Re-Imagining development for the 21st century

The speed, dynamics, and complexity of today’s challenges are fundamentally different from previous eras. Consider these looming challenges: the impact of artificial intelligence on employment; the potential for disinformation on social media; the need for policies that keep up with and drive innovation, while protecting human rights. Addressing these requires radically new approaches that match their complexity.  

The Accelerator Labs are UNDP’s new way of working in development. Together with our core partners, the State of Qatar and the Federal Republic of Germany, 60 Labs serving 78 countries will work together with national and global partners to find radically new approaches that fit the complexity of current development challenges.

Being part of a globally integrated network, each Lab will draw inspiration from both local solutions and those identified elsewhere within the network. Working in parallel, Labs will benefit from each other in real-time, creating a powerful collective learning effect.

One of the 60 Accelerator Labs will be based in Barbados, serving this country as well as nations belonging to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

The Accelerator Labs

Embedded within UNDP office, the Accelerator Labs will provide national partners with a set of new services to explore, test and grow solutions for complex sustainable development problems. Our approaches include: 

  • Sense-making: Labs will analyse, in almost real time, the local context challenges to identify connections and patterns to anticipate new avenues of work and act effectively to accelerate development.
  • Solutions mapping: In close collaboration with local partners, the Labs will identify grassroots solutions and stretch their potential to accelerate development.
  • Collective intelligence: The Labs will use collective intelligence to support partners better understand facts and ideas, develop new solutions, promote more inclusive decision making, and provide better oversight of what is done.
  • Designing and testing: The Labs will simultaneously test approaches to tackle a singular complex development problem. This systematic process will allow learning to happen in weeks or months rather than years.

The success of Labs will be seen in three ways: their influence on nurturing experimentation and accelerating development programming, their impact on government policy, and their ability to inspire spin-off public and private ventures.

More information at: acceleratorlabs.undp.org 

UNDP Accelerator Labs in Iraq

UNDP Accelerator Labs: Re-imagining development for the 21st century

UNDP established the global Accelerator Lab network to demonstrate new ways of working in development. Globally, it is the largest and fastest learning network that links 60 labs to serve 78 countries around the world, working together to find radical solutions to today’s multitude of development challenges and respond rapidly and at scale.


UNDP Global Accelerator Lab Network


UNDP Accelerator Labs in Iraq

Iraq’s Accelerator Lab journey began in 2019, with an aim to find local solutions to national development challenges. Between 2019-2020, the Lab will focus on two main challenges: Youth and Unemployment, and Climate Change. Using solutions mapping, exploring and experimenting, the Lab works to scale potential local solutions to tackle complex challenges from new and innovative angles. In parallel, the Accelerator Lab stands by to intervene and respond quickly when new emergencies arise, such as the COVID 19 pandemic.   

The Lab works alongside UNDP technical specialists to understand what is happening on the ground, and what challenges face communities on a daily basis. The team then works to identify opportunities to apply innovative local solutions, test them, and see how they can be further enhanced and embedded into UNDP, government, and local partner responses. 

The Accelerator Lab is working toward the following goals in 2020-2021:

  • Increase capability to scan, sense make, and experiment with sustainable development solutions related to youth and unemployment and climate change across Iraq;
  • Scale solutions at the national level and improve collective intelligence through policy, programming or through market growth by supporting independent ventures;
  • Establish a global learning and scaling network to surface and reinforce locally sourced solutions while mobilizing a wide and dynamic partnership of actors contributing to improved knowledge, resources, and experience.

What we have achieved

  • Developed and localized innovative global methodologies and Human-Centered Design Approaches tailored to the Accelerator Lab work in Iraq, through an experimental learning cycle which works to bridge the gap between the 21st-century challenges and the current approaches that governments, organizations, and stakeholders are practicing;
  • Explored the challenges and identified opportunities related to youth and unemployment challenges in Iraq, through continuous scanning for local solutions and building strategic partnerships that help to ground large-scale experiments;
  • Boosted government capacity to identify national development challenges and solutions.  This was achieved through hosting workshops for activists and representatives of relevant Iraqi Ministries and introducing Systemic Thinking Methodology and embedding them into new ways of thinking and in work processes; 
  • Supported the development of a local solution to address the COVID-19 pandemic in Iraq, developing and promoting an awareness platform, in partnership with several stakeholders;.
  • Established a learning network inside Iraq known as The Accelerator Lab Community Service Team. It is a team of 35 volunteers from various stakeholders, including NGOs, activists, Private Sector and career development intuitions, to ensure that identified problems and local solutions are developed in cooperation with the community and to ensure sustainability;  
  • Launched the  Tested the Lab’s first ‘local solution’ - the ‘Design Thinking Training Manual’. It was written by a a team of young volunteers from the Innovation for Development project, with the consultation and engagement of multiple stakeholders, students, teachers, entrepreneurs, government officials, and UN personnel.

Read more about the Accelerator Labs:

Learning smarter; a global hunt for solutions to 'frontier challenges'

Accelerator Labs: the challenge of engaging the mothership

What are the new skills we need in development?