Silo Fighters Blog

Five ways the UN is experimenting together in 2018

BY Maria Blanco Lora | May 3, 2018

Here at silo-fighting HQ, for a fourth year in a row, we are trying to incentivize the UN to innovate together. This is our annual moment to listen to how UN country teams plan to go beyond business as usual and model next generation practices to meet the demands of Agenda 2030. We love this time of year, as the proposals themselves are great intelligence on the front line, and we get to know the problems teams want to solve and what tools they have at their disposal to solve them. We were looking for joint efforts across UN agencies to innovate in the areas of data, behavioural insights, finance, collective intelligence and foresight. With thanks to our donors, these are investments in innovations which can either be scaled from one agency to the rest of the system efforts, from one sector or field to another, from one country to another, or from one geographic area to country-wide applicability. We are also funding UN teams that want to break new ground and test hypotheses for more proof-of-concept type innovations. The competition among country teams for the funding was tough, but thanks to our review team, after 100 proposals, we finally decided on 34 experiments and scaling efforts that we are thrilled to present in this blog. Data for preparedness, prevention and prediction Innovations in data was the most popular area in the proposals this year. A good chunk of winning pitches focus on new ways of gathering and analysing data to allow countries better prepare and respond to natural disasters along with citizen-generated data for predictive analytics.   In the Pacific, the UN country team in Samoa, will use new technologies to analyse households preparedness to cyclones, while Fiji will be scaling VAMPIRE to measure the impact of cyclones through data mining and build predictive analytics. In Viet Nam, the UN team will develop digital tools to link baseline data on vulnerability and resilience to preparedness to long-term planning disaster recovery planning. To prevent food insecurity, the UN in Malawi will be using geospatial information to assist farmers and, in Ghana, the team will use remote sensing and drones to provide the government with timely data to respond to food security threats. In Iraq, crop productivity mapping through the use of mobile data collection and satellite imagery will explore new ways of measuring poverty beyond traditional surveys.  Sudan, PNG and Jordan will use participatory methodologies, based on mobile phone data, to test water and sanitation projects in camps for internally displaced persons to predict development investments and to look for future development trends.    The UN team in Dominican Republic will build on their previous experience to develop a national SDG data lab to integrate sustainable development into the development planning in the country. Also, Serbia will be developing an algorithm to assess the alignment of the national development plan and sectoral strategies to the SDGs. Last but not least, Uzbekistan will be using blockchain to improve public services testing whether this will reduce transaction costs and increase transparency. Ramping up participatory programming with collective Intelligence Lots of UN teams are trying to tap into the best collective minds in the countries they serve, with an increase in the use of  new methods and technologies to engage the general public in policy development, budget allocation and monitoring. Based on what we got for our call for proposals, UN country teams feel comfortable using mobile tech to tap into collective intelligence to triangulate data or test their hypothesis while undertaking planning processes. Albania and Mexico are using mobile technologies and social media to gather perceptions on the progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Digital tools, such as Rapid Pro, will be used by Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Somalia to enhance the dialogue with local authorities and, in the case of T&T and Suriname, to engage young people in policy monitoring and development. Colombia, through automatic speech recognition, and Lesotho, through open challenges, will also use collective intelligence for participatory planning and accountable governance respectively. In Senegal, the UN country team will be supporting community health workers with a real-time monitoring tool, SMS-based, to prevent health emergencies. Monitoring will be also the scope of the project in Honduras, where women will be able to share and identify safe zones in the city of Choloma through crowdsourced audits facilitated by a real-time data collection app. The UN country team in Iraq will engage youth IT developers and activists to harness the power of new technologies to oversee public investments in the documentation, conservation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country's cultural heritage. In China, the UN team will link up farmers with tech companies to find solutions to connectivity gaps among poor farmers and decision makers using mobile technologies, e-platforms and drones. The Pulse Lab Kampala in Uganda will advance their machine learning driven radio tools to develop an open software platform for the UN country team to enable open access to existing software applications developed by the Lab that will allow programme colleagues harness collective intelligence for their work.  The UN team in Moldova will be on a quest to experiment, test and fine-tune a platform-based organizational model to explore if this type of platform would be feasible in the case of the UN global mandate. Behavioural insights to meet people where they are 2018 was the first year we opened up to proposals in the area of Behavioural Insights. We will be funding initiatives to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse (Nigeria), to learn from devients to halt male violent behaviour towards women (Palestine) and to eliminate female genital mutilation/cutting (Mauritania). In Costa Rica, the UN country team will use behavioural insights to understand and tackle structural development gaps among the most excluded communities. Popular technologies in these proposals are social media, SMS polling, big data and the use of radio. Innovative finance to channel private funds to development UN teams in three countries will be experimenting with new forms of financing in 2018: Colombia, Somalia, and Armenia. Team Colombia will develop innovative blending finance solutions to support enterprises with peacebuilding impact in remote locations in the country. The UN in Somalia will set up open innovation challenges and crowdfunding platforms and the UN and the government in Armenia will be leveraging private finance for SDG-related objectives through social impact bonds as part of their SDG innovation Lab. Imagining possible futures and seeing the future that is already here To begin to use the future as a tool for development work today. Two UN teams will be using foresight and alternative futures as part of their sustainable development work. In Egypt, the idea is to build scenarios to encourage foresight dialogues as a tool to increase civic engagement to define Egypt's future. The team will make use of forecasting tools such as Three Horizon Framework and Verge Foresight Framework. In the same region, Lebanon will apply a participatory approach to foresight, asking citizens to contribute to a foresight exercise using a mapping tool.    Pinky swear: we promise to work out loud…. This work will be led by a growing community of innovators within the UN. We are proud to have colleagues from almost every agency working in the field leading these innovations and we are aware that there are many more out there. The idea is to connect and learn from each other, so we are looking for mentors to help us (data scientists, human-centered design, machine-learning among others. Webinars and our One UN Knowledge Exchange group will be our main channels to support our innovators. We will also tap into the UN Innovation Network. This was just a taste of the innovations that are coming up this year, for more, keep showing up to our Silo Fighters Blog. The UN innovators will be sharing their own stories in this space. And while you are at it, follow us on Twitter.     Photo: Trevor Samson / World Bank

