As the UNDP Gambia Accelerator Lab (AccLabGM) approached the end of its first learning cycle, we reflect on how the various engagements with internal and external partners, would feed into the first batch of experiments. The key takeaways from these activities were the recurring theme of silos in the way development partners and government engage with the beneficiaries and secondly, limited opportunities or existing support for local initiatives and entrepreneurs to scale past the ideation phase. Yet still, we witness so much excitement within the informal space outside of the usual UNDP partners and the numerous solutions and initiatives emerging from communities and members of the public.
With a vast array of ideas drawn from these engagements, it has been a complex process to design experiments that would align with the aims and objectives of our frontier challenge. Fortunately, a valuable collaboration has been established with the UKRI GCRF Accelerating Achievement for Africa’s Adolescents Hub. The Hub has supported the AccLabGM team to explore better knowledge of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), provide access to new networks and feedback on the design of experiments. More importantly, it has become a model for the Global Accelerator Labs to create synergies with other hubs and improve how we design, test and scale solutions.
Our brainstorming sessions developed a range of ideas from aiding farmers with their perishables to 3D printing of potential solutions to manage waste at landfills. Weeks of iterations helped narrow down the chosen interventions in the first learning cycle to three small experiments to kickstart the development of a portfolio.
Experiment 1: 3D printing hackathon
With the recurring issue of waste emerging during interactions with various partners, AccLabGM organized a 3-day hackathon event challenging teams to utilize 3D printed solutions to tackle waste management. Accounting for a pre-event workshop, we sought to foster solution building with the deliberate inclusion of participants from low-income or lowly-resourced groups, and individuals not necessarily familiar with the concepts of 3D printing or a hackathon. The prize on offer was a six-month incubation period at the Disruptive Lab co-working space.
Following this initial test, AccLabGM aims to shift to robotics and virtual reality which both incorporate elements of coding – a hot topic among Gambian youths who are being more exposed to hackathon and innovation challenges. This will be an exciting area to intervene, experiment and identify new exciting solutions whilst building on young people’s ideas and creating avenues for greater private sector participation and job creation.
Experiment 2: Job Search Media Campaign
Another issue that emerged during the sensemaking exercise is that there are limited platforms available for jobseekers to find jobs and vice versa for job providers to find talent. To tackle this, the Gamjobs online platform was developed in 2015 to assist users find and be matched with jobs based on their profiles and interests. The platform was supported by UNDP The Gambia in early 2019 with the provision technology facilities, physical office space, equipment and exposure to help scale this initiative. Until now, the platform has matched over 1,000 jobseekers to employment, yet still the challenge remains. Hence, AccLabGM hopes to scale this solution further by supporting a 30-day free subscription for 500 users. It involves utilization of USSD code and its promotion through a media campaign including a multilingual radio jingle, social media, and print media. The objective of the on-going experiment is to test whether a subscription-based system works to promote job advertising and match more jobseekers to employment.
Experiment 3: Operational efficiency at country office
Realizing that the AccLabGM team was facing similar operational challenges with the other unit members, an experiment was initiated to test whether an operational management tool for the country office would be beneficial. A questionnaire was designed for the country office to identify areas where productivity and operational efficiency can be improved. The anonymized survey will be released on open online platforms like google forms or survey monkey.
The latter experiments are yet to close however, the outcome of the hackathon challenge has led to discoveries that 3D printing, a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technology, can be used to address a major challenge that The Gambia is facing in how it manages its waste, recycling and upcycling. As AccLabGM continues to immense itself in the learning process, we find that the potential solutions to address our frontier challenge are embedded in the iterative process and nature of developing the experiments. However, a growing concern is the challenge of addressing intellectual property and while we close our current call for solutions with approximately 50 innovative proposals, we seek guidance from the experts on the way forward.
Finally, the AccLabGM team has moved to its new working station at the Disruptive lab co-working space. Our doors are open! Stop by and let us know about the grassroots innovations in your communities to aid our next batch of experiments and solutions mapping activities which we’re planning in our upcoming 100 days action plan.