UNDP’s Global Policy Network is designed to tap into the full extent of the organization’s capabilities to provide expert advice and support to our organization’s country offices and programme countries, no matter where that expertise is.
Yet there has been an invisible barrier that has kept us from tapping into the expertise of national staff. Recently UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner referred to this as a “great missed opportunity,” as many of these people are among the top in their fields.
Through the Innovation Facility, we have been able to tap into UNDP’s Global Policy Network and encourage the exchange of national expertise between countries. One example is Lebanon and Lesotho. At first glance, these two countries may seem like an unlikely pairing given their geographic and development differences, but scratch the surface and you find they have a lot in common. An important similarity is the potential of their young populations to contribute to the the Sustainable Development Goals.
Nada Sweidan, who is Programme Officer at UNDP Lebanon is responsible for the national Youth Leadership Programme, which supports young entrepreneurs. She travelled to Lesotho to work with Programme Specialist Mabulara Tsuene. Together they created a design thinking workshop.
Before Nada left, she was cautiously enthusiastic: “I have organized many of these trainings in the past, but never in such a country context with a different level of technological advancement. I am hoping to create this positive ripple effect, where my skills and assets are passed on to the youth in this country but also to my UNDP peers, who can hopefully lead more of these kinds of workshops in the future.”
Mabulara was equally excited but also not quite sure what to expect: “This is the first time we are doing a training like this in Lesotho, and also the first time we have a UNDP colleague coming from outside of the country to support.”
During the workshop, Nada used her experience to introduce youth to the design thinking methodology and to support them in continuously examining, refining and strengthening their own work and thinking. The participants were thrilled about this event, one of them said: “I took similar materials at the university here, but I never quite understood it, nor was able to utilize it. Now I understand what design thinking is, and I got great tips to ensure a sustainable and successful business.”
Mabulara was happy to find a colleague who could help her brainstorm ideas, validate her thoughts, or simply inspire her to start new projects or go about existing projects in a different way. “I know I can just text her and get immediate advice from her, I really found an ally,” she says.
The opportunity gave Nada the chance to share her experience but also to strengthen her own skills and to make her a better advisor. “I know have a larger point of reference, and I can now draw on this experience when tackling challenges in Lebanon.”
Mabulara saw the far-reaching effects of Nada’s visit: “Peer-to-peer exchange is definitely something we are hoping to use more often. It has not only helped my colleagues and me gain a fresh perspective, Nada’s visit has also demonstrated the resources of UNDP to our government partners. I believe that her visit strengthened the position of the UNDP in this country by showing how broad our network of support is.”
This kind of exchange between national staff allows UNDP to takes advantage of its existing talent and experience and brings to life the vision of a Global Policy Network. By connecting experts with colleagues in country offices, we are able to capitalize on existing research, knowledge, and experience and introducing new ideas and innovation.
After a successful exchange both Mabulara and Nada would more than recommend this experience. Their work underscores the effectiveness of the UNDP Global Policy Network and its potential to bring the #NextGenUNDP vision to life.