Using Innovation to encourage new solutions

Posted November 22, 2019

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This is part 3 in a series of blogs charting the journey of UNDP Pakistan’s Innovation Portfolio and the Youth Empowerment Programme testing, adapting and scaling innovative approaches for achieving development outcomes. Read part 1 and part 2.

The collaborative journey between UNDP Pakistan’s Innovation Portfolio and the Youth Empowerment Programme is an example of how in-house innovation teams can support UNDP projects and programmes to co-design country-level innovations with strong potential to scale, improve impact, attract new partnerships and catalyse new funding for development. 

Together, UNDP Innovation and YEP were able to co-design initiatives with a view towards skills that the Pakistani youth will require in the future. This helped the programme adapt to current challenges and evolve from applying traditional programme designs. The current approach embraces technology, working with the private sector, supporting entrepreneurship and considering job markets of the future. Furthermore, the programme applied an integrated approach of developing innovative initiatives across its interventions to create a ripple effect of greater impact.

The Innovation Portfolio also supported YEP in establishing new types of partnerships. We are seeing a new group of development actors emerge globally with whom UNDP is excited to partner with. Partnerships developed under YEP for design and implementation of innovative approaches, are an example of the “new norm” for how UNDP must do development.

This was in no way a neat, or always easy, journey; it required motivation to change the way we have always worked, to go out into Pakistan’s development and social impact space and build relationships, expand our network, engage in a dynamic community and bring new opportunities to the table. In-house innovation champions, strategic entry points, programming bottle necks and complex areas of engagement had to be understood. In tandem, the space for supporting and facilitating the testing, learning, adaptation, iteration and scaling of innovative initiatives that achieve results had to be curated.

The Youth Empowerment Programme team were keen to identify strategic entry points for innovative approaches. They valued the fresh thinking and new solutions which alternative partners brought, they capitalized on rapid prototyping, experimenting, systems-mapping and the co-design process, while unlocking new sources of financing for development. They saw the potential of technology to reach out more broadly to the young people they want and need to work with, and how open innovation and identification of locally-developed solutions help UNDP to go directly to Pakistan’s youth, empower them, and create impact that inspires and motivates others.

All three innovative approaches described in this series of blogs allowed UNDP to increase their impact, reach, scale and efficiency. It brought in more representation from young people, including especially from more marginalized communities. Successes have been witnessed not only in changing the ways we work both internally and externally, but in pushing up to reimagine and redesign the way we achieve social impact.


Ilena Paltzer
Ilena Paltzer has worked for UNDP Pakistan as Innovation Coordinator, and for the FATA Governance Project on Coordination, Partnerships, and Innovation. She has also worked for the UN in South Sudan, across the East & Southern Africa region, and New York. Ilena is interested in finding new approaches for achieving sustainable and holistic social impact and pushing the sector to reconsider the way we "do development". She is also particularly interested in innovative ways of strengthening women's agency and engagement in these processes