All in UNDP

A fair deal for Ecuadorian cocoa farmers

Who can imagine Valentine’s Day without bon-bons, or Easter without chocolate eggs? Yet generations-old cocoa farming businesses are on the verge of collapse in the Amazon because cocoa farmers don’t receive fair pay for their work. Using blockchain technology, the United Nations Development Programme in Ecuador, AltFinLab and Amsterdam’s FairChain Foundation are developing the world’s first blockchain shared-value chocolate.

United Nations Secretary-General launches task force on digital financing of Sustainable Development Goals

Secretary-General António Guterres announced the launch of a global task force charged with recommending strategies to harness the potential of financial technology to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. “We have already seen how technology has helped expand financial inclusion—itself an important goal—by 1.2 billion people in just six years,” said Mr. Guterres. “But we have only just begun to tap the potential of digital finance and investment to meet the broader agenda set forth in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.”

Moon shots, missions and mainstreaming

To protect this planet and create prosperity for all, we need moon shots and puddle jumps. The newly-released 2017–2018 Annual Review of the UNDP Innovation Facility under the same title calls for deliberate investments in different forms of innovation. Coined by Jason Prapas of MIT’s Tata Center for Technology and Design, moon shots refer to the transformative innovations and technological breakthroughs; and puddle jumps to important incremental improvements as well as efforts to address last-mile challenges. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are unlikely to be met without massive investments in different forms of innovation: incremental improvements, transformative innovations pursuing bold missions and bottom-up solutions.

However, a focus on unlocking innovation for the 2030 Agenda is not enough. Governments and development organizations need to invest in anticipatory innovation: addressing potential future risks and liabilities by designing experiments to explore them today. This is particularly relevant for frontier technologies and their impact on economies, on human freedom and our wellbeing. These are some of the key messages from the publication ‘Moon Shots and Puddle Jumps’.

Bottom-up, top-down and outside-in: Cultivating innovation at UNDP

“Our business — development overall — is to manage risk, not to avoid it.” In a recent call with development innovators, UNDP’s Administrator Achim Steiner emphasized that it is high time we shift from risk aversion to risk expectation. There is no alternative giving the scope of the 2030 Agenda and the existential threats humanity is facing. The Center for Global Development recently found that the SDGs are unlikely to be met by 2030 without rapid, ubiquitous innovation.

Since March 2018, Achim Steiner convenes monthly one-hour conversations with intrapreneurs from UNDP Country Offices. These virtual discussions aim at inspiring new ways of working across offices and cultivating innovation in the organization. In the complex process of transforming organizations, this signal from the top bears more significance than the first impression might suggest.

Can irrational humans create a sustainable future?

UN Member States gather this week in New York to discuss progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals during the 2018 High-Level Political Forum. One element will connect all HLPF discussions as it connects all goals: change.

To achieve the ambitious 2030 Agenda, economic paradigms, means of production, institutions and systems have to change. Human behaviour needs to change on a massive scale. But changing human behaviour is a lot more complex than it seems. “We are all far less rational in our decision-making than standard economic theory assumes. Our irrational behaviours are neither random nor senseless: they are systematic and predictable. We all make the same types of mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains,” stated behavioural economist Dan Ariely in ‘Predictably Irrational’ in 2008.

Innovation metrics for human development – what we have learned

Inspired by the recent frank reflection by UNCHR’s amazing Innovation Team on designing metrics for humanitarian innovation, we would like to share lessons we learned, challenges we are addressing and plans we have moving forward to measure the impact of innovation in and catalyzed by UNDP. As a short background: in 2014, UNDP launched its Innovation Facility to unlock innovation for better development results on the country-level and to help transform the organization. The Innovation Facility is comprised of a small core team of nine innovation advisors, with two based in Headquarters and the others operating from Regional Hubs in direct support of Country Offices and external partners. The key actors are the UNDP intrapreneurs and their partners in our programme countries who push the envelope and do development differently.

Who is writing the future? Designing infrastructure for ethical AI

“The future is unwritten,” stated Joe Strummer decades ago. It implied a message of hope for humanity’s future and a call for action. Today, algorithms are written that might pave the way for the end of humanity or for transformative progress.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has great potential and the time to manage its progress is now. AI strategies need to foster innovation, yet adequately address ethics, transparency, inclusion as well as biases. This was one of the main messages of last week’s ‘AI for Good’ Global Summit, convened by ITU in partnership with XPRize, ACM and more than 20 UN agencies.