Finding local solutions through the power of words and communication patterns

July 2, 2020

What are the first three words that come in your mind when you hear “Accelerator Lab”?

As people, we think and act uniquely, and when it comes to words, we express things differently depending on the way we coexist and interact with our surroundings. The Accelerator Lab has been working with different stakeholders and adapting to their various ways of thinking in order to become familiar with diverse communities. An abundance of fruitful words flows daily across the Accelerator Lab communication channels. It is intriguing to track the words and see their impact;

Our use of words and communication first affects those closest to us and then expands to include outer circles. This led us to think of those closest to the Accelerator Lab, including our Community Service Team. We raised the question, “What are the first three words that come to your mind when you hear the term “Accelerator Lab?” during one of our virtual meetings. We framed their thoughts, inspirations, and emotions related to the Accelerator Lab in the word cloud below:

The chosen words from 30 community activists when we asked them about the first three words that come in their minds when they hear Accelerator Lab. Word cloud generated by Mentimeter platform.

The words reflected in the word cloud indicate not only the flowing impact and influence of the Accelerator Lab, but also the change in community mindset and the resonance of the Accelerator Lab ideas in our ecosystem. This cloud inspired us to look for insight in the words we hear and see daily and to use the power of words to discover needs-based local solutions.

The power of words and solutions mapping approaches in Iraq amid the COVID-19 pandemic

“Iraq is also a story where UNDP excels; a textbook example of the organization operating at its best in a post-conflict setting. It’s a story where we are always a first resort and the partner of choice – for the government across all levels; for international donors; for implementing partners; and for communities.” - Zena Ali Ahmed - UNDP Iraq Resident Representative.

To sustain the trust of stakeholders and as part of UNDP’s response to the global pandemic, the Accelerator Lab conducted a series of virtual solutions safari activities (the journey of finding local innovations) utilizing new approaches to help Iraq face this challenge more efficiently. 

The new approach by the solutions mapper uses  the power of words to affect behavioral change, therefore, based on  behavioral insight methodology, we assumed the following hypothesis to find local solutions amid the COVID-19 pandemic: 

If we followed the flowing words of the virtual community around the Accelerator Lab, then these words could be employed as our key to find and scale up the local solutions, thus the signal of change would be the innovators paying more attention to their words on the virtual world.

In order to understand the applicability of this hypothesis, I connected different methodologies that resulted in the following three approaches which each by its own tells of our actions while sensing, exploring, and experimenting within our adaptation to the new Accelerator Lab virtual field:

The Accelerator Lab System in Iraq; The Green Cycle represents the Accelerator Lab learning cycle from sensing, exploring, experimenting and growing the local solutions, the blue cycle represents the innovator life cycle amid COVID-19, and the aqua blue cycles represent the three approaches of using the power of word by the solutions mapper amid COVID-19.

Approach One:
 Words and Hashtags

The algorithms of social media platforms are designed to assist users in finding information. Utilizing technology is key for us as solution mappers and we need to continuously adapt to changing circumstances. Amid the pandemic, for four months, the virtual field was our main access to the community. Every day, I observe the trending words (hashtags) and link the dots as they relate to the Accelerator Lab to build understanding of what is going on in the community. Within this virtual mapping process of using the Systems Thinking approach, I mapped seven local solutions that respond to the pandemic; Corona in Iraq Platform (was scaled up and handed over to the government), 3D printing face shields, PET face shield, sterilization gate, ventilation device by academia, ventilation device by Ministry of Industry and Minerals (under exploration phase), and medical clinic at home platform.  

Approach Two: Community Service Team (CST)

 The term “local solutions” was mentioned during the initial training of our community service volunteer team, which has become our eyes in the community since it includes community activists from different areas of Iraq. The term “local solution” became an action, and our Community Service Team helped us map five local solutions that respond to the pandemic by using the same concept of the power of words in the virtual world; portable ventilation device, remotely controlled robot for medical services, IQdonate platform for cured blood plasma donation, interactive soap for children, and automatic hand washing machine.

Approach Three: UNDP Country Office

To reflect our solution-mapping mechanism in existing UNDP projects, we made sure to engage the country office in the Accelerator Lab work through our flowing words to achieve an impact inside UNDP Iraq’s Country Office (CO), update them about our progress, and provide support when needed because we are part of them.

One key advantage of working alongside the Country Office is the willingness of our co-workers to identify and propose four local solutions in response to COVID-19 consisting of 3D face mask strap, ventilation device by University of Basra, hand sanitizers by University of Karbala, and smart and green cameras.

In conclusion, the Accelerator Lab team achieved transforming the power of words into new signals of change that are reflected on the stakeholders' way of work. Now more than ever, open online discussions addressing everyday challenges the country faces amid the spread of the coronavirus are becoming the government's main decision-making stream. This change is partly influenced by the Accelerator Lab’s discussions on adopting the mentioned local solutions and building partnerships around them with the government and relevant stakeholders. Published words and hashtags became our virtual solutions safari methodology to map the local solutions for the development challenges. We observed that when we highlight the work of innovators on social media channels that contributed to the emergence of a new innovation pattern that influences other innovators’ way of work. Speaking of the new emerging patterns, the Accelerator Lab influenced faster evolving innovation patterns in the UNDP country office which are working to better tailor their projects to community needs.

Eventually, we achieved mapping 16 local solutions for the country development challenges by harnessing the power of words and communication patterns. Next is to use the power of visuals to map the next version of local solutions.