create a world where ideas and innovations are not just targeting incremental improvement but radical transformation. The ideal future is one where young people universally have, good sexual and reproductive health – a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system. This state implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, the capability to reproduce, and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA FIT INTO CREATING THIS IDEAL SCENARIO?
Designing for Diverse Needs
Addressing adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health also requires responding to their diverse needs. A married adolescent girl will have very different sexual and reproductive health concerns compared to a young man in his early 20s. Adolescence is a crucial inflection point, where we have the opportunity to work together with young people to change the trajectory for a healthier more vibrant future for themselves, and for all of us.
A Global Development Priority
The sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and youth is a global development priority. Young people, as a subset of the global population, are resilient but also extremely vulnerable, often facing barriers to sexual and reproductive health information and care. Young people are disproportionately affected by HIV, for example, and every year millions of girls face unintended pregnancies, exposing them to risks during childbirth or unsafe abortions and interfering with their ability to go to school.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 3 on Health, include access to sexual and reproductive health care (Target 3.7) and ending the AIDS epidemic (Target 3.3). The SDG agenda also includes achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls (SDG 5 and a cross cutting-issue), and recognizes that adolescents are a previously neglected group whose rights and needs must be addressed.
The potential returns on investments in adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health are high. Adolescents and youth demonstrate resilience and resourcefulness when they are empowered and barriers are removed. The 2016 Lancet Commission report on adolescents and wellbeing reiterates the triple dividend of investing in adolescents: for adolescents now, for their future adult lives, and for their children.
The Need for a Different Kind of Solution
We know that at a minimum to ensure young people have the best chance to be healthy and have agency in their health outcomes, they need comprehensive, accurate information about sexual and reproductive health and access to sexual and reproductive health services. Young people may face different challenges at different times in their lives and will require different programmes and services accordingly. This could include comprehensive sexuality education, voluntary family planning and access to contraceptives, antenatal and safe delivery care, post-natal care, services to prevent sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), gender-based violence prevention and surveillance, and services facilitating early diagnosis and treatment of reproductive health illnesses (including cervical cancer). Information and services must be readily available to meet this need.
Focus on Process and Infrastructure
In human-centered design we often spend time thinking about the bigger systems that surround a given problem, to break through incremental change and drive radical innovation. We know resources are always a limiting factor, but how can we reimagine systems, services and infrastructure to deliver more efficient, effective and high quality services for adolescents and youth?
Consider global challenges as problems of process and infrastructure, rather than problems of resource. Successful solutions will ask: “What supportive systems can we build to enable communities in making progress on their own?’, instead of assuming additional resources alone will solve a problem. This focus on processes, rather than resources, leads to developing innovations that communities can lean on to help them thrive sustainably.
WHERE DO YOU FIT IN?
We are excited to hear from a diverse range of organizations working in the space. If you or your organization is already doing work in adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health, we’d love to learn more about a recent project, and how this Innovation Challenge might increase your impact. Join our innovation Challenge to explore new models and expand the scope of your work, as well as be connected to other actors in the space who may complement your mission.
To further clarify this call to action, here are a few example case studies of initiatives aligned with the UNFPA Innovation Fund and this Innovation Challenge:
‘Hack for Youth’ Initiative: During the UNFPA-organized Hackathon, “Hack For Youth”, in Uganda, young people leveraged information and communication technologies to empower young people and provide them access to sexual and reproductive health information. More information on the 'Hack for Youth' can be found here and here.
THE OPENIDEO CHALLENGE PROCESS
During the Research Phase participants will gather insights on adolescents and youth’s sexual and reproductive health and empathize with stakeholders through human centered design research. To kickstart the research we have provided the following four research missions based on identified high potential areas.
Mission #1 - mHealth: use of mobile technologies to increase access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for adolescents and youth
Mission #2 - Last mile sexual and reproductive health commodities: innovations to overcome supply chain bottlenecks to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health commodities and services in remote or hard to reach areas.
Mission #3 - Data: use of new and innovative data system technologies to improve national population data systems to map and address inequalities (particularly pertaining to young people); and mainstreamed demographic intelligence for better development policies.
Mission #4 - Innovative finance: exploration of the entire spectrum of possibilities ranging from fundraising through financial platforms and instruments (social impact bonds, etc.), to face-to-face fundraising activities.
We highly encourage participants to explore other dimensions of the Challenge topic that do not appear in the Research Missions.
During our Ideas Phase, we'll call a global community to action – to share solutions that increase access and utilization of sexual and reproductive health information, education and services by adolescents and youth in radically new ways. These ideas should engage one or more of the key stakeholders - adolescents and youth, health care workers, educators and the families and communities in which they operate. Ideas should also consider broader stakeholders in the sexual and reproductive health value chain, such as supply chain specialists and policymakers.
Then, with help from our Challenge Sponsors and Advisory Board, we’ll create a shortlist of submitted ideas that will move into our Expert Feedback Phase. During our Expert Feedback phase, shortlisted ideas will be given feedback from issue experts and leaders in the international development space. Shortlisted organizations will be then be asked to to capture feedback from their users/beneficiaries via user experience map. After expert feedback, we will open the Refinement Phase, during which each idea will have 2 weeks to apply expert feedback to their proposal.
After these phases and the resultant refinement of idea proposals, we’ll review and announce the Top Ideas - a set of solutions that represent most promising innovations in the topic area. Top Ideas will be recognized by UNFPA as being part of a cohort of top innovative organizations helping to solve pressing sexual and reproductive health issues for adolescents and youth. Our community will support the transformation of these collaborative concepts into tangible real world solutions.
OUR EVALUATION CRITERIA
We are looking for submissions from a broad universe of innovators including, but not limited to individual contributors, academics and students, and registered non-profit and for profit organizations, from all over the world. Our Evaluation Criteria emphasizes scalability and readiness. Check out our Evaluation Criteria here, for more information on requirements and submission guidelines.
Selected top ideas will:
⬩ be part of a cohort of top innovative organizations helping to solve pressing issues.
⬩ receive ongoing partnership support from the UNFPA Innovation Fund, potential connection to other funder networks, and PR exposure.
ABOUT OUR SPONSOR
Our Challenge sponsor, UNFPA, expands the possibilities for women and young people to lead healthy and productive lives by advocating for the rights of young people, including the right to accurate information and services related to sexuality and reproductive health. Empowered with knowledge and skills to protect themselves and make informed decisions, they can realize their full potential and contribute to economic and social transformation. Together with a wide range of partners, UNFPA works toward the goal of universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
ABOUT THE UNFPA INNOVATION FUND
UNFPA recognizes the value of innovation as a collective co-creation process. Sponsored by the Governments of Denmark and Finland, UNFPA is bringing together its most innovative initiatives under a common approach to seeking dynamic, new solutions to our delivery and operations. Learn more about our program here.