You’re viewing a version of this story optimized for slow connections. To see the full story click here.


UNDP Week of Innovation Action

Story by UNDP Innovation September 29th, 2014


What is SHIFT? SHIFT Week is an initiative of the UNDP Innovation Facility. It is a series of parallel events designed to shift ideas, shift the way we work, and shift people across the globe to learn from each other on innovative approaches to development and drive innovation between regions, countries and work groups. During the week of 22 September 2014, over 20 UNDP Country Offices hosted events with national partners, colleagues and external experts on a variety of topics such as gamification, crowdfunding, design thinking, hackathons, storytelling and open data, among others.

Follow #inno4dev to check out all the social media buzz from the events and UNDP’s innovation work. Also, take a look at all the great video footage from the events on at, which is constantly being updated with new material. And if you haven’t already, watch the trailer for the SHIFT campaign below!

armenia: open data talks

As part of the SHIFT Week of Innovation Action, UNDP Armenia brought together activists, data geeks, hackers and civil servants for a networking event on open data and citizen science. The event, called Open Data Talks (watch live-stream recording), involved presentations from Frank Kresin, Research Director at the Waag Society, Samvel Martirosyan, Dean of Yerevan Branch of the Awesome Foundation, and Ron Salaj, Digital Lead at UNICEF‘s Innovations Lab in Kosovo.

The participants discussed open data and citizen science both within Armenia and beyond. Frank Kresin highlighted the Smart Citizen Platform as an example of citizen-led data collection on urban environmental issues. He contrasted this with the smart cities approach, which, according to Frank, does not sufficiently encourage self-organization. Samvel Martirosyan brought the conversation closer to home by highlighting the existing open data sets available in Armenia. Samvel noted that the issue is not the availability of data, but the lack of knowledge among journalists and CSOs concerning its application. Finally, Ron Salaj discussed his work fostering citizen science in Kosovo. Ron highlighted that 90 percent of the initiative is based on participant inspiration and only 10 percent focused tech and data.

The SHIFT week kicked off the first in what we hope will become a series of networking events on open data and citizen science. Follow #HyCitSci for updates


belarus: Hack 4 social change

On 20-21 September 2014, social innovators, computer coders, designers, architects, tour guides, activists and more got together for the first-ever Hackathon for Social Change in Minsk, Belarus. Part of the Shift week of innovation action, the hackathon was actually a bunch of firsts. As one participant remarked smiling “This is almost certainly the first time social innovators and government representatives have ever even been in the same room.”

Thirty–six hours of hardcore designing, debating, programming, pizza and energy drink binging paid off the at 3pm the following day when the nine groups got to present their ideas to the jury. Three were to be selected, but all the proposals were awesome. From a robot guide for the visually impaired; to “bottle hunter“ (kind of like a Fouresquare for recycling); to an actual pyramid which would use holograms to educate people about HIV and AIDS – people worked through the night to showcase final (or near-final) prototypes. The winning ideas will go to receive support from UNDP in Belarus. I can‘t wait to see where they are in a few months.

Winner of Hack4Change challenge 2.jpg
Winner of Hack4Change challenge 3.jpg
Hackers at work.jpg
Winner of Hack4Change challenge 1.jpg
Motivated participants.jpg


The Burundi Country Office consolidated experiences in renewable energy, with the goal to launch a competition to identify winning solutions in renewable energy. Experts included a colleague from the UNDP Country Office in Bosnia, as well as an external expert in renewable energy competitions. Participants included development and environment experts, including a participant from Cameroon’s UNDP Country Office and government officials. Read the summary blog post here (in French).


china: south south knowledge exchange for urban solutions

China‘s SHIFT event, a South-South knowledge exchange and design thinking workshop held in Beijing, was designed as a bilateral country-to-country peer exchange event with the aim to introduce a new way of innovative thinking: deconstructing social issues (in this case providing social services to the urban poor), analysing the underlying problems and then equipping government counterparts with the ability to reconstruct relevant parts through the lens of their own situation to create a similar-but-different service model.

