Mariana Amatullo, PhD '15 | Weatherhead

Mariana Amatullo, PhD '15

Posted 10.5.2015

Mariana Amatullo, PhD ’15, was the featured speaker at “Innovation by Design for UNICEF: Winning approaches and emerging organizational practices in innovation” hosted by UNICEF’s Innovation Unit at UNICEF’s offices in New York this past July. Amatullo introduced the salient findings of her recent ethnographic case study of the UNICEF Innovation Unit and participated in a panel and Q&A with John Paul Stephens, PhD, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Weatherhead, and Manuel Toscano, faculty member for products of design in the School of Visual Arts and Principal for Zago. The panel focused on some of the practices that are converging today in many of the most dynamic innovation activities underway in UNICEF organizations.

Some of the topics addressed during this presentation will be part of a forthcoming Nesta report on the state of the art in development innovation, edited by Ben Ramalingam, chair of the Humanitarian Innovation Fund. The essay, titled “Design, Innovation and the Organizational Challenge: The UNICEF Experience” by Amatullo and Christopher Fabian, Senior Advisor to the Executive Director: Innovation and Co-Lead of the Innovation Unit, explores how UNICEF has gone from not having an innovation unit in 2009 to being one of FAST Companies 50 most innovative organizations in 2014. It focuses on the role of organizational change and leadership in managing innovation and how to incorporate innovation into a large global bureaucracy. 

Amatullo will present further insights from this research in Helsinki in November at the invitation of UNICEF Start-up to Scale-up: Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit team.

“When I joined the [DM] program…I had a real sense of urgency to understand the role of design as a strategic capability for long-range impact and innovation in our organizations,” says Amatullo. After Amatullo’s dissertation work in the PhD program in Designing Sustainable Systems, being part of a panel with colleagues at UNICEF was extremely rewarding.

The Co-Lead of UNICEF’s Innovation Unit, Christopher Fabian said of Amatullo’s presentation, “You have given us a new framework to reflect on what we are doing in innovation that we did not have before.”



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