BY Gina Lucarelli | September 12, 2018
My brother is a mathematician and on family vacations, he talks about data in multi-dimensions. (Commence eyes-glazing over). But as the family genius, he’s probably on to something. Lately, in my own world where I try to scale innovation in the UN to advance sustainable development, I am also thinking in 3D, or, if properly caffeinated, multi-dimensionally. As new methods, instruments, actors, mutants and data are starting to transform how the UN advances sustainable development, the engaged manager asks: when and how will this scale? To scale, we need to know what we are aiming for. This blog explores the idea that innovation scaling is more about connecting experiments than the pursuit of homogeneous replications. Moving on from industrial models of scaling innovation In the social sector, the scaling question makes us nervous because the image of scaling is often a one dimensional, industrial one: let’s replicate the use of this technology, tool or method in a different place and that means we’ve scaled. This gives us social development people pause not only because we can’t ever fully replicate [anything] across multiple moving elements across economic, social and culture. Even if we could replicate, it would dooms us to measuring scaling by counting the repeated application of one innovation in many places. Thankfully, people like Gord Tulloch have given us a thoughtful scaling series that questions the idea that scaling social innovation is about replicating single big ideas many times over. [Hint: he says scaling innovation in the public sector is less about copy-pasting big ideas and more about legitimizing and cultivating many “small” solutions and focusing on transforming cultures.] Apolitical’s spotlight series on scaling social impact includes a related insightful conclusion: when looking at Bangladesh’s Graduation Approach as one of the few proven ways out of poverty, they suggest that while the personalized solutions work best, they might be replicable, but too bespoke to scale. So if scaling ≠ only replication, how do we strategize for scale? I’ve got a proposal: what if we frame the innovation scaling question more about doing deep than broad? The scaling question becomes: How will we move from distinct prototypes managed by different teams at the frontier of our work to a coherent, connected use of emergent experiments in programme operations? Scaling also means moving from fringe to core Scaling innovation in a large organization like the UN has a glorious serendipity to it. Did you hear that we are looking into impact bonds in Armenia? What about the food security predictor in Indonesia? Nice collective intelligence approach in Lesotho. Blockchain is being used for cash transfers in Pakistan and Jordan. Check out the foresight in Mauritius. UNICEF is using Machine learning to track rights enshrined in constitutions. UNHCR is using it to predict migration in Somalia. UNDP is testing out social impact bonds for road safety in Montenegro. These organic innovations are beautiful and varied and keep us learning, but we as a UN system are not yet scaling in 3D. These days, I’ve been talking to people (my brother’s eyes glaze over at this point) about how to see various methods of innovations not as distinct categories of experiments, but rather as connected elements of an emergent way of doing development. Towards a connected kind of 3D. Yes innovation is more of an evolving set of disruptions than a fixed taxonomy of new methods, but if we narrow our scope for a moment to the subset of innovations which have passed the proof of concept stage, can we start thinking seriously about how they connect? [As an important side note, thinking in terms of taxonomies of innovations is not a panacea. Check out @gquagiotto’s slides for a more thorough story on how classification is trouble for public sector innovation because it means we limit our vision and don’t see unexpected futures where they are already among us.] Projectizing innovation without keeping an eye on the links among the new stuff won’t get us far, and might even be counter-productive. Instead, what would it be like if innovations were deployed in an integrated way? A bit like Armenia’s SDG innovation lab where behavioral insights, innovative finance, crowd-sourced solutions and predictive analytics [among others] are seen as a package deal. I am looking for collaborators to learn more about how are all these methods and tools related. Do they help or hinder each other? Are there lessons that can be learned from one area and applied to others? Should some new tech and methods not be combined with others? 9 elements of next practices in development work A few of us UN experimenters came together in Beirut in July to pool what we know on this. We had a pretty awesome team of mentors and UN innovators from 22 countries. We framed our reflections around the 9 elements of innovation which I see as approaching critical mass in the field. This is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start to moving these methods from fringe tests led by various teams to core, connected operations. Here are the “nine elements of next practice UN” we are working with: Tapping into ethnography, citizen science and amped up participation for collective intelligence to increase the accuracy, creativity, responsiveness and accountability of investments for sustainable development. Using art, data, technology, science fiction and participatory