Attended by three city mayors, one CEO and a government secretary, the contingent from Bangladesh (watch opening remarks of the Head of the Delegation) was fascinated by how China had managed to successfully provide a myriad of services to a large section of the rural poor population. They were keen to explore the processes and drivers behind the One-Stop Service Centre and, through careful problem and situation analysis, successfully identified several areas where they might be able to implement a similar service geared towards their own situation. It was exhausting yet worthwhile week for all, and the contingent departed keen to try out the techniques they had learned back home in Bangladesh. Check out the daily blog posts from the event.

Delegations at the table.JPG

cyprus: designing innovative tools for social good

The team behind Mahallae, a digital platform for civic engagement in Cyprus, organized a two day workshop in Nicosia on September 25 and 26 titled “How to Design Innovative Tools for Social Good”, the event drew 20 participants from seven idea teams. Through a number of participatory hands-on activities, the Mahallae team supported the participants to turn their innovative ideas into sustainable technology ventures (watch live-stream recording).

From rapid prototyping to building a community of supporters, from effectively utilizing the “Working Out Loud” approach to developing user stories, the participants learned how to put the user at the center of the design process when developing innovative initiatives. The event was concluded with participants conducting pitches of their ideas to a local as well as global audience, utilizing web streaming.

Mahallae is a designed to help users contribute to social good using the smart technologies in our daily lives. It is supported by the UNDP ACT in Cyprus.

Group picture.jpg

egypt: using games to engage and shift mindsets

UNDP Egypt partnered with icecairo, the Engagement Lab and Misr ElKheir to bring together young Egyptians for three days to demonstrate the power of games to think about issues in different ways, talk about issues that are difficult to talk about, and have fun doing it. SHIFTers from three other UNDP Country Offices, all experienced in designing and using games for development, joined the event to present their experiences: Bhutan on youth employment, Cyprus on dialogue, peace and reconciliation, and fYR Macedonia on environmentally sensitive farming practices. They talked about the hurdles of convincing colleagues that games can be a legitimate response to serious issues, and addressed the challenges of designing games that actually work… who knew creating a simple board game is not so simple?!

On the first day, UNDP Egypt hosted an internal meeting with 40 staff members from the UNDP Egypt Country Office and the UNDP Arab States Regional Center to introduce games and play. This was followed by an open session with engagement experts from the Engagement Lab that more than 200 people attended in person, with another 125 viewing online, to answer the question, “What is Gamification?” (watch live-stream recording). There was a healthy dose of skepticism about what role games can play in the development context: “How can playing games possibly contribute to development results?” Throughout the opening sessions, the Engagement Lab experts and UNDP colleagues underscored the importance of games as a constructive way of reaching and engaging those who may not be so interested in the development process. They illustrated the ways in which games create a “safe space” to explore different points of view and build empathy for the “other.” They also stressed the importance of not underestimating “fun” as a design strategy for meaningful policy discussions and harnessing the energy and ideas of young people especially.

On the second and third days, a targeted group of about 50 people got down to the serious business of designing games for good; they addressed issues of climate change, education, health and harassment. It was an action-packed two days and by the end, there were nine potentially viable game designs developed. The Engagement Lab facilitators emphasized that this was one of the best groups they had ever facilitated, with the percentage of potentially viable games super high! UNDP Egypt looks forward to continuing its support of gamification for development and working with the young participants, icecairo and the Engagement Lab to bring some of these games to life for Egypt and the broader UNDP community! Let the games continue…

Male participant.jpg
Female participant.jpg
Group picture.jpg
Speaker in front of banner.jpg


UNDP fYR Macedonia linked SHIFT week with their first Social Good Summit highlighting the need to invest in youth and harness the power of technology. Speaking at the opening of the summit, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton noted, “The goal of the Social Good Summit is to bring together the most innovative technologists, influential minds and passionate activists with one shared goal: to unlock the potential of new media and technology to make the world a better place.”

This occasion also coincided with the launch of the Skope Green Route App which provides travelers in Skopje with all the information they need to plan the quickest, cheapest and most environment-friendly routes to destinations in the capital. Carbon emissions data help commuters to make the “greenest” choice.


georgia: design thinking for service DELIVERY

As part of UNDP’s global SHIFT week, Tbilisi was hosting a design thinking workshop on 26-28 September to help provide easy access to emergency assistance for people with disabilities. The workshop was organized by UNDP Georgia and the emergency service “112” of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, and followed a recent training by FutureGov for public officials on redesigning the user experience, as well as a trip by the 112 team to Ireland earlier this year to examine how technology can make emergency services more accessible.

