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Fellowship: The Flex Yang Visiting Research Fellowship Programme for Researchers with Disabilities, Global Office of Research and Foresight, Florence, Italy


  • Organization: UNICEF - United Nations Children’s Fund
  • Location: Florence
  • Grade: Level not specified - Level not specified
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Human Rights
    • Scientist and Researcher
    • Project and Programme Management
    • Disability Rights
  • Closing Date: Closed

We are looking for a researcher with disabilities with a strong track record in inclusive education systems to conduct research with a focus on children with disabilities in the areas of relevance to UNICEF and UNICEF Innocenti.

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential. 

Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone. 

And we never give up. 

For every child, Research

UNICEF Innocenti is UNICEF’s dedicated office for research, foresight and evidence on child rights, well-being, and development, hosted for over three decades in Florence, Italy. UNICEF Innocenti helps to identify programming responses, to inform policy, guide practice and target resources to deliver results for children. The office explores emerging issues, identifies research gaps, brings together researchers and policymakers and supports or undertakes research and data collection to address critical questions to inform global debates. The fundamental mission of UNICEF is to promote the rights of every child, everywhere, in everything the organization does. The leave-no-one-behind principle of the SDGs and UNICEF’s equity agenda translates this commitment into action.

For UNICEF, equity means that all children have an opportunity to survive, develop and reach their full potential, without discrimination; to include all children in education, health, emergency response, social protection, in family and community life – which is not the reality for millions of children around the world, and especially not for many children with disabilities.

Based on stakeholder consultations with the disability research community, donors, organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs), and development partners, UNICEF was identified as being best placed to develop and coordinate a Global Research Agenda and Platform for Children with Disabilities to generate, communicate and use new research and evidence to guide investments in effective interventions to support the social inclusion and rights of children with disabilities.
To that end, UNICEF has committed to establishing the Global Research Agenda and Platform, progressively mainstreaming disability and strengthening OPD participation in research undertaken in development and humanitarian settings. This is being led by UNICEF’s Global Office of Research and Foresight (GORaF - UNICEF Innocenti).

A core vision of the Global Research Agenda and Platform for Children with Disabilities is to build long-term relationships and engagement with researchers and research institutions at local, national, regional, and global levels – especially in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). With thanks to the generous support of Mr. Flex Yang, UNICEF Innocenti is pleased to announce a new research fellowship programme for researchers with disabilities as part of that vision.

The Flex Yang Visiting Research Fellowship provides a framework for established and early career academics to pursue research over a six-month period with a focus on children with disabilities in areas of relevance to UNICEF and UNICEF Innocenti – in this first call for applications, the attention is on Inclusive Education.

We welcome applications from across the globe, and particularly welcome applications from researchers at universities and research institutions from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Inclusive Education Systems
Education is a fundamental human right for all (inc. UDHR Art 26; CRC Art 28; General Comment No.4 on Article 24 of the CRPD) and is indispensable for the achievement of sustainable development. It is a gateway to improved quality of life and to increased economic, political and social opportunities.
Despite widespread agreement on the importance of education, children with disabilities are still left behind. According to UNICEF research, they are more likely to never attend school or to drop out due to multiple barriers, including stigma, lack of trained teachers, inadequate learning materials and inaccessible schools and classroom facilities. Compared with children without disabilities, 25% of children with disabilities are less likely to attend early childhood education and 49% more likely to have never attended school.
The impact of excluding children with disabilities from education goes far beyond diminished educational outcomes. They are also more likely to miss out on school-based health and nutrition programmes, such as school meals and immunization campaigns, and face increased vulnerability to violence and exploitation while not at school; furthermore, downstream impacts include the long-term economic implications of being hindered in participate in the workforce.

Inclusive and accessible education are considered the most effective ways to give all children a fair chance to learn and develop the skills they need to thrive. It means integrating all children in the same schools whilst recognising variations in approaches and adaptations that cater for the needs of all children, including those with varying levels of severity and types of disabilities.
It means real learning opportunities for groups who have traditionally been excluded – not only children with disabilities. Inclusive education systems value the unique contributions students of all backgrounds bring to the learning environment to allow diverse groups to grow together to play and interact, to reduce stigma and break down stereotypes for the benefit of all.
Inclusive education should include all learners, regardless of identity, background or ability. A lack of inclusive policies by governments can contribute to barriers. Only 68 per cent of countries in 2020 had definitions of inclusive education in their policies, and only 57% of definitions covered multiple marginalized groups – leaving many schools and children without a national framework to facilitate this type of education.

Following the feedback received from governments and development partners’ and in response to emerging education sector trends and changing contexts, there is now joint guidance on Education Sector Analysis (ESA Guidance Vol III) published in 2021 that provides a solid framework for supporting a definition of inclusive education systems.
Given an estimated 240 million children with disabilities worldwide, and with just under half of those being more likely to have never attended school, inclusive education systems are a clear priority.

