UNDP’s Innovation Group

Lats week I attended the second meeting of this group which includes representatives of most of the bureaux  – although RBx representation is on the weak side. We are invited by KICG to present the work we are jointly doing with BCPR which we are branding as governance innovations with ICTs in mind. The presentation went OK and we got a few questions. We intentionally avoided having a slide presentation but we also forgot to share the concept note in advance.

One item on the agenda was the endorsement of the workplan KICG had prepared (see Innovation_action_plan_updated_Dec2012, which is the latest version I received). I provided the following comments:

  1. Learn from others. Pointed out that we should liaise with UNICEF and other UN and donor agencies who have been working on this. Capturing their lessons learned and failures will undoubtedly help UNDP jump-start the process
  2. Differentiate between corporate and programming innovations. Although related (as the case if UNICEF demonstrates) the workplan should initially focus on one of these aspects before any cross-pollination happens. It seems to me that the focus is indeed there but the plan is not clear about this. Also, within corporate innovations, it will be ideal to pick some critical areas that need addressing, instead of having in hand solutions that apparently can be used to tackle current problems. We need first to identify the issues and then customized the solutions.
  3. CO champions. For the initiative to succeed, it will be critical to have CO buy in. In my travels to many COs, I have seen several innovators who are trying to do new stuff but are not finding any open doors.   Supporting then is thus critical as is creating a global network of “innovators”, mostly based in developing countries
  4. CO capacity. I shared the experience of an RBEC CO who was given an innovation grant to “crowdsource the national HDR”. The CO did not have the in-house capacity to move this proposal forward and had eventually to get external support to make it happen. There is thus need to assess CO capacity in advance to reduce potential pitfalls and failures as we move along. Innovation as a goal in itself can be risky
  5. In this regard, UNDP should also created a network of non-UNDP local innovators in developing countries, many of which are doing really innovative stuff to deliver basic good and services to local communities. These innovators will certainly be more than glad to join us and see their own initiatives scaled up and replicated in other regions and countries.

I also prepared this presentation (Innovation for Development?) which I did not share as the discussion was at a different level. The presentation makes the case for innovation for development and against the idea of UNDP developing innovations per se.

Cheers, Raúl


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