Erika Strand, Class of 2006
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Chief of Social Policy, UNICEF Mexico
I continue to be incredibly grateful to the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation for supporting my Master’s degree in international development at the Harvard Kennedy School, and for including me in the 2006 Academy of Achievement. To this day, I will meet people who at some point in time attended the Academy as well, and it has been nice to have something unique in common with amazing people around the world to break the ice.
Immediately after graduating, I moved to Madagascar to manage a project for the World Bank, providing management tools to improve the use of resources and planning at all levels of the educational system. I then returned to UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) headquarters to develop new policy advocacy tools for situations requiring policy advice from UNICEF, such as the impact of the food prices crisis on children and the importance of child-friendly social protection.
For the past three years I have worked as the Chief of Social Policy at UNICEF Mexico. We urge the government to adopt social programs that target children living in extreme poverty, and advocate for more transparency in public spending on children. Working with the Ministry of Finance at the federal level, I led a strategy to catalogue spending on children as part of the federal budget for the first time. This budget was approved by Mexico’s Congress in 2011.
While some may think that working in a bureaucracy such as a UN agency — and in partnership with so large an institution as the Mexican federal government — would not provide conditions for innovation, I disagree. Changes at this level may be harder to realize than within a smaller organization, but when we are able to make an improvement in federal programs that reach millions of families, as is the case in Mexico, the impact is incomparable. I hope to be given more and more responsibility within UNICEF in the years to come, so that I can realize results of increasing importance in the lives of children