Laysha Ward (left) and Caryl Stern at a UNICEF Kid Power event.

Target’s Laysha Ward and U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s Caryl Stern on Making a Difference with UNICEF Kid Power

Since we kicked off our partnership back in October, Target has helped the U.S. Fund for UNICEF expand its UNICEF Kid Power program to reach 135,000 kids across the country. Read more about the powerful accomplishments we’re making together in the following article, co-written by Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and Laysha Ward, chief corporate social responsibility officer, Target, which ran on Huffington Post June 1.

We’ve received hundreds of letters from parents in the six months since the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Target partnered on UNICEF Kid Power, which helps U.S. kids get active while providing lifesaving therapeutic food packets to kids in need around the world. One of our favorite letters came from a mom who got home to find her daughter walking briskly around the kitchen table while reading a book for school. “I’ve got to get my steps in, Mom!”

There were times making Kid Power a reality felt much more like a mad dash than a brisk walk. This is a unique product and partnership, built on a disruptive vision: to engage a new generation of global citizens. We encountered our share of hurdles in the rush to market and challenges in designing a program that invites and empowers kids to help solve some of the world’s most complex problems.

So how do two powerhouse partners come together to act like a scrappy startup? The key, we believe, was a shared purpose, a cause bigger than any one of us, which kept us all driving through even the most difficult challenges. We knew this work could and would make a difference.

The Kid Power concept is unique: The UNICEF Kid Power Band, and companion app, allows kids to go on “missions” to learn about new cultures and earn Kid Power points. Those points unlock funding that is used by UNICEF to deliver lifesaving packets of therapeutic food to severely malnourished children around the world. The more Kid Power kids move, the more points they earn, and the more lives they save.

While the Kid Power team, a startup inside the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, was working in 30 day sprints to develop a retail-ready version of the Kid Power Band and accompanying App, teams across Target—from Corporate Social Responsibility to merchandising to marketing—were working to get ready for a retail launch in just six months. Simultaneously, both teams were working together to take the Kid Power Band to more classrooms.

Although ambitious, UNICEF’s vision and unparalleled experience in the global development space combined with Target’s national reach and expertise in how to bring a brand new product to market made it possible.

UNICEF Kid Power is a product designed for kids that uniquely nurtures their intrinsic desire to help others, something none of the other products in the crowded wearables market were focused on. The innovative program and product helps address two critical problems: 1 in 4 American children is inactive, while 1 in 4 children globally is malnourished. Kid Power aims to address both of these crises with a single solution. Based on the U.S. Fund’s early success with Kid Power with 3rd-5th graders in five cities, we joined forces to quickly expand the school program in more cities and make the UNICEF Kid Power Band available on Target.com so families everywhere could get active and save lives. We knew we couldn’t do it alone, and so a partnership was born between a global non-governmental organization and a public company, aligned around a commitment to making a social impact—but also around a very real market opportunity.

UNICEF Kid Power Bands went on sale on Target.com on November 29, 2015. We had a lot potentially working against us—we were trying generate awareness of the product in a highly competitive category, during a crowded time of year. But, holiday sales exceeded our expectations. Kid Power Bands made up four of the top 10-selling wearable products on Target.com during the season. A launch so successful that UNICEF Kid Power Bands are now available in every Target store, as well as on Target.com.

The Band has been equally successful at driving social impact. Since the program launched in 2014, Kid Power participants have unlocked more than 600,000 therapeutic food packets for malnourished children, enough to save the lives of more than 4,000 children. These packets are literally saving the lives of children around the world and are powered by U.S. kids putting one foot in front of the other.

We’ve also teamed up with Star Wars: Force for Change as a presenting sponsor of the program as well as local supporters, parents and fans to expand the Kid Power school program to reach almost 70,000 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. Many of these students are in high-need schools and may otherwise not have been able to afford buying a Band—kids who never imagined they’d have the ability to help someone else are now helping to save the lives of other kids around the globe.

Together we brought the world’s first Wearable-for-Good® to families everywhere and are thrilled to have reached more than 135,000 people with the program. These superheroes are getting active and saving lives, with thousands more getting involved every month. Maintaining this momentum is critical as the school year draws to a close and parents are looking for ways to engage their kids and keep them active during the summer months.

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Target share a belief that the world’s biggest problems can be solved, but not alone. UNICEF Kid Power is one small, but strong example of how partners with different expertise and aims can come together from across sectors, and how disruptive business thinking can be applied to global social problems. For Target, Kid Power represents a successful entry into the kids wearables market, and a signature initiative under the company’s focus on wellness. For the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the program empowers a new generation of active and healthy global citizens, and helps eliminate the funding gap preventing widespread treatment for severe acute malnutrition around the world.

But perhaps none of that captures the real power of Kid Power: expanding the imaginations of our children. It’s possible to solve problems like U.S. childhood inactivity, and end global malnutrition in our lifetimes. And it’s imperative that we raise the next generation of innovators and social entrepreneurs, willing to come together around a common purpose. Let’s track every step toward that goal. 

The UNICEF Kid Power Band is now available at all Target stores—find them in five colors, including a new, limited-edition green Star Wars band.

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