The results of the three-day teamwork (watch live-stream recording) included prototypes of a new emergency service for the hearing and speech impaired, which showed how Georgia is making the shift: “Working with Georgia on its approach to service design has shown how ready the country is to think of new solutions from the perspective of the public”, facilitator Carrie Bishop explained, adding that “it’s exciting to see services being designed with the people who need them most, putting their views and needs at the heart of new solutions. “ Participants followed a simulation of an emergency situation step-by-step: from the initial call to the service delivery, in order to re-think how we could improve their experience. Amiran Batatunashvili, President of the Deaf Union, summed up the impression of workshop participants: “It’s exciting to know that our concerns will be heard and that our opinion matters”.

Group Discussion.jpg
Plenary Videoconference.jpg

haiti: citizen design jam for a roving innovation lab

SHIFT week kicked off in Port-au-Prince on 20 September for a 5-day event complete with design jams, inspirational talks, an innovation fair, 48-hour hackathon and even some graffiti. The LIDÉ project, “idea” in Creole, is a 12-month project of UNDP’s Innovation Facility. The objective is to turn a bus into a roving innovation lab for unemployed youth from the Fort-National area of Port-au-Prince. The lab offers a space complete with technology, internet and business mentors for these young people to help turn their ideas into micro-enterprises.

SHIFT began in Fort National with a team of seven computing students from l‘Ecole Supérieure d‘Infotronique d‘Haïti ready to hack for the next 48-hours. The goal is to create an app which will help facilitate the young entrepreneurs’ journey through the LIDÉ program. The students Worked Out Loud with the community, gathering ideas to help guide their steps throughout the hackathon and develop an app which is fit for purpose. The next days are filled with talks from local entrepreneurs who discussed with the community about the importance of entrepreneurship and how to create vocation among Haitian youth.

Then came the time to design the innovation lab, both inside and out. We were joined by architecture students who submitted designs to retrofit the inside of the bus along with the well-known Haitian graffiti artist, Jerry Moïse Rosembert, who transform the Bus LIDÉ into a work of art. For the closing ceremonies we were joined by the Ministry of Trade and Industry who has taken special interest in the LIDÉ project. Now with the community better familiarized with the LIDÉ project, and motivated through the past few of days meeting with local entrepreneurs, over 150 young people signed up to apply to hop on the bus. Find out in two video shorts what Innovation and Business mean to the youth of Fort-National.


jordan: crowdfunding for deveLopment

The SHIFT Week of Innovation Action also brought UNDP colleagues from eleven Country Offices together in Amman, Jordan. Over two days the UNDP group discussed crowdfunding for development: what are the entry points for UNDP? What lessons from past successes and failures in UNDP can be applied in offices exploring the concept? And what are the nuts and bolts of running successful crowdfunding campaigns?

UNDP Jordan worked closely with UNDP PAPP and the Knowledge, Innovation and Capacity Group to organize this event and bring together UNDP innovation champions with colleagues sharing crowdfunding experiences from UNDP Croatia (watch live-stream recording) and UNDP Lebanon (watch live-stream recording) who brought hands-on experiences as well as the Vice President of Indiegogo International, Liz Wald (watch live-stream recording).

The crowdfunding event in Amman resulted in a five concrete pitches and action plans that were co-developed and fine-tuned during the event. Over the two days, presentations from experts and practitioners went back-to-back with hands-on working sessions to put the content into action and further the plans of the present Country Offices to test crowdfunding. Watch this video short with some reflections of participants and take a look at this guidance for project managers.

Group discussion.jpg
Breakout groups.jpg

kosovo*: engaging for development

The Kosovo SHIFT event took place from 22-27 September, the topic being connecting and co-designing. The events brought together diverse audiences which contributed to addressing Kosovo’s challenges through their fresh perspectives and unique set of skills. The team kicked off with the Social Good Summit local meet-up in Gjakova which brought together young people interested in improving the environment in Gjakova (watch video short). The second activity was an Infographics Workshop for the Municipality of Prizren, which ran for four days, and combined skill enhancement for young graphic designers and development of infographs for the municipality (watch video short). In the spirit of co-design, for our SHIFT week, we hosted a group of children and engaged them in telling us how they want to be a more active part of the community.

