UNDP Report Showcases Investments in Innovation to Achieve SDGs
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
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A report published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Innovation Facility finds that innovation and emerging technologies are increasingly changing how international organizations are investing to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report showcases how UNDP’s innovation investments have led to more effective development solutions and to new service lines to government partners.

12 July 2017: A report published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Innovation Facility finds that innovation and emerging technologies are increasingly changing how international organizations are investing to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report presents innovation initiatives that are testing and scaling solutions to eradicate poverty, protect the environment, prevent conflict, manage climate and natural hazard risk, improve disaster response, and advance gender equality. The report showcases how UNDP’s innovation investments have led to more effective development solutions and to new service lines to government partners.

UNDP launched the report titled, ‘Spark, Scale, Sustain: Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals,’ on the sidelines of the 2017 session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The publication shares UNDP’s approach to innovation through 40 case studies that illustrate how innovation is supporting the SDGs and how emerging technologies can ensure development is more impactful. Case studies showcased in the report include Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, China, Lebanon and Serbia.

The report showcases investments that can unlock the potential of innovation for development, such as a “blue” social impact bond to fund coral and mangrove restoration in Grenada.

The report discusses investments in four areas to unlock the potential of innovation for development: alternative finance; data innovation; behavioral design; and government labs. UNDP is helping countries identify and test new funding mechanisms, such as an impact bond on youth unemployment in Serbia, and the first “blue” social impact bond to fund coral and mangrove restoration to benefit poor communities in Grenada. Impact bond investments help mobilize private sector resources for development, as well as support shifting delivery to outcome-based financing.

On data innovation, the report finds that almost one-third of SDG indicators lack data collection methods and reliable data, particularly on gender inequalities and for those living in poverty. To address this limitation, the UNDP Innovation Facility worked with UN Global Pulse on a portfolio of data experiments in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Arab region. The Facility also collaborated with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) on UN Data Innovation Labs to support UN agencies in advancing data analytics capabilities and new partnerships.

UNDP’s collaboration with UN Global Pulse focuses on data experiments to improve SDG implementation using real-time information. In Tunisia, for example, the National Statistics Office tracks public perception of corruption in real-time based on analysis of online media and social media interactions. UNDP has also launched innovation challenge prizes to encourage new ideas, methods and designs from refugees from Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Nepal, among other countries. The winners receive support to continue developing their innovations to help solve development problems.

The report also underscores the need for greater understanding of service users’ perspectives, including using ingenious solutions that community “outliers” have discovered, co-designing with users, and developing prototypes and feedback loops. For example, in Egypt, UNDP is working with the National Council for Women to address gender-based violence by designing messages delivered to women via electricity bills, an approach that is based on findings about human decision-making and insights on specific behavioral barriers for Egyptian women.

UNDP has established six Public Sector Innovation Labs to help governments increase citizen involvement in policymaking and redesign public services. In Moldova, a Public Sector Lab is using behavioral insights to improve policy formulation and testing around tax compliance and medical adherence. In Georgia, a Lab worked on redesigning emergency services to make them accessible for people with hearing and visual disabilities.

The UNDP Innovation Facility, which was launched in 2014 with support from the Government of Denmark, supports UNDP in testing and scaling innovative ways to solve development problems. The Facility works with the private sector, academia innovation hubs, start-ups and social entrepreneurs. [UNDP Press Release] [UNDP Blog] [Publication Landing Page] [Publication: Spark, Scale, Sustain: Innovation for the SDGs] [UN Data Innovation Lab Website]


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