Zambian innovators standing over and innovation and discussing its properties

Accelerator Labs Zambia


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.

Accelerator Lab Zambia Innovator Mervis Ngosa with a Copper Slag Stove

NII 2021 Innovator Mervis Ngosa

An image of Honourable Minister of Technology and Science, Felix Mutati (centre) flanked by the awarded innovators of 2022.

The Minister of Techonolgy and Science, Felix Mutati with the awarded innovators from the 2022 NII

Innovator Darius Mambwe with his gemstone refiner

Accelerator Labs Zambia Artisanal Small Scale Mining Innovator


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.


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

The impact of artificial intelligence on unemployment. The potential for disinformation to spread on social media.  The need for policies that keep up with and drive innovation, while protecting human rights.

Many of these challenges are growing exponentially. The speed, dynamics and complexity of today’s social, economic and environmental problems are fundamentally different from previous eras in history.

The labs will transform our collective approach by introducing new services, backed by evidence and practice, and by accelerating the testing and dissemination of solutions within and across countries. Sense-making, collective intelligence, solutions mapping and experimentation will be part of the new offer from UNDP to governments.

Together with partners, the Labs will analyze challenges within local contexts to identify connections and patterns in search of new avenues of work to act effectively in addressing wicked development challenges.

UNDP Accelerator Labs world map


Building on local innovators

The Labs will identify grassroots solutions together with local actors and validate their potential to accelerate development. Solutions can come in many different forms, from a farmer discovering a new way to prevent floods to a nonprofit that is especially impactful.

The labs will also harness the potential of real time data and people’s energy to respond to rapidly evolving challenges that impact development.

Building on these locally-sourced solutions, the labs will rapid test and iterate new ideas to learn which ones work, which ones can grow, and which ones don’t, bringing experimentation to the core of our work.



The ability to bridge to scale

The labs will accelerate their learning by operating within a global network where each lab learns from the rest, by exploring multiple solutions in parallel, and by designing experiments that teach us whether solutions can work and grow in weeks or months rather than years.

Accelerator Labs will build on UNDP’s partnerships with governments to scale solutions. Together with partners, they will try to learn what combination of solutions can influence how development is delivered.  We’ll also be exploring policy frameworks that are needed to frame the ethics and incentives to drive development acceleration and try to identify portfolios of solutions that could spin off into independent ventures.


Upcoming Initiatives

Discover our the latest initiative, read the eligibility criteria and submit an application

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Meet the Team

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