The second part of our events focused on opening data, and we brought in Megan McGrattan from the Open Knowledge Foundation, to introduce the topic and share with us the wealth of their knowledge and international experience. From a public talk laying out the challenges and opportunities with diverging points of view of the panelists, to workshops with public institutions and UN staff on this topic, we teased out why it was worth opening data and how should we go about it. As a next step, we will be working with programmers and municipalities to visualize some existing databases over the next few weeks. Catch up on interviews with some reflections from the organizers.

*Referred to in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)

Day 2 Discussion.jpg
Day 1 Group work 3.jpg
Session on opening data 2.jpg
Day 1 Facilitation.jpg
Day 1 Group work.jpg
Day 1 Panel discussion.jpg

kyrgyzstan: using storytelling to create compelling narratives about development

At SHIFT Storytelling event in Kyrgyzstan which kicked off on 24 September, participants showed up in large numbers; around 80 people attended the event: UNDP colleagues, civil society organizations, government press secretaries and local media keen to learn about innovative ways to tell stories about development work. Led by the skilled facilitators of ReWork programmes, the workshop introduced people to key ideas on storytelling, with a very insightful keynote address from Susan Moeller (watch key note recording part 1, part 2 and part 3). Noting that “A good story is candy for the brain”, Susan explored elements of a good story drawing from various real-life examples used by international and non-profit organizations.

In the afternoon the spotlight was on UNDP colleagues: SHIFT-er Barbora Galvankova (UNDP Istanbul Regional Centre) shared her pioneering work on creating infographics on UNDP’s gender work in the Europe and CIS region and got many fellow participants excited about creating infographics (watch live-stream recording). SHIFT-er Gazbia Sorour, visiting from UNDP Egypt, wetted participants’ innovation appetites by showcasing UNDP’s Egypt various innovative approaches to development projects. Lucio Sarandrea from UNDP Kyrgyzstan got the crowd laughing and encouraged them to think outside the box with a truly good story about gladiators and public trials in ancient Rome and linked that to the art of storytelling today.

Inspired, participants used design thinking methods to create compelling stories about their own work. Participants created fantastic stories: several cool videos were put together on the spot (with some original acting, including by UNDP Kyrgyzstan’s Erkinbek Kasybekov), compelling Facebook campaigns designed and put up online right away, as well as blogs and infographics (watch live-stream recordings of the workshop and the final storytelling). All participants were in awe how using design thinking methods it was possible to quickly come up with very good stories. As one participant said “I never knew so many great stories were hiding in 1 sentence of a boring report” - a terrific takeaway from the two-day event on Storytelling.


moldova: space & culture - redesigning police stations

For its SHIFT event on 22-26 September, UNDP Moldova engaged with a local community police station in Chisinau to see how its space can be reorganized and the relationships with the people from community can be remolded to bring services closer to people, as well as promote greater sense of achievement for the police officers. This was done through applying design thinking techniques for which UNDP partnered with FutureGov and Studio TILT.

The policemen participated in a workshop to assess their needs and the issues they face. UNDP also engaged with the community and discussed with people at the local market and visitors of the police station their perceptions of the police and how a stronger collaboration between community and police could be forged. Based on the insights from both groups, a prototype of a community police station was built and tested, with the participation of officers and a group of community members. Finally, the conclusions and suggestions were discussed again with the policemen, trying to shift the discussion from “I don‘t have“ to “I can“ and making an emphasis on rearranging and opening available physical space, and using available resources, common language and communication tools to involve the community and strengthen the collaboration and awareness of the work local police is doing. The insights and suggestions will guide the refurbishment of the police station early next year and overhaul of the way policy communicates with the community.