The Flex Yang Visiting Research Fellowship Programme for Researchers with Disabilities
The visiting research fellowship programme is generously funded by Mr. Flex Yang. It provides a stipend for established and early career academics to advance their own portfolio of research with a focus on areas of relevance to UNICEF’s work for children with disabilities.
In this first open call for applications, we are seeking research professionals with a track-record and portfolio of research on inclusive education. We will announce a second call later focusing on a different topic, other than inclusive education, so please bookmark the UNICEF vacancies announcements webpage.

To support your expressions of interest, we encourage applicants to read i) the chapter on inclusive education for children with disabilities of the joint UNICEF/UNESCO/GPE/FCDO Education Sector Analysis guidelines volume 3 – link here, ii) plus, UNICEF Innocenti’s recently published Evidence and Gap Map (EGM) on the effectiveness of inclusive interventions for children with disabilities – link here: and iii) the recent report on the use of accessible digital textbooks in the classroom: Accessible Digital Textbooks: Universal Design for Learning in Paraguay (

They all show that research is lacking in many areas that represent critical themes for policy and programming; all in need of robust evidence to improve inclusion and participation in education in Low and Middle-Income Countries. There are critical evidence gaps on:
1. With reference to the aforementioned ESA Vol III, what is a disability-inclusive education system and what does it mean to examine an education system through a disability-inclusive lens, and what are the implications for children with and without disabilities, and with multiple identities, including intersections with race, ethnicity, biological sex, gender, language etc.,?
2. How are Article 24 and General Comment 4 conceptualized and adapted across local cultures and contexts in Low and Middle-Income Countries.
3. What approaches successfully support educational attainment for children with disabilities in inclusive settings? i.e. are children with disabilities accessing learning opportunities and acquiring knowledge and achieving learning outcomes? What approaches are being used? What are the barriers and how are they overcome?
4. How to make learning assessment– both digital and no/low-tech approaches– disability-inclusive
5. What is the role that specialized schooling or specialized learning practices have in the transitioning from segregated to inclusive education systems and individualized learning support.
6. What resources need to be allocated to enable the implementation of disability-inclusive education systems, including reasonable accommodation. Assistive Technology and UDL, plus the need to cost the transition from existing education systems to inclusive education systems?
7. How can learning materials, including digital learning tools, be designed and used to be more disability-inclusive for a range of disability types?

Please review the above materials and develop your proposals, including any intersections with other themes in the EGM. Please pay particular attention to how your research will engage with children and youth with disabilities.
We welcome applications from across the globe, and particularly welcome applications from researchers at universities and research institutions from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Funding and Facilities
For the agreed duration of the Flex Yang Visiting Research Fellowship for Researchers with Disabilities, the fellows can be based at the UNICEF Innocenti office in central Florence, Italy. This typically covers a period up to a maximum of 6 months (depending on availability and in agreement with both parties) and with the option of part-time, instead of full-time relocation to UNICEF Innocenti.

Funding is based on a Stipend:
• $3,500 per month (maximum – concomitant with experience) per person up to six months
• Flights: to be included in the stipend (or by your university or research institute)
• Medical insurance: to be included in the stipend
• Any additional Reasonable Accommodation (RA) costs could be covered by UNICEF, subject to case review. Applicants are kindly asked to express, in confidence, their requirements for RA and access in their Expression of Interest.
• UNICEF Innocenti provides accessible offices (meeting at least the minimum requirements of accessibility for an inclusive workspace, ISO 21542:2011) although the age and nature of the Renaissance city of Florence does present some mobility access constraints, including uneven and narrow streets and pavements.
• The working language of the office is English
• This position is only available for researchers who identify as having a disability and who are early to mid-career, i.e. at least eight years as a professional researcher/academic.

Expected results
1. While based at UNICEF Innocenti, successful Fellows are primarily expected to spend time on their own disability-focused research projects, but also to engage and contribute to the intellectual environment of the office, in the evolution of the Global Research Agenda and Platform for Children with Disabilities, in establishing contacts with our researchers and participating in joint activities (i.e. seminars, workshops, peer-reviewing research products). Contributions to the working paper series of the Office of Research would be welcomed.
2. Proposals for specific deliverables while based at UNICEF Innocenti (e.g. joint papers, research proposal writing and grant submission, evidence synthesis products, partnership development through support to convening, other) to be proposed and described through submission of an Expression of Interest (EoI). The scope and nature of deliverables is to be agreed during the development of any finally agreed contract of the successful Fellow; this is to allow the fellowship programme to meet the mutual and specific needs of the Fellow and of their home institution, whilst serving to add value to UNICEF’s work for children with disabilities.
3. Fellows are provided with office space and basic administrative support functions. UNICEF has established a centralized fund for the potential to provide Reasonable Accommodation that may help researchers function to their maximum capacity. This is reviewed by a dedicated team on a case-by-case basis. RA may include sign language interpretation, assistive products and technology, or personal attendant costs to enable working in the Innocenti office. Your requirements must be made known during the application process to the Fellowship. Applicants are encouraged to reach out for more information in confidence.
4. If you have ongoing research projects funded from other sources, including for travelling and lodging if away from Florence during the period of the Fellowship, it will be expected that those funds would continue to support your work; no additional monies are available over and above the Stipend or any conditional monies provided under the Reasonable Accommodation Fund. The nature and impact of such travel away during the period of the Fellowship is to be agreed during the application and contracting process, to avoid negative impact on the outcomes and to manage mutual expectations).
5. Fellowships are expected to be at least 3 months and up to a maximum of 6 months.
6. Fellows are expected to live in Florence for some of the Fellowship period to take part in the UNICEF Innocenti research activities.
7. Fluency in English language required. Knowledge of other UN working languages is considered an advantage (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish). The language of the office is English.
8. Fellows will need to have their own health insurance and will be asked to sign UNICEF Terms and Conditions as part of the contracting process.

