Brainstorming session on innovatives mapping. Photo: UNDP

 

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) launched the Accelerator Lab initiative early this year as the world’s largest learning network to catalyze innovative solutions to some of the complex development challenges of our time. By focusing on breakthrough ideas, rapid iteration and experimentation, UNDP wants to change the way it approaches problem-solving in Africa.

The Accelerator Labs in Africa will answer complex questions so that collectively we can better understand the problems facing people, countries, and regions, and meet their expectations for growth and prosperity. The initiative is funded by the German Cooperation and the Qatar Development Foundation, having the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and the NESTA Foundation for Innovation as  implementing partners.

Our goal is to implement programs and projects, and to invest and to manage funds for greater efficiency and effectiveness. Active learning is a key element of the network, and teams are seeking to unlock grassroots solutions that are empowering inclusive growth and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa Agenda 2063. The idea is to think outside the box and reimagine development for the 21st century.

To speed up the learning process, a training and exchange session was organized by the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa (RBA) to map up existing innovation initiatives underway in the UNDP country offices and chart a new way forward. Teams from across the region examined new approaches to discover solutions to the “wicked challenges” that arise every day in the process of economic and social development of African countries.

To date, 60 UNDP pilot offices around the world are involved in the Accelerator Lab initiative, including 27 for the Africa region alone. Other offices that do not yet have a lab in place also pariticipated in the learning event as they will create greater emphasis on innovation through existing projects – a clear commitment to apply the innovation principles to all levels of UNDP business structures.

The complexity of development in  the 21st century means UNDP must play a role in finding faster and more sustainable solutions to transform our world. This approach means applying collective solutions by introducing new protocols, supported by evidence and best practices. The global community will in turn collectively learn from local knowledge and expertise, at the speed and scale required by our societies and our planet.

Through this initiative, UNDP is putting innovation at the heart of its action and reinforcing our role as an integrator in the field of support for the development of African countries and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Section of participants
Cross section of participants. Photo: UNDP
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