foresight methods to overcome short-termism and make sustainable futures tangible. Complementing household survey methods with real time data and predictive analytics to see emerging risks and opportunities and design programmes and policies based on preparedness and prevention. Building on the utility of “superman dashboards” for decision makers to helping real people use their own data for empowerment, entrepreneurship and accountability. Leveraging finance beyond ODA and public budgets by finding ways to attract private capital to sustainable development. Evolving the way we do things and even what services we offer by managing operations through new technologies Applying psychology and neuroscience for behavioral insights to question assumptions, design better campaigns and programmes and to generate evidence of impact when it comes to people’s behavior. Carving out space for science and technology partnerships within the UN’s sustainable development work Improving how we support our national partners in managing privacy and ethical risks Moving from “that’s cool” to “aha it’s all connected” We need to start thinking of these 9 elements as connected. It might be that they reinforce each other - whereby focusing on data empowerment gives meaning, context and legitimacy to the use of big data to understand behaviors and online activity. Or that they undermine each other - in the way that citizen science can undermine innovative finance pay-outs, or behavioral insights are helping companies get around privacy regulations. Looking for the practical connections, here’s what we’ve got so far: Collective intelligence methods that listen to people organically can help determine whether your behavioral campaigns are resonating. Because people’s intell is often more granular than statistics, they could also be used to test whether new forms of finance are making an impact on health, education and other development issues. Small scale and/or internal experiments in the UN to manage operations with new technology help us know what the next generation privacy and ethics risks are. Experiments in gray zones can then inform future-oriented regulatory frameworks. Keeping a focus on helping people use data for empowerment is a good northstar when using new data and predictive analytics to ensure that cultivating realtime sources of data isn’t deepening the digital or data privacy divide. Using foresight methods or predictive analytics can point to signals of where to invest with innovative finance instruments [Follow Ramya from IFRC innovations for more on this. Hence some early connections form a budding conspiracy theory! If you are thinking multi-dimensionally too, or using a few of these methods and see where this line of thinking can be improved, help me draw more lines on the innovation conspiracy board! [Or tell me why this is the wrong tree to be barking towards… That’s always helpful too.] We’re working on a playbook to codify what we know so far in terms of principles and methods for each of these 9 elements. Stay tuned for that... and please do get in touch to throw your own knowledge in!
BY Louisa Vinton | June 22, 2018
Sustainable Development Goal number 5 recognizes the need to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by 2030. As the UN Country Team in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, we have been wrestling with this topic and are working tirelessly to help national partners achieve the Global Goals, which have come with a series of challenges. Care or Construction to drive the economy? Our UN team in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been advocating for two potential solutions to the existing inequalities regarding the burden of unpaid care work. The first proposed solution is to promote an expansion in state-funded social care services, such as care for preschool children, the elderly, and people living with disabilities. An increase in care services should be seen as an investment that stimulates growth and creates new and better jobs primarily taken by women. For us at the UN, this is a very attractive equation, because doing the right thing is also the economically sound thing to do. It also provides a refreshing contrast to an entrenched belief in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that investing in construction work is the best way to use public funds to create jobs. Debunking myths about the care economy To prove this point, we did some data digging. Research conducted by UNDP and UN Women in Turkey helped us build a case on the importance of investing in social care infrastructure versus construction infrastructure. According to their research, social care investments could generate 2.5 times more jobs than investments in construction. So, imagine this: instead of a mere 290,000 jobs in construction, the same amount of government spending could yield 719,000 jobs in care services. And 73 percent of these new caregiving jobs would go to women, against just 6 percent of those in construction. Alongside this first powerful idea, we are trying to combat the stereotype that house chores are handled only by women. This conviction runs deep in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and men are let off the hook when in fact they could proactively step it up and share the burden of house work. To gain traction for these arguments, we made the idea of “care economy” the centerpiece of a high-profile UN-sponsored conference in June 2017. At the