Innovate Updates

Building a cohesive ecosystem of agile, adaptable, and scalable evidence-based human- digital playful parenting interventions


Reporting by Elena Okada

ParentApp for Teens 

Whilst ParentApp for Teens RCT has commenced successfully, the Innovate team has been working to refine further the backend of the App as well as INNODEMS team providing support on App implementation in Tanzania. Work has been ongoing with our efforts to separate code and content from GitHub repositories (which enables improved version control of App improvements and modifications as well as ease of replication by others). In addition, we are behind the scenes continuing to work on a remote assets storage system. This system will enable us to reduce the initial app download significantly, as well as make more customisation (for instance, languages and themes) available in a single deployment. After initially downloading a minimal version of the app, users will be able to download images, audio files and videos that are relevant to them. Of other note, interactions with the content development team have commenced on new content modules (sexual reproductive health, bereavement, playful learning) which shall be incorporated in July. On the data front, the first captures of data are accessible on the RCT Shiny dashboard and the team have worked hard to improve the speed of dashboard load. Additionally, INNODEMS have been supporting RCT troubleshooting directly in Mwanza, which have involved joining facilitators WhatsApp group coaching sessions, to identify arising technical issues and support NIMR IT team to resolve them. 



ParentText 2.0 work focusing on content aimed at the 10-17 age group continues after acting upon both quantitative and qualitative feedback from earlier deployments in Malaysia, Philippines, Jamaica and South Africa. Content has been re-structured so that the App is now goal oriented with each goal a self-contained programme that is a week long (instead of a five week programme of three messages per day). The in-programme switching of goals is possible, with users now receiving one message per day. Additionally, a video will be available at the beginning of a user’s experience introducing ParentText. Messages will be shorter, with a possibility to customise the timing of the messages. Reminders and push notifications will also be peppered throughout the programme. In addition, users will be able to follow their progress within the programme at overall, goal and topic level. Finally in respect to content, greater age customisation will be available, the help menu shall be redesigned, greater use of emojis adopted, enhancement of videos/audios, use of human figures instead of blobs and additional content on mental health and IPV incorporated. The ParentText team is working for the release of ParentText 2.0 to coincide with the ParentText Optimisation and Evaluation Research Study, RCT taking place from July 2023. Parenting for Respectability In May, the Innovate Team met with Parenting for Respectability Research partners in Uganda for a one week design workshop. The team are now designing an App which will feature PfR components that can be accessed by individuals, groups and support facilitators involved with in-person sessions. This will not only ensure a) individuals who are time poor but have access to phones can access parenting programmes b) enable the training of more facilitators (including peer facilitators) to scale further in-person parenting initiatives. In June we are hoping to include all of the content necessary for the release of an initial iteration of the App. 


Implementers' App 

IDEMS are working on a Implementers' App to support Parenting within the Preschool System in Malaysia research team. With teachers being trained as facilitators as part of this project, the Implementers' App will aim to ease the burden of data collection (through the development of an ODK data collection feature), access the PLH Facilitator Manual and key content components quickly, and house a data bank of messages with a share to WhatsApp functionality (for facilitators who support WhatsApp support groups). In addition to the work in Malaysia, IDEMS is supporting other formative work as outlined under PLH Implementers' App updates. 


ParentApp for Kids 

The Innovate team have been having interactions with the research team in respect to the work plans as well as the now refined approach of the different studies. Additionally, preparatory work of content continues.

Reporting by Elena Okada


IDEMS finalised the last of their development tweaks on ParentApp prior to the onboarding of participants for the RCT. In particular these included new Swahili recordings for relaxation activities as well as proofreading edits. We have since commenced the technical conceptualisation of additional content modules (which includes SRH, bereavement, sexual violence, learning through play) to be launched in August 2023. In the backend we have been continuing our work on content and code specific repositories, as well as remote asset storage (so that a user does not have to download all of the components of an App on initial installation). On the data front, we have equally launched the RCT ParentApp for Teens dashboard. ParentText We are still working earnestly on the backend of ParentText 2.0. Additionally, translation work shall commence soon for the deployment of 2.0 in South Africa. Also, during this month outside of the GPI, the IDEMS team supported the integration of a separate digital solution Fundoo (a chatbot designed to deliver 21st century-skills at scale, originally designed between UNICEF India and YuWaah) through U-Report Jamaica. The Fundoo team developed a small testing demo of which we supported in the de-bugging of RapidPro issues as ParentText Jamaica is equally integrated with U-Report.


