Designing and delivering UNICEF's Global Learning Programme

Equiping practitioners with tools to implement planning, advocacy, and programming for Public Finance for Children (PF4C)


Effective financing of children’s services is necessary in order to improve children’s outcomes. In order for UNICEF to support this, it identified the need to raise capacity of its staff across all backgrounds and country offices in understanding and engaging with issues of financing. In response, OPM has designed and delivered a Global Learning Programme for UNICEF staff in Public Finance for Children (PF4C).

The programme aims to develop PF4C practitioners and leaders in UNICEF who are equipped with timely and relevant knowledge and tools to develop and implement planning, advocacy, and programming related to PF4C. Since initial development, the programme has expanded year on year from only 80 participants in 2016 to 230 in 2019, reaching over 660 in the first four years. The programme consists of an e-learning phase to cover core content, followed by a one week workshop in order to practice problem solving with real life cases and data.

The Challenge

The decisions governments make about how to fund social policies and services are critical to children and to equitable development overall, and often the obstacles to improving child outcomes can be directly traced to public financial management (PFM) challenges. Over the last decade, UNICEF has put increasing emphasis on the importance of issues of financing for securing investments in children, with a team dedicated to leading and supporting its ‘public finance for children’ (PF4C) work, to ensure that investments are adequate, efficient, effective, and equitable as part of a transparent public finance system.

As part of UNICEF’s strategy to influence domestic resources for children, UNICEF identified the need to raise the capacity of staff of all backgrounds and country offices to engage with financing issues, in order to work towards improved solutions. UNICEF has contracted OPM since 2014 to design and deliver a learning programme for UNICEF staff globally in PF4C.

The programme is in line with the UNICEF Strategic Plan 2018-21 which identifies five goal areas for children’s rights and recognises the need for countries to commit sufficient financial resources to achieve this. In addition, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published General Comment 19 on public budgeting for the realisation of child rights. UNICEF has committed to support these national efforts through leveraging public and private resources and partnerships for children and influencing domestic planning and financing.

Our Approach

2020 will see the fifth year of our delivery of UNICEF’s PF4C Global Learning Programme, setting the foundations for UNICEF to improve public spending on children. The programme is a capacity building course for UNICEF staff to build their knowledge, confidence, and literacy in the world of public finance.

The course was developed in close partnership between OPM and UNICEF HQ’s Learning and Knowledge Exchange and Public Finance and Local Governance teams. Whilst the content and modalities have been adjusted year on year, it consists of an 11-module e-learning phase, followed by a one-week residential workshop. The modules take participants through core topics of PFM as relevant to social sectors, including basics of the budget cycle, fiscal space, fiscal decentralization, budget analysis tools, value for money, and equity.

The e-learning is complemented with activities, online discussions, and facilitation from experts. The residential course uses case study-based activities for participants to learn through real life examples, hands-on analysis and problem solving, and ends with completion of an individual assignment to put PF4C into practice when they return to their desks.

After an initial commitment to two years, UNICEF has re-engaged OPM multiple times for the global course as well as tailored regional workshops. Consistently growing each year, by the end of 2019 over 660 UNICEF staff had completed the course. Workshops have been held in Europe, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Ghana. In addition, OPM developed a specific WASH financing course in 2017, and a nutrition financing course in 2020.

Outcomes and Wider impacts

The Global Learning Programme has played a major part in strengthening UNICEF’s capacity to identify and engage with financing issues in the countries in which it works, through analysis and evidence generation, advocacy, and further capacity building, working with governments, civil society organisations and other international development partners. From the 2019 cohort alone, we are aware of six new projects borne out of participants’ final assignments which aim to inform government policy and action to improve public finance for children.

Over the years in which we have worked with UNICEF we have seen an increasing focus in their work on the interaction with public finances, which becomes ever more important in light of the 2030 agenda and shift towards domestic resource mobilisation. We see this course as an important contribution to spreading understanding and confidence in engaging with these concepts across UNICEF staff from all offices and roles.

Feedback on the course has been consistently excellent with 98% of respondents saying they would use what they had learned in their jobs. We have received comments such as “Feeling empowered and confident in dealing with PFM issues…. Best UNICEF course I have ever taken”.

Areas of expertise