Team Insight

UNICEF Venture Fund's Inaugural Climate Action Cohort Kicks Off in Stockholm

Dec 18 , 2023
Climate cohort workshop 2023
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UNICEF Venture Fund’s First Cohort for Climate Action jalli

4 Days, 8 Startups, 1 Vision

On October 30 – November 2, UNICEF Venture Fund held its first in-person startup event in Stockholm, Sweden, marking a significant return to physical gatherings post-Covid-19. This event was particularly special as it welcomed the inaugural climate action cohort consisting of 8 startups chosen from a pool of over 400 applicants

Flying in from eight countries across Latin America, Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, these startups, some operating in fragile and conflict-affected areas, are developing open-source frontier tech solutions related to community engagement, early warning systems, and solar and waste management—with about 50% of these innovative solutions being led or co-led by female founders. 

During the four-day event, participants engaged in a series of technical mentorship sessions and activities aimed at providing a strategic foundation for the next 12 months. The agenda featured highlights such as an introduction to the Office of Innovation and its vital role within UNICEF, presentations from each company to foster connection among cohort members, what working with UNICEF country offices looks like, and personalized 1:1 mentorship sessions with field experts in the areas of product design, UI/UX, business strategy, stakeholder mapping, value proposition, evidence generation, data security and privacy, and digital public goods development.  

Climate cohort workshop

Initially, we wanted to create awareness about climate hazards through visual cardboard games. But communities had more questions about how to know when disasters would happen, how to know what they are supposed to do... This led us to the development of our solution. They were part of the ideation process. 
— Fanka Audry Bongfen, Map & Rank

Presenting to the Swedish Ecosystem

On day 3, startups seized the opportunity to present and discuss their solutions with Venture Fund partners and members of the Swedish tech-for-impact ecosystem in three thematic panel discussions.

Climate Panel 1
Panel I: Building Community-led Solutions for Climate Resilience  @UNICEF/TTV Media

The first panel, moderated by Aki Enkenberg of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, featured representatives from female-led startups—Fanka Audry Bongfen of Map & Rank, Maja Minoska Shteriova of INS, and Margarita Mangino of Renovus. This discussion focused on Building Community-led Solutions for Climate Resilience, exploring how solutions to global challenges often emerge from the communities most affected, highlighting the significance of local knowledge, participation, and community-led innovation. 

We're from remote areas... there are also limitations in our digital infrastructure, our financial systems, our data pipelines. Blockchain equalizes the playing field. Now we can transact and follow the same standards as someone in Silicon Valley. And that is something that is just unimaginably powerful for people. — Luuk Weber, ZedLabs

The second panel, "Leveraging Blockchain for Climate Action," engaged in a spirited conversation with Luuk Weber of ZedLabs, Watson Vuyo Matsa of eSusFarm, and Hanna Burkhardt of the UNICEF Venture Fund, moderated by Taira Ishikura of the Ethereum Foundation. They delved into why and how blockchain technology, with its core principles of transparency, decentralization, and security, is invaluable in addressing environmental and socio-economic challenges faced by last-mile communities. 

Being able to open source our product and connect with other engineers allows us an open discourse with other people to come to better answers. We can reach a better solution. That's how you grow as an entrepreneur. — Stephen Mark Golley, Similie Timor

The final panel, moderated by UNICEF Venture Fund’s Sunita Grote, explored "Harnessing Open Source for Emergency Response" with insights from Dr. Madusudhanan of Equinoct, Stephen Mark Golley of Similie Timor, and Boubacar Youssouf Keita of Map Action. This discussion surfaced the crucial role of the Open Source approach as a key enabler in addressing climate challenges and extreme weather events that may impact communities worldwide in disparate ways. 

Climate cohort mentorhsips
Tailored technical mentorships from product design to data security. @UNICEF/TTV Media

The packed 4 days was capped off with a team dinner, a brief on effective branding and storytelling, and strategic planning for the upcoming year, effectively setting the stage for the potentially impactful work that lies ahead. 

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