Parenting for Respectability

The INNODEMS team welcomed Martin Omello to their Kakamega office in order to induct him to the backend systems being used for App development. The team have also been integrating content to a new backend spreadsheet system which will enable content delivery through app and chatbot facilities. IDEMS/INNODEMS team are also making preparations to visit Uganda for a preparatory workshop the week of the 8 May.


ParentApp for Kids

IDEMS have prepared an early version of digesting a parenting topic for display in App format. They are in the process of engaging in iteration cycles to determine how similar components across the topics should be displayed and accessed in the App.


Implementer’s App

IDEMS have been contributing to the preparation process including the identification of potentially impactful MVP app components.


Content Management Back-end Development

Cogent Labs supported by IDEMS has made significant progress on the Authoring Sidekick, a Google plugin to support content authors, with it starting to be tested in a couple of specific use cases.


Parenting for Street Families (Malezi Bora)

The INNODEMS team, with a small amount of IDEMS oversight, has been supporting the ongoing Malezi Program for Street Connected Families in Eldoret, Kenya. In the month of April, besides developing ODK tools for data collection of Phase Demographic surveys, they have participated in designing and facilitating a participatory analysis and interpretation of qualitative data from street families focus group discussions. Jointly with the program manager Kathleen, the Innovate team will be using outcomes of the analysis workshop to code and identify thematic areas of focus for the Malezi Bora Program.

Reporting by Elena Okada

The Innovate team had a busy March 2023 firstly with the release of two apps (ParentApp and WASH App) in preparation of the ParentApp RCT.  The latest ParentApp release has included new content integrations involving a) additional notifications tied to the active module on the home screen b) supplementary male images c) naming story topics within modules d) revising the language within the Teen Safety module d) inclusion of response messages to check-ins emoticons e) updating home practice review content.  

Furthermore, INNODEMS led the technology development component of a new Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH App).  The WASH App consists of 12 topics providing parents/caregivers with informative guidance on improving, for instance, handwashing, safe drinking water and clean toilet practices.  INNODEMS also supported early RCT preparations in Mwanza including in the training of Research Assistants and ParentApp Facilitators, setting up the process of logging on the ground technical issues (through WhatsApp groups) as well as inputting on digital literacy manuals.  

For the coming months, they will be involved in integrating copy-edited content into ParentApp as well as incorporating additional modules.  The Innovate team are also working on back-end remote asset storage possibilities as well as content and code repository separation (which is necessary in the development of their digital ecosystem).

On ParentText the team have been busy with ParentText 2.0 not only on developing content and supporting the authoring process, but progressing towards the backend configuration for the delivery of the messages which includes a) timing of pushed content and reminders b) programme completion tracker at multiple levels (overall, goal and topic) c) in-programme switching between goals selected (nine in total). 

In addition to further progress on ParentText 2.0 the Innovate team has been supporting their localised deployments this month.  In the Philippines they are still working on a guidance document for the local team to get a better handle over the data points captured by the earlier pilot.  The team are bug fixing in respect to the demo supplied to Thailand partners.  For Malaysia they are digesting reports from qualitative interviews and will no doubt be acting on feedback in the development of ParentText 2.0.  In Jamaica they have supported UNICEF in the development of a dashboard to track the characteristics of users reaching out for support through U-Matter (mental health chat line).  U-Matter operates within UNICEF’s U-Report, which is the space of which ParentText is accessed.  Outside of the GPI they are continuing to support Dr Zuyi with ParentText China for an initial test version (including full translations) in April.

Other Digital Solutions 
The Innovate Team this month has also been supporting the ParentApp for the Early Years and Parenting for Respectability teams.  IDEMS/INNODEMS colleagues have been guiding the teams in the translation of original in-person parenting programme material to that which can be employed by a digital intervention.

Finally, on the data management side, the Innovate team has been equally developing a spreadsheet authoring system for data analysis queries as input mechanisms for Shiny dashboards.  Similar to spreadsheet authoring of chatbot and apps, the eventual benefit of such a system is the ability to create dashboards that will not require extensive software technical knowledge or skill.  They are now also working on the ParentApp RCT dashboard.  Furthermore, the download of engagement data (through a button) across the currently employed dashboards have been configured (this allows research partners access to such data on demand).  They are also streamlining the backend data analysis functions (including naming conventions) employed by ParentApp/ParentText. 