Moldova1 - Design thinking conversation with local police officer.jpg
Moldova2 - brainstorming session.jpg


On September 26, UNDP Montenegro hosted the SHIFT event “Innovation Action for Social Good”, which brought together development experts, government officials, civil society, NGOs, technology leaders, and entrepreneurs in order to exchange ideas and experiences, learn from each other, and initiate a shift away from a “business as usual” approach (watch video short). Participants took part in an engaging debate about civic involvement in solving public sector challenges, learned more about the benefits of open innovation processes, and looked into the issues of youth activism and synergies between the business and public sector which could spur social innovation.

Kit Lykketoft, Deputy Director at MindLab, delivered the keynote address “Collaborative Design for Service and Policy in the Public Sector”. MindLab is a cross-governmental innovation unit headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, which involves citizens and businesses in creating new solutions for society. Kit focused on user-centered design of policies and services, which require these four shifts:
• Moving from random innovation to a conscious and systematic approach to public sector renewal
• Changing from managing human resources to building innovation capacity at all levels of government
• Shifting from running tasks and projects to orchestrating processes of co-creation, creating new solutions with people, not for them
• Evolving from administrating public organization to courageously leading innovation across and beyond the public sector.

Check out what participants had to say in these interview segments.

IM7   010.jpg
IM7   042.jpg
IM7   003.jpg
IM7   085.jpg

nepal: leveraging technology for social good

The Nepal Social Good Summit which was UNDP’s SHIFT event in the country, brought together IT experts, youth and parliamentarian who discussed ways to use technology to support farmers, students and schools and migrant workers. They emphasized on connecting development experts who understand social and development challenges with technology experts who can offer solutions. Parliamentarian Gagan Thapa asked the other panelists if they can help devise a technological solutions to improving quality of education in public schools.

As Nepal’s economy is dependent on agriculture, the discussion naturally was mostly focused on helping farmers make use of technology to reach their markets. Panelists shared an interesting anecdotes of how a youth entrepreneur is using technology to sell goats online to generate cash to expand his goat farm. Panelists have asked UNDP Nepal for a follow up discussion to start a design thinking process on some of the issues. Watch video short from the event.


rwanda: use of mobile apps for innovations in public service

UNDP Rwanda took advantage of the SHIFT week to explore using ICTs for public services by launching a mobile application competition on 25 September at the Think Lab in Kigali (watch live-stream recording). The winner of the competition will lead the development of a mobile app to enable Rwandan citizens to report corruption, provide information to citizens, and develop a service charter for public services.

The Minister of Youth and Information and Technology opened the competition and shared his dream to make “IT part of the solution for public service delivery” and make young people experts in IT and business to creating solutions to public sector problems. During the event, the Rwanda Governance Board explained that it was seeking a mobile application to improve its research in gauging the state of governance in the country. The purpose of the mobile app was determined by the results of the Rwandan Citizen Report Card, a powerful tool that collects feedback on the quality and adequacy of public services from actual users.

The event was a great opportunity for learning and exchange between different countries and Maksym Kluycha from UNDP Ukraine shared the country’s experience in developing mobile applications for municipality services. Having been encouraged to challenge the normal way of doing things, young ICT developers and University students explored how to use user expertise and feedback to drive the development of ICT innovations. The audience was able to learn how innovation can create new cost effective ways to do new practical things. or to make a previously failed idea successful. Bringing concrete problems to the table Troels Sorensen and Mamadou Konate from UNDP Cote D’Ivoire wheld a brief brainstorming session with the audience to explore what ICT platforms could be used to conduct polls that would inform efforts to improve community policing in Cote D’Ivoire.

The SHIFT week closed on Friday with a coffee learning session to discuss guidelines and recommended practices for using social media. In a final session the organizers encouraged innovation and the creation of new ideas by engaging a range of stakeholders in designing UNDP programmes and projects.

Resource person.JPG

sao tome & Principe: monitoring transformative impact on development programmes through polling

In São Tomé and Principe’s SHIFT event the UNDP Country Office event explored innovative polling methodologies with the goal to inform the development of São Tomé s national survey on “Monitoring transformative impact on development programmes.” The purpose of the national survey is to capture stakeholders’ perception on UNDP’s actions in Sao Tomé and Principe, and hence to improve monitoring of UNDP interventions and their impact. The event included break-out sessions led by a UNDP colleague from the Armenia Country Office, an external expert from VOTO Mobile, and Sao Tome’s national polling consultant. Participants included government officials, civil society and development experts.

