Bringing youth together to innovate is key to development in Africa

30 Jan 2017 by Marc Lepage, UNDP Africa regional innovation expert

Central to the 28th African Union Summit that takes place in Ethiopia this week and to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, to be held on 30-31 January 2017, is this question: How do we harness the dividend from the continent’s current youthful population? In 2015, there were 226 million youth aged between 15-24 years in Africa (19% of the global youth population). By 2030, that number will increase by 42% and is expected to double by 2055. So, investing in youth today is key to Africa’s development tomorrow. But, to invest in youth, you first have to connect with them and allow them to connect to each other. This is precisely what YouthConnekt does. An innovative platform first launched in Rwanda in 2013, it brings together young people looking for employment, skills or resources to launch their own business with various partners including UNDP, private sector and government. … Read more

Data innovation for development, from idea to proof-of-concept

13 Dec 2016 by Vasko Popovski , Milica Begovic and Jennifer Colville

Effective data collection, analysis and monitoring can help policymakers to course-correct programmes and policies more quickly. Photo: UNDP Armenia
New sources of data are growing with an unprecedented pace, yet in spite all the talk about ‘data revolution’ and many pilots, one could hardly point to a place that systemically uses this new resources for good. Making sense of the quickly-growing data sets in a way that they improve the lives of citizens, workings of governments and international organizations is one of the great opportunities of our time.   Identifying and integrating faster, more detailed insights into development planning processes can lead to better-targeted responses and more efficient resource allocation. Data innovation is also part of reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Effective data collection, analysis, and monitoring can help policymakers to course-correct programmes and policies more quickly, leading to cost efficiencies and greater returns on investments, as well as empower communities to use data to drive change processes. And the catch is you don’t have to be a data scientist to innovate with data. Therefore, twenty months ago a group of data enthusiasts from UNDP Europe and Central Asia and Arab States regions embarked on a big data for development exploration journey with support from the Government of Denmark. The quest was to test new sources of data to generate … Read more

#inno4dev in Iraq: Doing more, lots more, with less

30 Nov 2016 by Jennifer Colville, Team Leader, Innovation, UNDP Arab States

The #inno4dev programme provides hands-on learning events for hundreds of budding entrepreneurs and promotes a sense of social cohesion among youth from all parts of Iraq. Photo:UNDP
Innovation is alive and well in Iraq as evidenced by the energy, creativity and "grit" of the 175 young entrepreneurs I had the privilege of spending four days with in an #inno4dev (innovation for development) workshop in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq last weekend. The workshop is part of a UNDP Iraq multi-year #inno4dev programme that promotes innovative approaches to solving development challenges. These 175 youths were selected from among 500 women and men who participated in six #inno4dev gatherings earlier this year. At the workshop, they were put through their paces, learning about approaches and tools, such as design thinking, lean startup, and business model canvas, as they developed ideas for ventures ranging from a health data surveillance system to educational zones for kids. From these, about two dozen teams will be selected to participate in an #inno4dev forum in the first quarter of 2017, where they will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to potential investors. So, how does the UNDP #inno4dev team, a team of one, manage these activities with all these moving parts: hundreds of youth coming from all around the country, speaking different languages, having different skills and levels of experience, with different areas of interest? Innovatively, of course. … Read more

Ready, set, innovate!

28 Nov 2016 by Marc Lepage, Innovation and Knowledge Management Specialist, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

Photo: Aude Rossignol/UNDP Burundi
In Africa, as in the rest of the world, things are moving! We live in a world that is becoming more and more complex, whether it be in social, economic or political terms. With the introduction of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we now have to adapt and adjust our practices in order to achieve such goals both efficiently and effectively. It's not uncommon to hear partners or even staff members complain, rightfully or wrongfully, about the red tape involved when it comes to UNDP procedures. Time-consuming processes or administrative tasks have been put into place and seem sometimes to take precedence over the quality of our interventions. Innovation can help correct such dysfunctions and thus allow us to be more productive. So, how can we best define the term ‘innovate’? There are a lot of possibilities, but the one to bear in mind is the fact that innovation enables us to give full rein to the innate creativity that lies within us. It allows us to come up with original and powerful responses to meet specific societal needs – and such responses can be technological or organizational in structure, or even a leading factor in bringing about social or behavioural changes. … Read more

Solving last mile challenges: The potential of behavioural insights for the 2030 Agenda

07 Nov 2016 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist, Innovation at UNDP

Behavioural insight draws from research findings from psychology and neuroscience. These insights about how people make decisions matter for development. UNDP photo
Across the globe, all people – poor or rich – sometimes make choices that are not conducive to their own well-being. Saving enough for retirement, eating healthy, investing in education – all too often we humans postpone intended actions to ‘tomorrow’, succumb to inertia or get stuck in habits. In light of the extensive research on the cognitive biases that influence human decision-making, there is a broad consensus that traditional economic models are insufficient for effective policy-making. Behind every policy lie assumptions about how humans will behave in light of new regulations and why we act the way we do. Nonetheless, behavioural insights are only being leveraged by a relatively small, but growing number of policy-makers around the globe. Now, United Nations agencies and funds are catching up. Behavioural insight draws from research findings from psychology and neuroscience. These insights about how people make decisions matter for development. They matter for policy-formulation and addressing last-mile problems. … Read more

Drivers of public services and policies of tomorrow – the role of government innovation labs

12 Oct 2016 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist, Innovation at UNDP and Laura Schnurr, Social Enterprise and Social Finance, Canadian Government and Innovation Facility, UNDP.