Reported by Elena Okada

Backend refinements for ParentApp continue, including work on remote asset storage which impacts download size as well as additional content integrations in preparation for the March RCT. Further content for the WASH App (ParentApp RCT Control App) as well as backend structure development driven by INNODEMS is continuing to be refined. For ParentText, we are continuing the development of Version 2.0, which will include mapping which messages are to be pushed to users on which day. The INNODEMS team has also been supporting qualitative training for Malezi Bora na Maisha Mazuri in Eldoret, Kenya.


For ParentApp we have been working on backend improvements including a) the separation of code/content repos as well as b) further work on remote asset storage. The latter improvement will enhance the handling of additional videos / translations to many languages which subsequently affect app download. We are also looking into automatic update mechanisms. ParentApp content integrations in time for the March RCT includes a) additional notifications b) more male images c) names to stories d) home practice reviews and e) updated check-ins. Home practice reviews encourage a user to explore a topic further such as “your goal was to map risks and support systems with your teen – both in your community and online”. By asking the user a follow-up question such as “did you have a chance to do this?” will create the opportunity for another set of actions to result.

Beyond the RCT the team shall be looking into two way communication (or pushing data to devices - in the instance that an individual might wish to commence their progress on a different phone) as well as the online functionality for groups. We have hopes to include a calendar component to the ParentPoints and will in future integrate learning through play additional content. The INNODEMS/IDEMS team have also made significant progress on the WASH App (ParentApp control RCT) where we have been finalising the content as well as the backend data structures. The team is looking to release the first version of the App on the 9th of March which will be followed by a period of testing before final intended release on the 16th of March.


ParentText is also making progress towards version 2.0. We are refining our data lists (which store the content) to include check-ins. In March we shall be focusing on mechanisms to deploy content. Version 1.0 involved mapping which messages are to be pushed to users on which day and this is still to be developed for version 2.0 (as well as the backend mechanisms to support this). In South Africa, version 2.0 shall be deployed in June which shall also include deployment in two additional languages. In the Philippines, we are providing additional support in explaining data points collected in the pilot. The ParentText Technical Lead is visiting Jamaica in February and able to meet with UNICEF partners. The team is discussing the integration of Fundoo within the U-Report space (a chatbot designed to deliver 21st century-skills at scale, originally designed between UNICEF India and YuWaah). Outside of the GPI, IDEMS is supporting Somleng who is partnered with UNICEF Cambodia to deploy ParentText but over IVR (Interactive Voice Response). For our support to Dr Zuyi deploying ParentText in China IDEMS is working on setting up the RapidPro server space. Translation work on ParentText 1.0 has started in preparation for user testing in April.

Malezi Bora na Maisha Mazuri

The INNODEMS team under Innovate have also recently started to support Malezi Bora na Maisha Mazuri initiative in Kenya. INNODEMS have become involved in the next phase of the project which includes a) facilitating trainings on qualitative interviews for street-connected fathers and mothers in Eldoret with an aim to explore the gendered perceptions, practices, strengths, and needs of street-connected parents, b) supporting the development and use of digital data collection tools for demographic surveys for the street connected families, and c) exploring the next iteration of the Malezi Bora programme and how it can benefit the family unit as a whole. In particular, two members of the team were busy the week of the 13 February to support the training of qualitative data collectors.


Reporting by Elena Okada


There has been much progress across all of our digital offerings in the December 2022 to January 2023 period. ParentApp has importantly worked on a back-end solution for storing data dynamically. This is a big step towards having a more customised user experience, where the app behaves differently depending on a user's needs and interactions. One explicit use case for this is the completion tracking of different tasks (or components of the programme). In January 2023 we released another update in order to accommodate for a) a new content question added at the start of the final survey to track the ages of all teenagers in the household b) included teen testimonial audios in English and Swahili which can be found as part of Home Practice Assignments.

In addition we have c) updated character names in the illustrated stories. Other work include the development of a content review system in order for testers to provide immediate feedback on various pages of the App as well as fixing bugs related to the scheduling of notifications. Data Team For the data team, providing pilot and optimisation data analysis support to ParentApp collaborators has been the priority. The team have been guided by an M&E tracker to ensure that partners are able to visualise the data points of interest within Shiny data analytics platform.


