11 September 2018
UNDP Innovation Facility Showcases Case Studies on Innovation for SDGs
UN Photo/Lily Solmssen
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A report by the UNDP Innovation Facility highlights case studies that describe how UNDP has pursued innovation for development and provides lessons learned on how to better innovate to achieve the SDGs.

The case studies showcase initiatives that tested or scaled new ways to eradicate poverty, protect the planet, manage climate risk, advance gender equality and prevent violent conflict.

6 September 2018: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) Innovation Facility launched its 2017-2018 year in review report, presenting case studies from over 25 countries on how innovation can help achieve the SDGs and make development more impactful. The report also includes nine “think pieces” that consider concepts such as frontier technologies, scaling innovation and systems transformations.

The report titled, ‘Moon Shots and Puddle Jumps—Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals,’ argues that “massive breakthroughs in innovation” and major shifts “in how development is done” are required to truly leave no one behind and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It reports that UNDP has pursued innovation for development based on the concept of “moon shots,” or bold, visionary inventions and technological breakthroughs, and “puddle jumps” – important, incremental advances and efforts to address “last-mile challenges” that support the most marginalized and ensure no one is left behind.

‘Moon Shots and Puddle Jumps’ shares UNDP’s innovation journey and showcases initiatives to test scale up new ways to eradicate poverty, protect the planet, manage climate risk, advance gender equality and prevent violent conflict. The majority of the initiatives featured in the report took place in the least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), small island developing States (SIDS) or crisis-affected countries.

Case studies describe both moonshots and puddle jumps, including:

  • A spatial data sandbox to improve biodiversity conservation efforts around the world, implemented with the UN Environment Programme, UN Global Pulse, MapX, NASA and other partners;
  • A collaboration between UNDP and Rwandan organizations to test local community sensors for accurate and timely early warning systems to promote climate and disaster risk management;
  • An eco-agriculture platform that channels big data on climate and soil to offer farmers in China personalized information on sustainable, environmental agricultural practices;
  • A project to measure multi-dimensional poverty using mobile data in Sudan;
  • A collaboration to design 3D printed prostheses, jointly developed with persons with disabilities in Honduras;
  • An experiment to improve efforts to prevent violent extremism in Sudan, using findings from behavioral science;
  • A trial to improve land registration in India using blockchain;
  • A trial to reduce the cost of remittances in Serbia using blockchain; and
  • A trial for a basic universal income in Serbia.

The report also identifies lessons learned from UNDP’s Innovation Facility, such as the importance of deliberate strategies to pursue distinct innovation objectives, including specific strategies for incremental improvements, transformative innovation, mainstreaming innovation and supporting bottom-up solutions. The Facility has also shifted from investing in great ideas to investing in diverse teams with appropriate combinations of skills. Moving forward, the Innovation Facility notes its aims to: go beyond incrementalism; test new business models; shift from risk management to risk expectation; design for growth and scale; prove the comparative advantage of innovation; embed horizon scanning and foresight functions; and unlock innovation to leave no one behind.

The Government of Denmark has provided support for UNDP’s Innovation Facility since 2014. The Facility has invested in over 170 experiments in 87 countries, created new partnerships, amplified funding for human development and helped scale new ways of working. [UNDP press release] [Report webpage] [Medium blog post]

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