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.
When retail, humanitarian assistance and digital technology meet
The historical image associated with humanitarian aid is one of distribution points, long lines and bags of rice. But as the world evolves, so too does the assistance provided by the World Food Programme (WFP).
WFP strives to make food assistance a dignified and human experience, now giving beneficiaries in developed markets cash to buy food directly through the retail sector. Bags of rice have transformed into simple electronic cards which allow refugees to define their own food preferences at local shops.
In 2016 we prepared a Common Country Analysis (CCA) for Palestine. A CCA is UN speak for a detailed analysis of a country in preparation for a multi-year action plan of the UN. It identifies key development challenges and where the UN needs to focus its development investments.
For our analysis this time, we decided to look at people and we asked ourselves two questions:
- Who are the most vulnerable groups in Palestine?
- What are the structural drivers of their vulnerability?
Experimentation is a crucial part of innovation, and some would argue that there’s no innovation without experimentation. If innovation and experimentation are so closely linked together, before we can start talking about experimentation, we need to understand what innovation is. The big misconception is that innovation is about new ideas: as long as we have ideas, everything else will magically get solved. We associate innovation to colourful post-its and countless brainstorming sessions. Whereas searching for novel ideas is part of innovation and the process, it is not the real challenge and the most challenging part of innovation. Understanding innovation as “the best idea” is a myth and it’s not only a too narrow and simplistic understanding, but it’s also harmful.
Wawasan Satu Data: Applying human-centred design principles to data governance
A democratic approach to policy-making calls for reliable and timely information to ensure effective decision making. The Government of Indonesia in light of this has introduced the Satu Data Initiative to improve the quality of data governance, not just for policy-making but also to increase transparency with open data for citizens. Over the past few months, Pulse Lab Jakarta in partnership with the Executive Office of the President of Indonesia (KSP) have been applying human centred design to model a data governance framework at the local government level. In this post, we discuss how five primary components of human centred design were integrated to help develop a tailored framework.
In our Year in Review, we’ve distilled countless hours of research, impact evaluations, interviews and number crunching — looking back at the people, partners and ideas that shaped an extraordinary year for the Innovation Accelerator. It features some of the global start-ups and WFP entrepreneurs we supported in 2017 and provides a full overview of our game-changing innovations, some of which will continue to grow in 2018.
When considering the need to develop agriculture in the world, to grow food for animals or people, the Sahara Desert is certainly not the first location that comes to mind. But it’s precisely here that such an activity is perhaps the most necessary.
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has sought to tackle this issue by setting up fodder production units in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, southwestern Algeria. These units rely on hydroponic agriculture, which means the plants are grown on a material that’s naturally inert, such as sand. The technique requires no fertilizer and enables the production of fresh fodder for animals in desert regions or areas where the soil quality is too low for agriculture. Only water is needed.
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.
Innovation is about diversity and inclusion. Stop with the gimmicks, catch up.
The title says it all. You either get this, or you’re pushing tech and getting your bosses to be excited about products with little success in sustainability, and missing opportunities to innovate processes and approaches.
Our version of the truth is, that if you’re not making innovation accessible, making it inclusive, and encouraging diversity, then you’re not doing what needs to be done to make innovation as effective as it should be.
Business Unusual Will Drive Africa’s Quest to Achieve Health Care for All
Africa’s quest for health continues to face challenges from a combination of factors such as natural disasters and pandemics, prevailing high rates of communicable and rising incidence of non-communicable diseases, sedentary lifestyles, road accidents, and greater population mobility. With the region accounting for approximately a quarter of the world’s disease burden and just three percent of its doctors, business as usual won’t work to achieve the future we need.
To achieve Universal Health Coverage, more resources will not only have to be mobilized for the health sector, but new partnerships must also be forged, such as the one between United Nations, the Government of Kenya, and technology company Philips to improve access to health care in hard to reach communities. New models of blended financing and impact investing need to take up the slack to address the scarce resources, which must also be used more efficiently and effectively.
Tech for Food wins big at the ‘Innovate for Refugees’ awards ceremony in Amman
Last month, Tech for Food was announced as one of five winners of ‘Innovate for Refugees’, a competition organisedby the MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) for the Pan Arab region. The competition, which is in its second year, is designed to attract the best tech-driven solutions addressing the challenges faced by refugees all over the world.
The team was one of 20 semi-finalists who underwent a round of training sessions and presented their work to a jury that brought together a number of key investors and business people. The five winning teams, including Tech for Food, were awarded $20,000 each.
Rebuilding Syria through innovation: Empowering Syrian youth to become entrepreneurs
Despite the limited transportation, perpetual security threats and bombings ravaging her adopted city, Leen Darwish, an optimistic 23-year-old woman, stayed steadfastly determined to continue her education at the University of Damascus and graduate with a degree in computer science.
And later this year, after the conflict raging across the country forced her to leave behind her life in her home town of Harasta, Leen will achieve her goal and claim her diploma. She is also hard at work launching her new app and web-based platform, called Remmaz, designed to teach coding throughout Syria – and eventually the Arab world, started through support from the UNFPA Innovation Fund.