On June 19, in a building of the US Senate, our UNDP Washington Representation Office participated in an Innovation Fair organized by the UN Foundation. The event was a timely success as development organizations must seek to innovate to meet stakeholders’ expectations in a fast-changing environment.
Among our partners, for example, USAID runs a Global Development Lab, UNICEF works with Silicon Valley’s technology start-ups and the US Global Development Council recently proposed new social impact funds and cash-on-delivery models.
UNDP has inherited a solid tradition of game-changing ideas such as the Human Development Index and continues to leverage technical, social and managerial innovation throughout its programs and operations.
In Sierra Leone, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo, UNDP employs pioneering biometric voter registration techniques like fingerprint and eye scan, unique and unchangeable traits of a person, to prevent fraud and build trust in fair elections.
Using mobile phone messaging, Tanzanian voters check their electoral registration status and polling station location whilst in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, text messages provide tsunami and earthquake warning.
On a global level, taking advantage of internet and mobile phone technologies, UNDP is polling people’s opinions (more than 2 million so far) to vote for the “World You Want” in addition to hundreds of community-based consultations. All results and data are shared publicly.
For many organizations, innovation also enables more direct communication and transparent management. Today UNDP leads the way on transparency by releasing all its project data on open.undp.org as well as its audit reports. By leveraging technology, UNDP can better monitor and evaluate its own programs and ensure greater citizen engagement through simpler reporting, mobile data collection or participatory statistics.
Social innovators such as A.H Khan (Khan Academy) or Mohamed Yunus (Grameen) work across sectors to propose new business models for a sustainable economy, such as distance learning and social entrepreneurship. In 2014, UNDP launched the Social Innovation Initiative to combat corruption in Asia-Pacific, which funded theThai Youth Anti-Corruption Network’s "Refuse To Be Corrupt” cafés in universities, giving students a place to discuss and tackle corruption in their schools and communities.
Recently, our Innovation Board launched the UNDP Innovation Facility, with Denmark stepping forward as the founding donor. This flexible mechanism will seek to offer technical and financial support, so that UNDP and its partners may propose new solutions to increasingly complex development challenges.
Innovation implies thinking outside of the box and taking risks, often a challenge for large organizations! Yet, UNDP is learning every day to harness innovation and stay a global leader.