Background on the Data Innovation Lab


Although the Data Revolution is already transforming private sector and civil society in profound ways, the knowledge and technical capacity in UN agencies remains limited. Some UN agencies have started to use new data sources and innovative approaches when designing programmes and measuring their impact. But overall, the UN and broader international community is relatively new to the field of data innovation. UN Agencies need to strengthen their capacity to collect, analyse and utilise new and existing data sources and build their work on solid foundations of evidence to make sure we are reaching those left furthest behind.

In 2015, the CEB identified four initiatives to enable the UN to harness the power of the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development and UNICEF and WFP were jointly tasked to lead one of them, the Data Innovation Lab.

The Data Innovation Lab workshop series

In consultation with other interested UN agencies, it was agreed to first conduct a series of five thematic Data Innovation Lab workshops to understand existing data innovation capabilities and needs within the UN system before considering how to best serve them long-term.

Data Innovation Lab workshops are designed to guide participants step-by-step through a data innovation project: from defining a policy research question that can be addressed using new and existing data sources; to identifying the right partnerships; analysing data; and designing visualisations and dashboards to drive decision making. By bringing together representatives from all UN agencies, Data Innovation Lab workshops provide participants with an opportunity to identify and discuss cross-cutting challenges, share experiences and learn from each other.

Each Data Innovation Lab workshop is led by different UN Agencies, which will further strengthen the inter-agency cooperation in the field of data innovation and beyond and contribute to advancing the data revolution system-wide.

To bring in the vast expertise that already exists outside of the UN, each Data Innovation Lab workshop is hosted by a partner from academia, think-tanks or the private sector and data experts from these sectors participated in the workshops as speakers, experts and mentors.

The entire Data Innovation Lab workshop series has been realised through effective, flexible, and supportive collaboration across UN agencies and without the allocation of any additional resources.


  1. CEB - 2015 - Data Revolution.pdf
  2. CEB - 2015 - Annex - Data Innovation Lab.pdf