INNODEMS have been leading the development of a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) App to act as the control for the ParentApp RCT in March 2023. The first iteration of the App was shared in January 2023 and the team is receiving feedback for further action. ParentApp for the Early Years in Tanzania Collaboration Also in January 2023 members of the IDEMS team met with the ParentApp for the Early Years in Tanzania collaborators in the Hague. The team will be focusing firstly on developing an offering to target parents/caregivers of children getting ready for school (and up to 9) with a book sharing intervention as well as integration of Sinovoyu Kids content. We are particularly excited about developing an App that can be employed within a group setting.


For ParentText, there has been consistent progress with the design of ParentText 2.0. This includes the large task of reauthoring flows into data lists which is a specialised spreadsheet used to capture content. ParentText 2.0 will also include content about Intimate Partner Violence as well as Mental Health. Unique to this upgraded version of ParentText is setting of goals and receiving messages specific to the goals. Each goal is a self contained programme which is to last roughly a week. Additional customisations similar to ParentText 1.0 include gender, age and relationship status.

Reporting by Elena Okada

October 2022 has seen a number of developments from the Innovate team. Work continues on ParentText 2.0, and the Modular Skin version ParentApp has been successfully developed. Read more below.


The ParentText team have started earnestly engaging in discussions regarding ParentText 2.0 which shall take into account all qualitative feedback and engagement data to date on a further iteration of the chatbot for 2023. This month the team have made progress on Data Lists which is a mechanism to store ParentText content. Similar to ParentApp data lists, ParentText data lists a) shall enable for improved cross comparisons to ParentApp b) shall enable a separation between content and code so that the same content can be deployed in multiple ways being stored in one single place thus ensuring consistency and avoiding repetitions c) eventually support content author partners to complete directly themselves (without having to rely on IDEMS staff).

In the Philippines, the IDEMS team are supporting efforts for local university partners Ateneo De Manila University as well as University of the Philippines to obtain raw data in the form they require, to engage in quantitative analysis which will support publications on the pilot. Our team has provided the first data set extracted from RapidPro for the team to review. In the following month we shall be providing further support on the data side.

To support work in Thailand with the Peach Culture Foundation we have also provided further guidance documentation on the approaches we take to developing a chatbot for their consideration as well as successfully created a demo version of ParentText delivered through LINE - the most used messaging platform in Thailand.

The Jamaica team at UNICEF, the Oxford team and IDEMS have been busy in the development of an Intimate Partner Violence version which will be deployed through two local Women’s Centres involving a group of young mothers attending their programmes as well as in collaboration with two local schools involving the parents of a group of their students. Additionally, we have been involved in supporting the set up of additional polls including for World Mental Health Day (recipients were U-Matter as well as U-Reporter users) reminding them of the U-Matter service. Another poll shall be launched at the beginning of November for Unhealthy Food (through the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network). Of significance is that UNICEF directly are now creating polls through initial guidance with IDEMS’ ParentText Technical Lead reviewing.

We are also preparing for the launch of the South Africa pilot based on the standard version of ParentText scheduled for the 3 November. An updated ParentText 2.0 version shall be available for the optimisation trial scheduled for 2023. It should also be noted that an Intimate Partner Violence version is deployed for a select group of users which has been provided with a unique joining link. IDEMS have also been involved in configuring the associated South Africa M&E dashboard so that IPV user data can be seen separately. We are also awaiting set-up through Whatsapp of the inclusion of a 7 day reminder system as well as surveys 30 days and 150 days after joining.


This month, the ParentApp team have engaged in an extensive drive to finalise the Modular Skin version of the app. The Modular skin is chosen by the Facilitator at the point of app set-up and includes an entirely different theming (or look) such as muted colours, no gradients, as well as human images. It also includes a very significant difference in accessing content where users are presented with an “active” module on their home screen. The modules themselves whilst still promoted to users in the order of workshops in the Weekly Workshop Skin (original version), can be accessed via a carousel type menu and chosen for completion out of order. Individual module progress bars on the home screen also provide an indication to the user of components within the module left to complete. The App also features a new Things to Do menu bar which includes activities taken from the active module in question as well as suggestions from ParentPoint and ParentLibrary activities. Formal training with partners on the new Modular Skin occurred on the 28 October 2022.

We have also incorporated new content as well as other improvements to ParentApp this month. Content updates include a new survey, safeguarding referrals, as well as a Terms and Conditions / Privacy Policy. Improvements also include a QR code as well as ParentPoint info buttons with related descriptions. Next month we shall be working on a) refinement to home practice reviews b) updated check-ins c) calendar component to ParentPoints d) backend content review system e) content specific code repositories f) remote asset (media) storage.

