The Grassroots Solutions Reckoning pt.3

January 12, 2023

This is the second piece of a 3-part series that covers key insights around the practice of Solutions Mapping, as experienced in the first learning cycle of the UNDP El Salvador Accelerator Lab around water and livelihoods, including an interpretation of the multiple facets of Solutions Mapping; the role of the UNDP Accelerator Labs in the Grassroots to Global ecosystem; and the UNDP El Salvador Accelerator Lab’s attempt to understand how we can assess a community’s preparedness to adopt exogenous innovations or create their own by leveraging the UNDP Accelerator Lab’s three practices.

In the previous entry, I reflected on the role of Solutions Mappers and the Accelerator Lab network in the, yet to be defined, open knowledge for development ecosystem by sharing about the experience from the El Salvador Accelerator Lab, TECHO, and Appropedia mapping solutions in 6 communities in the coastal area of La Libertad.

Although not a definitive term, “open knowledge for development” is the most accurate I can think of so far in a context of constant reflection and discovery of new partners and, one that describes the main direction I’m taking as a Solutions Mapper, in alignment with one of the key roles of the Solutions Mapping practice and the Accelerator Labs at a global level: documenting grassroots knowledge from innovators and communities around the world to influence local, national, and global development policy and investments in sustainable development.

But UNDP has a legacy of generating knowledge for sustainable development. The Human Development Report is the organizations’ flagship document used across the world to inform policy and research, and regional and country offices produce a wealth of knowledge products ranging from the blue economy to strategic foresight and futures thinking. So, what is the specific role of the Accelerator Labs in UNDP’s overall knowledge management? To find out, I searched for the official UNDP document (There is always a document) and here’s what I found:

UNDP’s 2022-2025 Knowledge Management Strategy document states that a key driver of UNDP’s ambition is to connect hyperlocal to global (Sounds familiar to a certain global network of innovation labs?). In this process, the Accelerator Labs play a critical role in exploring methods and systems to enhance collective intelligence, including the sourcing, and sharing of tacit knowledge.

Bingo! There it is. But… how do we do that?

Well, back to the reckoning. I realized that I had answered this question through this layered reflection. In my first blog, I concluded that “Solutions Mapping is a relevant tool which UNDP, development organizations and even the private sector can use to conceptualize more context-relevant interventions and business models while involving communities in the process by opening knowledge exchange channels and, at the very least, empowering communities through information they consider relevant and useful”.

In the second one, that “the synergies with partners like the Honeybee Network and Appropedia are crucial for Accelerator Lab’s mission to be successful and for the Solutions Mapping practice to add value to the G2G ecosystem. By leveraging each group’s strengths, we will be able to activate an expanded global network of development professionals dedicated to unearthing the most ingenious, appropriate ways in which we can address development challenges, “upload” them into a digital space for universal access, and “download” them in other contexts for inspiration, adaptation, or scale.”

So, I want to temporarily wrap up my “grassroots solutions reckoning” blog series on a high note by sharing how, based on the reflections of the previous two entries, the El Salvador Accelerator Lab and Appropedia set out to ideate ways to connect the hyperlocal knowledge the Accelerator Lab network is documenting, with the global development ecosystem and beyond. The key challenge we were trying to address was to consider the entire process from identifying a grassroots solution or innovation; documenting it; disseminating it; and arguably the most important part; making sure this information is useful for others and its actually consumed for informative purposes or to replicate or adapt a solution in a different context. Since this is a massive endeavor, we decided to create a prototype of an open-knowledge product that focused on the “documenting” part of the process, with bits and pieces of other parts, which could be further developed by the Solutions Mapping community or anyone interested in contributing to this effort. This decision was taken to leverage Appropedia’s strengths in organizing information, open standards, and scientific dissemination, and combine it with some of the key activities of Solutions Mapping.

The result of this exercise, was the first open guide to create knowledge products based on grassroots solutions mapping hosted on Appropedia. If you are a Solutions Mapper, I strongly encourage you to navigate the guide (it can be translated automatically in Appropedia) and take part in editing it, adding new content, examples, and more! If you are not a Solutions Mapper, you are invited too! That’s the beauty of open.  

I’m excited that, in the two years that the El Salvador Accelerator Lab is fully operational, not only we are consolidating the Solutions Mapping practice in our Country Office, but, by forging partnerships with internationally recognized organizations of the open knowledge ecosystem such as Appropedia, we are contributing to UNDP’s visionary knowledge management strategy at a global level, bringing the grassroots to global.