Panel Chair.jpg

Seychelles & Mauritius: innovation lab

As part of SHIFT week, Seychelles and Mauritius hosted the 2014 Innovation Lab, a 2-day informal event which helped catalyze positive energies and turn them into concrete ideas for change. The event was a team building and networking opportunity that led to the preparation of several concept notes for further review and implementation. A colleague joined from UNDP’s Montenegro Country Office to facilitate sessions using UNDP’s Innovation Toolkit. Other colleagues contributed from UNDP Egypt , UNDP’s Regional Centre in Addis as well as from UNDP Seychelles. Participants included development experts from NGOs and government officials.



As part of the global SHIFT week UNDP Sudan hosted a Social Good Summit event in Khartoum on 20-21 September under the theme “Connecting for All, Connecting for Good”. Development experts, civil society, government officials, NGOs, private sector representatives, technology leaders, and entrepreneurs gathered to discuss how technology, innovation, and new media are being leveraged for social good in communities in Sudan.

Sudanese youth were invited to a technology challenge to develop technology solutions for social good and peace in Sudan. This contest provided an opportunity for the youth to enhance their entrepreneurial skills, showcase their unique and innovative thinking and receive the recognition they most aptly deserve. 15 - 20 of the best proposals had been invited to attend a preliminary workshop specifically designed to help explore ideas in more detail before the event on 20 Sep. A panel of Empowered Lives Resilient Nations experts from private sector, government, civil society and the UN convened on 20-21 September to review the proposals as well as results from a public vote during the fair, and awarded prizes for the best and most innovative projects.


turkey: design thinking in policy making and development

With 8.65 million people older than 60+years in Turkey and only 297 nursing homes with a capacity to nurse some 25K old people, the Ministry of Family and Social Policy has started to invest more for elderly services, the cost of which is increasing and requiring rapid action in policy making when it comes to social service delivery.

Taking the opportunity of the SHIFT Week of Innovation Action between 22-24 September, key policy makers came together in Ankara with social innovation actors, NGOs, Think Tanks, private sector representatives to learn, to think, to share and to act collectively on what should be done differently in social service delivery with a specific focus on elderly care. Unique experiences presented by UNDP Egypt, UNDP Jamaica and UNDP Moldova not only enriched the discussions but also encouraged us to stay connected and benefit from the lessons learned in different contexts.

Listening to theory and the basics of the methodology on design thinking on day one, participants were fascinated to see how design can support innovative solutions and improve lives with introducing new ways of social service delivery (watch live-stream recording part 1 and part 2). In day two, participants got their hands dirty starting to think thoroughly with strong debates on how to define the key priority and to create a good concise problem definition (watch live-stream recording part 1 and part 2). Participants experienced how hard it is to “keep it simple!”, but were also enlightened by interesting cases from Egypt, Jamaica and Moldova. Listening to he cases with specific innovation actions in different contexts on various areas participants found how easy it is to SHIFT (!) if there is a strong WILL and COMMITMENT on the ground. Day 3 was planned as a half day, but ended up with extended discussions on the results of the prototyping exercise. Watch the video interviews with reflections from participants, UNDP Turkey, FutureGov and the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Affairs.

UNDP Turkey, acquainted with new tools and having connected with strong key actors globally and nationally will take the lead to improving and to developing new and better service delivery models to take care of the elderly, and is looking forward to see actual results following this recent initiative.

2014-09-22 10.45.13.jpg
2014-09-22 11.18.18.jpg
2014-09-22 15.58.00.jpg

zimbabwe: technology 4 development

The Zimbabwe Country Office hosted an event on Technology for Development, specifically to exchange experiences on innovation hubs and ICT4D from within Zimbabwe, as well as from other countries. The event showcased how technology for development can be leveraged to address development challenges and promote economic growth, as well as exploring the benefits of public-private partnerships. Breakout sessions focused on identifying entry points for innovation hubs and ICT4D, with a specific focus on youth employment, agriculture & food security. The Executive Director of BongoHive led lively sessions, along with contributions from Rwanda CO, the RSC in Ethiopia, as well as a representative from an innovation hub in Botswana. Participants included civil society, government officials, and the private sector.