event, the new Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev gave a speech where he emphasized the importance of greater inclusion of women in the labor market and encouraged men to share more responsibilities at home. This high-level affirmation put wind in our sails, and the new Government has engaged with us energetically! Beyond the grandparent model of childcare Despite some research, our work has still been hampered by a lack of up-to-date data. The country has not conducted a census since 2002, and there are only a few areas in which gender-disaggregated data is collected systematically. For example, on workforce participation, there is minimal gender-sensitive analysis to explain the behaviors behind the numbers. This creates uncertainty as to why women are not more active in the labor market and why men are not doing more at home. We have assumptions, but we still need to test them to prove their validity or not. UN Women undertook a recent study on labor force participation. More than 3,600 women from 2,500 households participated. As expected, more than a third of those surveyed were not working because of care responsibilities in the home. There was no surprise here, but what did intrigue us was that conservative beliefs about appropriate roles for women seemed as big a deterrent to working outside the home. On one hand, women overwhelmingly saw employment as the key to an independent life. On the other hand, women seemed to feel that they were better at caregiving than men. This experience helped us to make sense of one of the findings of UN Women’s research. The secret, we concluded, was to offer care services outside the home that provided something more than a safe and secure kind of ‘human storage.’ This was clear, for example, in conversations with the mayor of a rural ethnic Albanian municipality with 25,000 inhabitants where UNDP helped to establish the first public preschool facility in 2015. The Mayor underlined the need to get beyond the “grandparent model” of childcare to ensure that preschool children enjoyed the benefits of socialization and early childhood education and can compete in the modern world. These findings also reinforced a new initiative by UNICEF to expand the reach of early childhood education programs. Since poorer families currently don't (or can't) access early childhood education opportunities, this expansion would overcome the current bias of daycare offerings towards well-off families and help to fight the intergenerational transmission of poverty. But here, too, demand would need to be stimulated, since so many families still believe in the idea of “grandparent care.” How we undertake these tasks will depend on the results of our quest for further data. We are pursuing three new lines of inquiry that should bring us closer to solutions: Is there a compelling economic argument for the “care economy” in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia? Our initial analysis looked at supply and demand trends for both childcare and eldercare. There are 96 institutions (public and private) with 4,655 staff providing early childhood care services to 34,386 children. However, 4,158 children were refused in 2016 due to lack of capacity. This suggests that the country is failing to satisfy childcare needs. The outlook is similar for care for the elderly, where social care options are even less developed. Currently only 20 institutions with 365 staff provide care for 1,050 elderly people nationwide. Is there a nationwide centralized registry that encompasses the full spectrum of preschools and kindergartens, elder care institutions and daycare services for persons with disabilities? The answer is no. We are wrapping up the first-ever national inventory of social care services covering all three different sectors: public, private and civil society providers. The results are still being analyzed, but it is clear that core populations are underserved. This is especially the case in rural areas and areas dominated by ethnic minority populations (Albanians, Roma and Turks). For example, under 4 percent of Roma children are in childcare. Why are men reluctant caregivers? UNDP conducted a survey to identify the main obstacles that hinder men from getting involved in care work with the hopes finding ways to initiate behavioral change among the male population. Next steps Once the results are analyzed and digested, our next step is to hold design-thinking workshops to discover what might encourage men to undertake a larger share of “women’s work” at home. We hope that these workshops will help us find volunteers willing to serve as caregiver champions or at least as positive deviants. UNFPA and UN Women have already built modest advocacy campaigns around these themes (see poster), and the UN team as a whole looks forward to campaigning in 2018 to break down the barriers women face to employment, and those that men face to caregiving. “Men can do it too” – UNFPA’s tongue-in-cheek campaign on gender roles and housework
Based on UNDG real-time IMS data, this global snapshot shows latest progress by countries towards the implementation of the Communicating as One approach. This Standard Operating Procedure requires countries to establish a UN communications group and a joint communications strategy to ensure a coherent approach to communications at country level.
Note: The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on the maps do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.