A Guide to the Value of Open Source Technology for Social Impact

Work with the Yale Openlab and UNICEF innovation team to develop a report
on the role of open technology for radical impact.

Join the info session
March 7, 12pm, Tsai CITY
learn more >

project and opportunity overview

The current opportunity offered to Yale students involves the development of a research and report-style case study of the UNICEF Innovation Fund (aka UNICEF ventures).  A core theme of the project is the degree of compatibility that open source technology can have with tangible returns on impact-related investments. The research project consists of a half semester extracurricular work to gain background knowledge, with eligibility to continue the work onto a summer 2019 internship at the UNICEF venture’s NYC office. The core report development work will take place on Fall 2019 as part of a directed reading/independent research for-credit project.

The research and work leading to a report entails analyzing UNICEF Venture’s investment model, both its screening approach to select high impact startups, as well as its quantitative model for tracking value return on investment. However, a core focus of the work involves a more abstracted outlook on the value of open source technology (eg. hardware and software), and its compatibility both with for-profit enterprises and investors. With the rise of blockchain technology, ushering decentralized value creation and higher peer-to-peer transparency, the importance of open source software has increased significantly and challenged conventional value capture paradigms around tech company investing —historically focused on proprietary intellectual property. UNICEF venture’s investments are not only on startups that build open source technology, the companies are socially impact focused and for-profit. This introduces a unique opportunity to both analyse alternative investment models for impact and the role of open and freely available technology.

about UNICEF innovation fund

UNICEF's Innovation (Venture) Fund is a non-thematic, pooled fund (the first of its kind inside the UN) which has been specifically designed to finance early stage, open-source technology that can benefit children. The core motivation of the Innovation Fund is to identify "clusters" or portfolios of initiatives around emerging technology - so that UNICEF can both shape markets and also learn about and guide these technologies to benefit children. We find these solutions clustered around $100 billion industries in frontier technology spaces, such as: blockchain, drones, virtual and augmented reality, data science, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and nano-satellites.

The UNICEF Innovation Fund has made 33 start-up investments to date, and to measure return of each investment, UNICEF utilizes a quantitative model to value the technology that is now available in the world.

Through this project, we invite a group of students to prepare a case study on the value of open-source by expanding the model that UNICEF uses to a larger set of projects. Students will get a chance to begin ground work on the remaining part of Spring 2019, have the opportunity to apply for a summer internship at UNICEF innovation, and conduct a directed reading/independent research project throughout the Fall 2019 semester.

courtesy of UNICEF Innovation

courtesy of UNICEF Innovation


Eligibility, expectations &
student profile—

The opportunity is open to both undergraduate and graduate students, with a priority for those available to conduct research Fall 2019. Availability to apply for a 2019 UNICEF summer internship will also be considered.

The group will be formed by 2 to 3 selected students. The expected time commitment for the remaining of Spring 2019 semester is 5hrs/week, and 15hrs/week for Fall 2019 independent research work. Semester period work will be New Haven based, but with one or two trips to UNICEF to do a workshop debrief with the Innovation team.

It is highly encouraged that students hold either a background, or significant passion, for the following topics: social and environmental impact, impact investing, open source hardware and software, emerging technologies, international development, blockchain, financial innovations, United Nations.

Project Timeline—

Info Session: March 7, 12:00pm (Tsai CITY)

Project Application Deadline: March 25

Calls for Interviews: April 1st

Project Kickoff: April 10

Potential UNICEF internship start: June

Fall semester report project start: September


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