Kolba Lab, run by UNDP and the government of Armenia, held a mapathon of accessible places in Yerevan. Photo: @gorkroyan
What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘innovation’? The public sector? – Thought not. But we are working on changing this. Over the last three years, UNDP has set up innovation labs in five countries to support governments in designing the next generation of public services and to embark on experimental policy-design and another one is being set up right now. From Brazil, Colombia and Canada to South Africa, Israel, Malaysia and Singapore – the world map of labs is constantly growing. Government innovation labs, sometimes referred to as change labs, social labs or design labs, have been opening up in more and more places since the early 2000s. What are Public Sector innovation labs and how do they work? Government or public sector innovation labs are teams that combine expertise in innovation methods and public sector reform to improve policy design and the way governments deliver services to the public. Another important role of the labs is to help governments reframe challenges and to broaden the perspective of policy makers by bringing in the perspective of users. Labs help governments in creating better solutions based on citizen feedback and inputs. But ideally they are more than quick-solution delivery machines. … Read more

6 ways to innovate for 2030

16 Jun 2016 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist, Innovation at UNDP

A community worker surveys homeless men at a shelter in Old Delhi. Innovative approaches can bring together governments, service providers and businesses to fund social programmes for vulnerable groups. Photo: Niklas Halle’n/UNDP India
Can innovation help achieve the new global development agenda? Can it help address growing humanitarian needs worldwide? The stakes are high: Last year, U.N. member states endorsed the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, and in May 2016, the World Humanitarian Summit sets out to reshape aid. Innovation in the development agenda includes new processes, new technologies, or new ways of using existing technology. No matter what the innovation, it must add value for the end user. A new technology or process that does not create a positive change in the lives of the people we work for does not qualify as innovation. … Read more

Changing the discourse on humanitarian innovations and partnerships

01 Jun 2016 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist on Innovation, UNDP

Young women and men review crime statistics and add their stories to complete the picture at the 2015 Youth and Innovation Exchange in St. Lucia. Photo: UNDP Barbados
How can new data sources and real-time information systems improve decision-making? This is a question UNDP and its partners, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and Datapop Alliance, were asking at a side-event at the World Humanitarian Summit, together with the Governments of Denmark and Finland, which fund innovation in UN agencies. Innovation and data are important themes in humanitarian relief, as well as in the larger Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda. It underpins the entire agenda as a vehicle to solve wicked challenges across all the SDGs. … Read more

Open Innovation Challenges find new perspectives and solutions to complex problems

09 Mar 2016 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist, Innovation at UNDP

Students in Moldova are providing feedback on ideas developed during the EduSoft Challenge. Photo: Moldova
This week, UNDP launched a new policy. Another set of rules is usually not an occasion to celebrate. But this one is, because it mirrors what innovation can look like. UNDP tackles the toughest development challenges in the world. And we’re committed to finding the best-fit solutions to those challenges. Sometimes the best ideas come from outside our walls. The new policy formally makes “Open Innovation Challenges” a part of UNDP’s procurement rules, so offices can find and fund great solutions from any source. An Open Innovation Challenge is a structured process to find new solutions. Broadly it goes like this: identify a development problem, create and publicize an Open Innovation Challenge with prizes for solving that problem, get the most capable participants to compete, and offer the reward to the winner. Such an Open Challenge can also help to reveal more about the problem itself. … Read more

Unlocking the potential of youth

07 Jan 2016 by Fadhil Bakeer Markar, Communications Team Lead and Youth Focal Point, UNDP Sri Lanka

kids jumpingYouth participants of UNDP Sri Lanka’s Twinning Schools Programme caught in action whilst doing a music video for the song 'Colours'. Photo: UNDP Sri Lanka
“Children and youth deserve a better future in their own country, not necessarily somewhere else. It is the responsibility of the adults not just to bring children to this world but contribute to creating a socio-political environment that is conducive for their advancement and well-being.” - Professor Siri Hettige, a senior sociology academic at the University of Colombo. We’ve heard the call for more opportunities for young people, the need to engage with them, and the responsibility of adults and institutions. But to me, Hettige misses a key point: the central role of youth themselves in shaping their own present and future. … Read more