4 Things We’ve Learned from Piloting Social Innovation Platform in Hushe Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan

By Beenisch Tahir, Head of Accelerator Lab UNDP Pakistan; Stan van der Leemputte, SIP Analyst UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub; and Momina Sohail, Communications Analyst UNDP Pakistan

October 23, 2022
one woman trekking with firewood on her back and a kid behind her in Hushe Valley, Pakistan

Woman trekking with firewoods on her back and kid behind in the Hushe Valley

Credits: Shahzad Ahmad, UNDP Pakistan

The remote and small communities of the Hushe Valley in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit Baltistan region, with a population of roughly 15,000, have taught UNDP Pakistan valuable lessons on how to co-create more effective and inclusive development programmes and have made a strong case for enhancing local governance. 

These lessons come from the results of our experimentation on Social Innovation Platforms (SIP) ushered in by the Accelerator Lab at UNDP Pakistan, supported by the Local Governance team at UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub (BRH) and Agirre Lehendakaria Center (ALC). SIP is a systems approach that helps facilitate SDG localization and accelerate socio-economic change at the local level.

Pakistan is one of the three "early adopter" countries in the Asia and the Pacific region where UNDP initiated the work on SIP, which has now been rolled out beyond the region to Central Europe, South America, and Africa. In the Hushe Valley, SIP functions as a people-powered and collaborative platform where agencies can organize development portfolios, actions, and partnerships under a shared mission for systemic transformation using innovative and human-centric design methodologies.

houses and trees in the Hushe Valley

(Credits: Shahzad Ahmad, UNDP Pakistan)

As we develop SIP in the Hushe Valley, we asked ourselves at UNDP the following question: “Can SIP complement–and perhaps even replace–traditional siloed interventions with an approach that is more inclusive to the communities we serve and more transformative in its impact?”

Here are four key lessons learned from the process to date:

1.  Catalyzing collective action

In Hushe, we have been able to connect policy options for local governments to the downstream interventions design for communities. In traditional development project design, these are often disconnected, leading to interventions that don’t speak enough to communities' needs. In contrast, SIP provides a clear overview of the gaps and needs at a systems level, which translates into a portfolio organized around a shared mission of change.

2. Co-creating stronger programme design

The platform brings together different innovative tools such as Deep Listening, Sensemaking, Co-creation and portfolio logic in one coherent design package. These tools can add value to different stages of programme design, complementing traditional intervention design logic. For example, Deep Listening can serve as instructive tool for M&E as the qualitative data it harvests provides insights into how communities perceive development interventions with an outlook of potential impact.

3. Skills and capabilities–curation is key

We observed that curation is key in running a successful platform. This requires dynamic internal management and a strong capacity to coordinate and develop partnerships with different stakeholders from governments to local communities to startups. It also requires a strong eye for synthesis to bring together different emerging data and develop recommendations for the programme and UNDP partners.

4. Mainstreaming Governance across our work

Early signals show SIP helps strengthen governance at the local level. In Hushe, SIP not only enhanced people’s agency to drive community change but also provided a promising pathway for accountable, inclusive, and effective local governance. For instance, Deep Listening and Co-creation help foster new forms of civic collaboration and pivot policy planning and budgeting towards processes that are inclusive, sustainable, and highly aligned with the SDGs.

truck carrying woods with villagers standing and sitting around in Hushe Valley

(Credits: Shahzad Ahmad, UNDP Pakistan)

Built upon these early results, the Accelerator Lab at UNDP Pakistan has an agenda to mainstream SIP in the CO programming in 2022. The participatory and inclusive nature of SIP opens up opportunities for UNDP to reorganize its resources to develop integrated solutions for SDGs acceleration at the local level. In response to the catastrophic floods this August, UNDP Pakistan is leveraging SIP to contribute to the formulation of gender-sensitive flood response, recovery, and mitigation strategies.

More updates are coming up soon!


Next steps: mainstreaming SIP into Country Office programmes

  • The Accelerator Lab at UNDP Pakistan has partnered with the Development Policy Unit (DPU) to mainstream SIP into UNDP’s major strategic agenda. The DPU, through its Government-partnered SDG Unit, is scaling the approach in Hushe Valley by bringing on board local governments for advocacy, and conducting an innovation challenge to spur further public and private investments.
  • The DPU adopted the SIP approach in Karachi in its urban resilience programme. This has been done through quantitative and qualitative analysis to understand urban resilience challenges and source solutions through Deep Listening and Collective Sensemaking.
  • The Accelerator Lab is also supporting the DPU in scaling the approach into its soon-to-be-launched SDG Investment Facility and UNDP’s flagship National Human Development Report on Digital Transformation.
  • In partnership with the Local Governance team at UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, the Lab will also codify SIP by developing a playbook and provide trainings within our office as well as across our government partners to use SIP as a way of running mission-driven policy programmes.