Accelerator Lab for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Responds to COVID-19




COVID-19, mentioned in almost every personal and professional conversation over the past few months, is threatening the way people work and go about their daily activities. Between loss of employment, changes to social dynamics and upended business operations, the health and socio-economic crisis created by COVID-19 has changed life as we know it.

From Disruption to Opportunity

At the same time, this disruption is also providing an immense opportunity to re-evaluate the way  business is conducted. In the Eastern Caribbean, new and innovative ways are needed for nationals to access goods and services and support the shift into a digital ecosystem accounting for the future of work.

In response to the pandemic, the UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Multi Country Office is focusing on health systems strengthening through procurement and technical assistance, economic and human development impact assessments and implementation support and economic transformation, recovery and citizen security.

Accelerating Economic Transformation

The Accelerator Lab for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean’s COVID-19 response journey to support the economic transformation pillar has been rooted in innovation and incorporated methods such as sensemaking and iteration. This included our acknowledgement of open source medical design, categorical mapping tools and important initiatives from our colleagues, such as the #PayInAdvance campaign advocated by the Argentina Accelerator Lab, volunteerism promoting elderly care in India and the #Tekkiheroes Hackathon in Azerbaijan.  

After some further drilling down, priorities were set on assisting with the economic transformation of Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs). To do so while ensuring that no one is left behind, a digital approach was explored in the interest of accelerating impact. By building the capacity of MSMEs to retool and pivot in order to virtually conduct business and connect suppliers directly with consumers, the hope is that online payment solutions will increase customer access to local goods and services.

Partnering for Change

To accomplish meaningful economic transformation, UNDP is partnering with several stakeholders including private sector parties, not-for-profit organizations, non-governmental agencies and social enterprises. Together, these actors will contribute to experimental innovations for change. By bringing multiple players together, UNDP is drawing on diverse sets of expertise, all with a common goal: responding to COVID-19 and preparing for both economic and digital transformations poised to occur in the present and well into the future.  

This builds on the global Accelerator Lab’s Collective Intelligence methodology, dedicated to harnessing the power of people, data and technology in the context of development.  On the private side, enhancing the operations of web-based grocery and pharmaceutical delivery solutions such as WiFetch will help instantly connect community bakeries with citizens unable to leave their home, thus linking supply with demand. Additionally, a taxi driver formerly dependent on routes running from the airport to hotels can use the platform to join a home safe delivery fleet of tracked vehicles, thus providing end users such as senior citizens with  needed goods.

On the not-for-profit end, Caribbean start-up and entrepreneurship space Ten Habitat is supporting the creation of a digital skills marketplace for MSMEs to help individuals find jobs online and  advertise their services. The start-up and entrepreneurial space is also contributing to a business development plan rooted in user experience and app design for enterprises looking to change and re-focus within the COVID-19 landscape.  

International non-governmental organization FarmFinder is also being brought on  to further boost access to locally sourced produce and fish. By building capacity for fisherfolk and farmers to engage in e-commerce to sell their products while offering consumers quality assurance that products purchased are sustainable, this could enhance the consumption of local products. This is significant as Eastern Caribbean producers are grappling with an abundance of food items due to declining buying levels from cruise ships, hotels and restaurants.

Leaving No One Behind

A core theme throughout this innovation model is to ensure that no one is left behind. Special effort is being made to protect vulnerable communities, including senior citizens and the disabled. As such, the objective is to strengthen equal access to goods and services by improving country wide delivery models, comprehensive donation portals and the use of e-volunteering spaces while ensuring digital inclusion.

In order to achieve and compliment some of the above activities, the Accelerator Lab is collaborating with the Ecuador Country Office to provide Latin American and Caribbean MSMEs with user-friendly economic transformation guides and tools. Topics range from how to move commerce to WhatsApp channels to the importance of driving appealing sales during low transactional periods. Additionally, tinkerers, designers, dreamers and tech-savvy designers will be called on to partake in #IslandHack, a Hackathon specifically dedicated to the creation of prototypes solving for unique Eastern Caribbean challenges presented by COVID-19.

Bringing it all Together

Through multi-sectoral collaboration and the merging of various backgrounds, expertise and skills as one, we can empower businesses and develop more resilient communities as we fight COVID-19 together.  

How can COVID-19 economic transformation be strengthened in Small Island Developing States (SIDS)?

Do you have a disruptive proposition on how SIDS can recover from COVID-19 economically? If so, please e-mail:

By: Jordanna Tennebaum, Head of Solutions Mapping and Nikola Simpson, Head of Exploration, UNDP Accelerator Lab for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean

Twitter: @j_tenneb; @nikola_simpson