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Tonga| ForesightXchange: With UNDP, Tonga is translating small island vulnerabilities into “Big Ocean Properties”. Photo: UNDP Tonga with UNDP GCPSE
China | Baidu Recycle app: Mr. Robin Li, CEO of Baidu and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sign the first e-waste product recycled by Baidu Recycle. Photo: UNDP China
Egypt | Smarter Citizens: Open Code for Sustainable Development camp in Cairo. Photo: UNDP Egypt
St. Lucia| Innov4Dev: Youth using drama and music to brainstorm and iteratively test approaches to reducing crime and violence on the island. Photo: UNDP Latin America and the Caribbean
Burkina Faso | Solar Grandmothers: Training rural women to create solar lighting systems so they could light their villages. Photo: UNDP Burkina Faso
Rwanda| YouthConnekt2015: Platform connecting Rwandan youth to jobs, mentors, and capacity building opportunities. Photo: Rwanda National Youth Council
Rwanda| YouthConnekt2015: Platform connecting Rwandan youth to jobs, mentors, and capacity building opportunities. Photo: Rwanda National Youth Council
Georgia | Public Service Innovation Lab: Integrating design thinking and meaningful citizen involvement into public policy design and delivery. Photo: Daro Sulakauri / UNDP Georgia
Colombia| Innovations for Peace: UNDP-sponsored startups are key actors in designing innovative peace-building and reconciliation initiatives. Photo: UNDP Colombia
Rwanda | Visualizing a Preferred Future: Foresight initiative to coordinate planning across all government ministries. Read more about this and other stories in the comic in the Discover More menu to the right!
Read highlights of our work and lessons from 2015 in our report summary the Discover More menu to the right!


UNDP works in nearly 170 countries and territories, helping to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality and exclusion. In these countries, we see more and more people, particularly young women and men, push the boundaries of citizen engagement and work towards a future they want. We see the emergence of new infrastructures of social innovators, entrepreneurs and civil society and dramatic shifts in the development landscape, accelerated by new technologies and new finance models.

Innovation for development is about identifying more effective solutions that add value for the people affected by development challenges – people and their governments, our users and clients. And we firmly believe that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires deliberate, calculated investments in testing new ways of triggering change.

To contribute to sustainable and equitable development, the UN system must continue to invest in innovation in its programing and in its ways of working.”

- Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

Technology is often a powerful enabler and vessel for innovation. But technology does not equal innovation per se. The key aspect is the value added and measurable progress to bring about real improvements in peoples’ lives. For example, new approaches include setting up innovation labs with governments to re-design public service delivery; using foresight-based techniques to enhance planning processes; or using behavioral insights to facilitate policy-making. This infographic is a quick snapshot about the work of the UNDP Innovation Facility.

Innovation at UNDP


To support this vision and embed innovation into our programmes, the UNDP Innovation Facility was launched in 2014, with the generous support of the Government of Denmark.

UNDP’s geographic reach, field presence, and knowledge of the local contexts permit quick experimentation with different innovation methods to maximize the learning from interventions that can be scaled up. To date, the Facility has provided technical and financial support through over 100 initiatives in more than 70 countries through grants of US$20,000 - US$100,000.

UNDP’s work on innovation happens in partnership with government, the private sector, civil society and academia as well as innovation hubs, start-ups and social entrepreneurs.  In 2015, over 55% of the initiatives were taken up by government and private sector partners, together with Country Offices -- an important condition to bring an innovation to greater scale. See how we measure success.                                                            

Our Community of Practice brings together more than 650 practitioners across the globe – growing by 80% in the last year. The Facility receives invaluable guidance from the Innovation Board -- made up of UNDP senior management --- and an external Advisory Board consisting of leading experts in systems design thinking; public service and policy design; entrepreneurship; innovative financing; and technology innovation in development.

UNDP Innovation Facility Portfolio

Since its inception, initiatives supported by the Facility tested or scaled new ways to eradicate poverty; protect our planet; prevent conflict; manage the risk of climate change and natural hazards; and advance gender equality. The highlights below are not exhaustive.

The Facility’s portfolio is firmly rooted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While initiatives span 16 of the 17 Goals, the majority of initiatives address Sustainable Development Goals that eradicate poverty, enhance livelihood options, reduce inequalities as well as build resilient and peaceful societies (SDG 1, 5, 8, 10, 11 and 16).

Eradicating Poverty, Leaving No One Behind: Over 50% of the Innovation Facility’s portfolio is invested in efforts to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, and increase decent work and economic growth. Examples include:

  • Partnering with the Microsoft Innovation Center in Nepal to build an online store of locally made products and business ideas to connect local entrepreneurs with buyers and investors;
  • Launching and expanding the LIDÉ bus, a roving skills-building facility that offers business management and entrepreneurship training to young people in rural Haiti.

Protecting the Planet: Many of our climate and environment-focused initiatives leveraged ICT for catalytic interventions. These include:

  • Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to gather real-time agricultural data that helps farmers in fYR Macedonia manage crops more effectively, fostering prosperity;
  • Creating a recycling app that aims to reduce China’s 60+ million tonnes of e-waste (discarded electrical goods).
Preventing Violent Conflict, Building Peaceful Societies: To date, the Facility supported initiatives in 25 crisis-affected contexts, creating sustainable solutions for bottlenecks for access to services, more responsible governments, reduced youth unemployment, and early warning systems. In 2015, every US$ 1 in US$3 works towards building more accountable and peaceful societies. These initiatives include:
  • Hosting a Citizen Engagement challenge for technology-enabled solutions to solving development issues in transparent ways in the Arab States, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe;
  • Expanding an SMS-based reporting system that allows Papua New Guinea public servants to anonymously report instances of corruption.

Managing Risk, Improving Disaster Response: The Facility has made significant investments in building community resilience, preparedness, risk mitigation, early recovery and the needs of affected populations. Some of these initiatives include:

  • Streamlining the way climate change knowledge is generated, consolidated, and analyzed from various programmes in Cabo Verde so that lessons can be efficiently shared;
  • Collaborating with Bangladeshi boy scouts and local mosques to develop an early warning system that enhances proactive risk management before natural disasters.

Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: One in every four initiatives work specifically towards advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in challenging contexts. For example, these initiatives include:

  • Partnering with the National Council for Women and Vodafone Foundation in Egypt to organize the first ‘Violence Against Women Youth Innovation Camp’ that used micro-narratives and storytelling to analyze the root causes of under-reporting of gender-based violence;
  • Developing a series of metacognitive videos and games that challenge traditional gender roles in Nepal and Viet Nam.
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Discover more
Report Summary | UNDP Innovation Facility | 2015 Year in Review

Report Summary of the '2015 Year in Review' - Full report - coming soon.  


UNDP Innovation Facility: Brochure

A brief overview of the UNDP Innovation Facility and our services.  


Innovation for Development - Comic book

Telling our stories in a different way: check our comic - Five Stories on Innovation for Development