UNDP Accelerator Labs Forge Path for Sustainable Development

PEMA TSHOMO
Thimphu

Recently, a unique experiment was underway. From July 2nd to 5th, 2024, Thimphu played host to the UNDP Global Research and Development (R&D) Experimentation Codification Fest.

This wasn’t a typical scientific gathering. Here, the minds at work weren’t researchers in sterile labs, but a vibrant tapestry of 57 innovators, researchers, and UNDP Accelerator Labs’ Heads of Experimentation from a staggering 53 countries.

With a mission to codify the very essence of experimentation, transforming it from a practice into a potent tool for tackling the world’s most pressing sustainable development challenges.

Through its expansive network of 90 Accelerator Labs, covering 114 countries, UNDP champions a grassroots-led approach to sustainable development. These labs function as open innovation hubs, fostering local solutions and amplifying the voices of those closest to the problems.

Experimentation lies at the very core of this approach, serving as the engine for identifying, testing, and iterating on promising solutions. Moreover, the Codification Fest wasn’t just about exchanging knowledge; it was about capturing the collective wisdom of these diverse minds.

Over four days, participants delved deep into their experiences, sharing successes, failures, and the invaluable lessons learned from experimentation across a vast array of contexts. Bhutan, with its rich history of innovation and focus on Gross National Happiness, provided a fitting backdrop for these conversations.

Sessions explored the unique innovation ecosystem of the host nation, delving into how public-private partnerships could further fuel experimentation efforts.

The ultimate goal is to create a codified framework for experimentation, a toolbox of best practices, methodologies, and guiding principles. This framework would serve as a powerful resource for practitioners within and outside the UNDP network, empowering them to leverage experimentation as a strategic weapon in the fight for a sustainable future.

As per a press-release, the potential impact of this codification is significant. “Imagine a world where development practitioners, from remote villages to bustling metropolises, have access to a proven approach for testing solutions before large-scale deployment. Imagine the countless resources saved, the lives improved, and the positive ripple effects generated by scaling successful grassroots innovations.”

However, the impact extends beyond just the codified framework. The gathering itself fostered a sense of camaraderie and collaboration amongst the participants. Ideas were exchanged, friendships forged, and stories from across the globe were woven together in a tapestry of shared purpose. 

As Mohammad Younus, UNDP Bhutan Resident Representative, aptly stated, the event served as a “great platform to exchange experiences, learn from each other, and share innovative ideas, knowledge, and solutions for tackling multi-faceted development challenges facing the world.”

The closing remarks echoed this sentiment. With renewed motivation and a wealth of new perspectives, the Heads of Experimentation departed, ready to carry the torch of experimentation back to their home countries. The knowledge gleaned and the connections established promised fertile ground for further innovation.

But the story doesn’t end there. The Codification Fest is just one chapter in a much larger narrative—the narrative of a world actively seeking sustainable solutions.

This narrative is fueled by the tireless efforts of the UNDP Accelerator Labs network, by the countless innovators and researchers toiling away on the frontlines of development, and by the unwavering commitment of partners like the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ), the Quarter Fund for the Development (QFFD), UNDP Core Partners, the Italian Ministry of Environment and Energy Security, and the Japan Cabinet Office.

“So, the path to a sustainable future may be long and winding, but with each experiment, each shared experience, and each codified best practice, we inch closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” Mohammad Younus added.

The Codification Fest stands as a testament to the power of collective ingenuity, a ray of hope in an ever-changing world. As Caren Blume, Deputy Head of Economic Cooperation and Development at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, stated, “The Codification Fest is an inspiring example of how global partnerships can lead to impactful solutions.” 

“The echoes of this sentiment will undoubtedly resonate long after the final session has concluded, propelling us forward on the path towards a more just and sustainable future for all,” Caren Blume added.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay graced the closing session for the global innovation fest held by the UNDP Accelerator Lab.

Prime Minister underlined the importance of innovation among developing countries, emphasizing for local innovation to find better suited solutions to unique challenges within localities.

“The one thing that differentiates a developed nation from a developing nation is innovation.”

He said the beauty of the accelerator lab network is that you not only innovate, but you foster innovation, you nurture innovation.

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