Being Future Fit: Innovation & the Development "Mutants"
Over the last couple of years, UNDP Asia Pacific has taken concentrated on innovation with modest investments to encourage staff to experiment with new ideas outside traditional project cycles, challenge business as usual, and engage with new and non-traditional partners. Despite a few challenges along the way, the outcome has been very promising with tremendous success in terms of new user centric solutions prototyped, non-traditional partners engaged, media attention gained and a fresh thinking in the way pipelines are designed.
Early investments in exploring innovation took a hands-on, ‘learning-by-doing,’ practical approach to:
- Reframe policy issues and redesign programing by identifying key insights into the needs of service users (using methods such as ethnographic research, human-centred design, behavioural science and social innovation camps);
- Connect and co-design with leading thinkers, citizens, think tanks, private sector and organizations on the cutting edge of progress and development in key policy issues (using horizon scanning, crowdsourcing, online collaboration, incubation labs and challenge prizes);
- De-risk investment in-and enhance deliverability of policies by running rapid prototypes, parallel field tests and experiments.
In efforts forward, UNDP is continuing to push the boundaries by exploring alternative financing instruments through the establishment of the UN Social Impact Fund and experimenting with new mechanisms such as forecast based financing. They are also witnessing increasing demand from private sector partners on tech-for-good initiatives that allow for exploration of new use applications in development for areas like IoTs, VRs, ARs, UAVs as well as from Governments for Lab models to deliver public services through improved citizen engagement and collaborative design. Through their innovation ambassador program, they are continually improving in house innovation skills, to better engage with governments in designing the next generation of development solutions.