Experimenting with a New Approach - Part II

July 8, 2020

By Vrouyr Joubanian, Head of Experimentation at UNDP Accelerator Lab, Lebanon.

This is a two-part blogpost outlining the past, present, and future of UNDP Lebanon’s Accelerator Lab. The first part covers our approach during the first several months, while the second one outlines a new approach that we’ve begun implementing.

Over the last several months, we’ve learned a great deal about how UNDP as an organization works. At this point, we are excited to apply that knowledge in a new approach that is more closely aligned with our mission as an Accelerator Lab. That new approach is outlined below.


What does this approach entail?

So, what are we actually proposing here? As we begin to imagine the Accelerator Lab’s second year, we hope to see a radical shift in how we operate, especially with respect to how we engage with the CO as a whole. Specifically, we aim to see the Accelerator Lab take on a new role—that of co-creation, rather than support and consultancy. 

This new approach begins with a different set of questions, which encapsulate our new role. In particular, we simply ask what teams are working on and what their challenges currently are. From there, the Accelerator Lab will digest and synthesize the information in order to determine if and where we can provide input. Our goal in this early stage will be to define entry points that would complement each other––much like a portfolio––and set a preliminary plan for a three-month work cycle.

Show, don’t tell

The aim of this plan is to implement a show-don’t-tell approach. We will present this preliminary work plan to the teams and invite them on board. Then the Accelerator Lab will lead and own the project of work, while engaging constantly with the team throughout the cycle. During this time, we will deploy the Lab’s tools and methodologies, experiment, and learn from what works and what doesn’t. In the end, we will package and share our insights and suite of tools before handing them over to the project teams.

Long-term impact

By working in this way, we believe that we can truly embed the Accelerator Lab culture and methodologies by demonstrating the value of our work. By observing our insights and engaging with us along the way, the CO will gain a deeper understanding of our role and it will have gained proficiency in the Accelerator Lab’s various tools.  This “packaging” or “closure” allows the Lab to choose which of our experiments are worthy of further investment but also gives project teams and colleagues the opportunity to adapt or perhaps replicate the tools and methods we used. Our goal in this later stage is to help inform processes and policies while also shaping how we engage with the people we serve. Thus, our aim is long-term impact. 

The overarching principle driving this new approach is the inverse of the logic that has structured our current approach. In other words, whereas our current role has us supporting existing projects, our new approach asks teams to support us as an Accelerator Lab by lending their projects and subject-matter expertise and engaging with the work we do. By shifting gears in this way, we will move closer to our goal of having the entire CO act as an Accelerator Lab—as a space where co-creation thrives and generates new ideas to the benefit of the communities we serve. 

Over the last months, we have begun implementing this approach in projects with the Community Security and Access to Justice team and other collaborations with UNWomen and the International Labour Organization (ILO). This co-creative approach has also informed our work on a conflict risk dashboard that brings together various conflict indicators in Lebanon that colleagues can refer to in order to better inform and adapt their work. As we move forward, we will be evaluating this new approach and featuring it in our future blog posts.