Informal Transportation: a new research agenda for the UNDP Accelerator Labs, in partnership with NewCities’ Global Partnership for Informal Transportation.

October 11, 2021


Montreal / New York, October 11, 2021 – The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Accelerator Labs and global nonprofit NewCities signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore informal systems in the world’s cities with a special focus on informal transportation as a key direction for its learning strategy to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNDP Accelerator Labs and NewCities will work together to learn how homegrown and frugal innovation in the field of transportation can be harnessed to empower communities. Through the MOU, NewCities’ Global Partnership for Informal Transportation becomes a strategic knowledge partner of the UNDP Accelerator Labs.

As the Accelerator Lab Network advances its learning strategy, we see that many roads are pointing to informal sectors as the great unknown in development. When we looked at available policy offers, we saw gaps: most assume that those in the informal sector need protection, but they don’t see the ingenuity and creativity in the sector. Which is why I am excited to see how this partnership will help us progress on this important research agenda. Partnering with NewCities will give us insight into informal innovation and help leverage the knowledge and creativity of the people who build and operate informal transportation services,” shares Gina Lucarelli, Team Leader, UNDP Accelerator Labs.

Informal transportation—ojeks, tuktuks, jeepneys, matatus, colectivos, etc.— are a core part of urban mobility systems in the rapidly growing metropolitan regions of the Global South. These regionwide, privately provided transport modes emerge to meet the demand for cheap, flexible mobility. They move millions, employ hundreds of thousands, and support the sizable informal sector in urban economies.

Despite this near ubiquity, informal transportation is often seen as a local problem. The sector suffers from haphazard, discriminatory policies and regulations and is often left out of urban and transportation planning, receiving little to no attention from policy makers. This has to change.

The promises of the mobility revolution -- connected, efficient and decarbonized transportation -- must now be extended to the cities of the Global South, where informal transportation networks are the primary way billions of people move around," says NewCities Chairman & CoMotion CEO John Rossant. “The Global Partnership is bringing long-overdue visibility to the important role these local mobility systems play in cities and economies. The partnership with UNDP Accelerator Labs will help us put informal transportation on the global agenda for sustainable and equitable development.

UNDP Accelerator Labs and NewCities’ Global Partnership for Informal Transportation believe that informal transportation systems can be powerful engines for economic mobility and can create more sustainable and inclusive cities. This collaboration aims to learn how different informal systems work, what hybrid models look like, and the relative risks and benefits to a strategy that puts formalization at the core. Partners will work together to accelerate testing and generate actionable data on informal transportation systems and the local culture, and effective and innovative policy approaches.

The mission of the Global Partnership for Informal Transportation is to elevate informal mobility and change people’s perspectives on these homegrown transportation solutions; to value the innovation and inventive energies of these emergent systems,” said Benjamin de la Peña, CEO, Shared-Use Mobility Center and Chair, Global Partnership for Informal Transportation.

Mobilizing the power of the UNDP Accelerator Lab Network of 91 teams across 115 countries with a learning process co-designed with The Global Partnership for Informal Transportation, the collaboration aims to produce specific policy notes and an institutional offer to help us see opportunities in informal mobility as part of sustainable development.



About NewCities
NewCities is a global non-profit committed to shaping a better urban future. The organization has a decade’s experience curating and producing innovative content about the most important emerging urban trends through tailored events, editorial features, and actionable research. NewCities brings a ‘whole-city’ approach by convening and connecting key stakeholders of the urban ecosystem: residents, governments, academic institutions, civil society organizations, and business communities. Its activities are inspired and supported by its global network of members, whose insights help determine the most pressing challenges faced by cities. |

About the Global Partnership for Informal Transportation
The Global Partnership for Informal Transportation works with public and private sector partners around the world to enhance innovation in these entrepreneurial networks, increase their access to new technologies, and accelerate decarbonization. The partnership works together with informal urban transportation systems of the Global South to advance innovation, improve services, and change business models. By leveraging new technology and innovative policies, we believe these informal networks can confront climate change and make our cities work for everyone. |

About the United Nations Development Program Accelerator Labs
UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet. In 2019, UNDP set out to build the world’s largest and fastest learning network on wicked sustainable development challenges. Co-built as a joint-venture with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany and the Qatar Fund for Development, the UNDP Accelerator Lab Network is covering 115 countries, and tapping into local innovations to create actionable insights and reimagine sustainable development for the 21st century. |

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