How to express your interest
Expressions of interest in participating in the Flex Yang Visiting Research Fellowship for Researchers with Disabilities can be sent to us between 22 May 2023 and 23 June 2023. UNICEF Innocenti will assess applicants based on qualifications, motivation/interest, monthly rate, relevance to UNICEF’s work, and whether accommodation in our premises is possible during the suggested period of stay.
If you are interested, please provide us with:

i. A motivation letter stating your interest and background, field of specialization, research ideas, desired timing and duration of the fellowship, what you hope to get out of the fellowship, plus any other conditions you think we should be aware of.
ii. In your letter, you must state your request and requirements for Reasonable Accommodation.
iii. Please include your full Curriculum Vitae.
iv. Please submit two letters of support from professionals familiar with your work.
v. Critically, please provide a brief proposal of the research you envisage working on under the Fellowship Programme (2-4 pages, single-spaced, 12-point font) including clear, provisional deliverables – we expect to fine-tune and mutual agree those with the successful candidates.
vi. Please indicate your desired monthly stipend (up to 3,500 $USD per month). Your rate will form part of the competitive selection process, in conjunction with your years of relevant experience and qualifications. Ultimate payments will be linked to production of agreed deliverables that will be mutually negotiated during the application process and before contracts are signed.
vii. Please clearly include your full name, address, phone number and email address on all attachments.

Additional points of note:
a) UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages all candidates, irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, culture, appearance, socio-economic status, ability, age, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, to apply to become a part of the organization. More information on UNICEF’s commitment to diversity and inclusion:
b) Inclusive workplace: UNICEF is flexible and can support employees with accessibility needs to work productively, and we offer a wide range of benefits to our staff, including breastfeeding breaks, and reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. UNICEF strongly encourages the use of flexible working arrangements.
c) UNICEF also has DISABILITY CONNECT, a fully independent network comprising only UNICEF employees and contracted individuals with disabilities with peer support as well as a confidential space to voice concerns, ideas and provide feedback.
d) UNICEF Innocenti includes accessible restrooms on all floors and the office entrance and elevator are accessible. Florence presents some accessibility challenges with narrow pavements and uneven ground within and outside the office.

For every Child, you demonstrate... 

UNICEF’s Core Values of Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust, Accountability and Sustainability (CRITAS) underpin everything we do and how we do it. Get acquainted with Our Values Charter: UNICEF Values

UNICEF competencies required for this post are...

(1) Builds and maintains partnerships(2) Demonstrates self-awareness and ethical awareness(3)Drive to achieve results for impact(4)Innovates and embraces change(5) Manages ambiguity and complexity(6)Thinks and acts strategically(7)Works collaboratively with others.

During the recruitment process, we test candidates following the competency framework. Familiarize yourself with our competency framework and its different levels: competency framework here.

UNICEF is here to serve the world’s most disadvantaged children and our global workforce must reflect the diversity of those children. The UNICEF family is committed to include everyone, irrespective of their race/ethnicity, age, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, socio-economic background, or any other personal characteristic.

UNICEF has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNICEF, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination. UNICEF is committed to promote the protection and safeguarding of all children. All selected candidates will, therefore, undergo rigorous reference and background checks, and will be expected to adhere to these standards and principles. Background checks will include the verification of academic credential(s) and employment history. Selected candidates may be required to provide additional information to conduct a background check.


Issuance of a visa by the host country of the duty station will be facilitated by UNICEF. Appointments are also subject to inoculation (vaccination) requirements, including against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid). Government employees that are considered for employment with UNICEF are normally required to resign from their government before taking up an assignment with UNICEF. UNICEF reserves the right to withdraw an offer of appointment, without compensation, if a visa or medical clearance is not obtained, or necessary inoculation requirements are not met, within a reasonable period for any reason.

UNICEF appointments are subject to medical clearance. Issuance of a visa by the host country of the duty station, which will be facilitated by UNICEF, is required for IP positions. Appointments may also be subject to inoculation (vaccination) requirements, including against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid). Government employees that are considered for employment with UNICEF are normally required to resign from their government before taking up an assignment with UNICEF. UNICEF reserves the right to withdraw an offer of appointment, without compensation, if a visa or medical clearance is not obtained, or necessary inoculation requirements are not met, within a reasonable period for any reason.

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and advance to the next stage of the selection process. 

This vacancy is now closed.
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