Head of UNDP Africa at innovation and knowledge fair

Dec 2, 2013

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural RBA Innovation Knowledge Fair and to see a strong team with representation of all country offices as well national staff from the finalist country offices. I am also delighted to meet our awardees who are leading the way in building a better and innovative developmental approach. My warmest congratulations to you all.

As you recall, the Call for Participation in the Innovation Knowledge Fair that we have organized for this Cluster meeting grew out of the suggestion by some of you to have INNOVATION as a major trademark of this Cluster, and as a cardinal principle of how we conduct our business forward. The recent UNDP Global Innovation Meeting, held in Budva, Montenegro, 14-16 November 2013,  with “The Budva Declaration” if need be demonstrated the importance of innovation in the agenda of UNDP. 

Based on the findings of this meeting, we can clearly say that “innovation” is the new currency for development. Our approach is quite avant-gardist. This initiative, three months after its launching (from September to November 2013) allows our Country Offices to prominently showcase and share their innovations, success stories and development breakthroughs. Through the Fair, we want to recognize that innovation in UNDP’s strategic thinking and programmatic efforts is critical to supporting human development in Africa.

I am happy that we succeeded in what we set out to do with this year’s competition: to stimulate innovative ideas. Whether or not an idea/project is among our finalists, I believe that they are all thoughtful and worthwhile. I very much hope and trust that they will make it to implementation and achieve their ultimate aim: social innovation for development effectiveness. I would like to thank all Country Offices for their active participation in this initiative as well as the excellent coordination of the process by the preparatory Team, composed of Siaka Coulibaly, Georges Van Montfort, Nicolas Douillet, Marc Lepage and Ishmael Dodoo, under the leadership of Linda Maguire.

I must admit that the response has far exceeded my expectations. In fact the number of ideas/project/programmes we received – 52 proposals coming from 35 countries – is the best tribute that we can pay to your immense talent and passionate commitment to promoting social innovation, in our country offices and beyond, across geographic and professional boundaries. The creativity and diversity of proposals received is a demonstration of your commitment to innovation and of how innovation involves many different parts of our work on the ground.

Drawing on our unique approach and participatory process, we have learned that highlighting best practices and successes will inspire other country offices and provide benchmarks for what is possible to scale up.

The hardest part of innovation is making space for new ideas.  Many country offices are so engrossed in meeting deadlines that new ideas to increase effectiveness and impact can take a back seat to immediate needs. I would like to call upon country office senior management to create space for innovators to bring in new ideas, motivate staff and remove disincentives, create short term research and development teams at CO level to focus on turn-around. This process will certainly help to promote champions in our country offices.

The next step in this process is now to prepare the compendium of a total of 55 proposals we finally received as part of the substantive results of the Cluster meeting and which will serve as a resource guide for scaling up innovation solutions at country level.

It is worth noting that during the September 2013 Executive Board meeting, Denmark announced the establishment of ‘innovation facilities’ with individual UN Funds and Programmes. These facilities are intended to provide a flexible instrument to help develop and test new ideas and projects. In 2014, Denmark plans to provide 15 million Danish kroner (approximately US$ 2.67 million) for an Innovation Facility with UNDP. 

The Regional Bureau will work to leverage new funding from this facility while at the same time, through a competitiveness and innovation programme, we will institutionalize social innovation based on the positive experience from the agile prototyping process we just initiated during this first edition. Our work on the Innovation approach will focus on (i) Development programming (encompassing all thematic areas in which UNDP works); (ii) Organizational effectiveness and change management; and (iii) Delivering as One, the RC system and implementation of the QCPR resolution.

In this session we will hear different perspectives on the issue of innovation and its implications for our work in Africa. To start us off, we would like to show a brief video of the UNDP Administrator speaking on innovation.

(Presentation of Administrator Video: 3 min)

With these overarching thoughts in mind, I would now like to invite Magdy Martinez Soliman, Director ad interim of the Bureau for Development Policy to give us a sense of the corporate framework on innovation. Please also give us a sense of the outcome of the recent meeting on innovation in Montenegro, after which I will ask both Eugene and Ahunna, who participated in that meeting, to share their thoughts.

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