Simultaneously the IDEMS data team has been working on categorising users of ParentApp between low, medium and high engagers. There shall be further thought on separating pilot vs optimisation users in the dashboard. The INNODEMS team have been supporting the Optimisation trial preparations largely in running the digital literacy training and engaging in the training of trainers. In addition to this, they have also supported the team to work through recruitment and communication strategies, as well as m&e optimisation tools. The team has also been working on the content for the WashApp which shall act as the comparison app for the RCT in 2023.

In November 2022, the ParentApp team made a number of refinements to the Modular Skin including enhancing the toggle feature between Workshop and Modular Skin, bug fixes as well as amendments to some translations. The INNODEMS team have also been supporting the troubleshooting of challenges related to app installations during the optimisation phase among other areas of support. The team have furthermore been creating the backend structures for the WashApp (control App to be used in ParentApp RCT in 2023). For ParentText, the team is continuing to support new polls in Jamaica (along with planned integrations in 2023 with another chatbot Fundoo within U-Report). ParentText also launched officially in South Africa on the 21 November 2022 and we are furthermore supporting a new delivery of ParentText in China (separate to the GPI). Work on additional digital innovations to be launched in 2023 have also taken place in November 2022. For instance, with the FacilitatorApp, progress has involved identifying key informants for interview once Ethics approval has been received.

Additionally, IDEMS have supported the identification of PhD students as part of their doctoral training for activities under ‘the measurement of playful parenting at scale using machine learning’. IDEMS have also started to support a new initiative in Jamaica with the National Family Planning Board, in the creation of an adolescent sexual reproductive health chatbot using the same backend software structures as ParentText (separate to the GPI). Such exciting developments highlight the potential for the replication of technological innovations created under GPI but employed across other contexts.


The ParentApp team has been working on a few refinements to the new Modular skin in November. This includes, a) password protecting the toggle between default skin and Modular skin b) improving translations, as well as c) addressing some bugs including buttons to access endline surveys within Modular Skin as well as issues arising in some illustrated stories (where users were getting stuck). In the coming weeks the team will be working further on refining the home practice reviews and updating check-ins. Home practice reviews encourage a user to explore a topic further such as “your goal was to map risks and support systems with your teen – both in your community and online”. By asking the user a follow-up question such as “did you have a chance to do this?” will create the opportunity for another set of actions to result (the resulting actions are still to be thought through). On the data management front, the team is working at creating a dashboard view for the Optimisation study of ParentApp and the means of displaying data related to both default and modular skin.

The INNODEMS team has been working hard to continue the support provided during the Optimisation study of ParentApp. Of note this includes tackling technical challenges related to app installation as well as supporting the documentation of such issues. The team have also engaged in an exhaustive desk review to inform the content of the WASHApp and started to create the initial backend App structures which shall drive this control app for ParentApp’s RCT in 2023.


On the ParentText end, the team have been working earnestly to consolidate the learnings from various country deployments to date for the design of ParentText 2.0 (which also includes interviews with various ParentText country leads). Separate from this, in November there had been some wider issues with UNICEF’s arrangements with Meta (who enable ParentText users to access content for free through Whatsapp) which caused a disruption to service use for roughly two weeks.

Despite the disruptions, the team have been working closely with in-country deployment teams on new features as well as new integrations. In Jamaica we have worked with UNICEF counterparts to develop a new poll on advertising Unhealthy Foods to children conceptualised by U-Report and the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN). Starting from January 2023 we shall be working closely to support UNICEF Jamaica’s other partners, Fundoo a chatbot designed to deliver 21st century-skills at scale, to integrate their bot also within the same U-Report Workspace. In South Africa we successfully launched ParentText as well as our alternate Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) version on the 21 November 2022. Furthermore in Thailand we have created a short Line (another delivery channel) demonstration for future consideration in Thai. Our counterparts will be trained in December on the use of CrowdIn to translate relevant messages as well as develop one local video file using our Media Recorder. Finally, separate to the GPI (although through our work on ParentText) we are supporting efforts to explore a version for deployment in China through the delivery channel WeChat.


Background work has also continued on the FacilitatorApp including the targeting of key informants to interview once Ethics approvals have been forthcoming as well as the development of first versions of a budget and workplan. PerinatalApp IDEMS have supported the identification of PhD students as part of their doctoral training for work to support the ‘measurement of playful parenting at scale using machine learning’. In addition to this, early design work on the PerinatalApp will commence at an in-person meeting with partners in January 2023.