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Getting real on leaving no one behind: Women’s periods and the SDGs in Nepal

BY Stine Heiselberg, Bronwyn Russel | April 19, 2018

Who are Nepal's most vulnerable groups, and how is their vulnerability similar or different from other countries? This wasn't a rhetorical question for the Inter-Agency Common Feedback Project (CFP), an inter-agency initiative of the UN in Nepal, but a must-know in order to properly structure their priorities for the 2018-2022 UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Key in answering this question, was to get in touch directly with those vulnerable groups and to listen to their experiences. To target the areas where there's a clear gap, we designed a community perception survey that would allow us to fully grasp why certain populations are falling behind in development progress, and most importantly, to help them catch up. We spoke with members of the UNDAF thematic groups from various UN agencies to develop a questionnaire that would also help us amplify existing data sources for future programming efforts. As a next step, we selected districts by aggregating the Human Development Index (HDI) at the provincial level and identified the provinces with the lowest HDI. Then, we identified districts within those provinces and pulled the data that would reflect as many UNDAF-related areas as possible. In October last year, we mobilized 30 enumerators across nine districts (Kailali, Achham, Bajura, Muhu, Dailekh, Rukum, Mahottari, Sarlahi, and Rautahat) over the course of two weeks. A total of 1,800 respondents completed the survey. To get our hands on qualitative data, we also held 12 focus group discussions in targeted communities facilitated by team members of the Common Feedback Project. This helped to contextualize quantitative findings and provide greater insight into the survey results. Making sense of all the data Once we collected the data, we put on our investigator hats to analyse results and disaggregate overall findings by district, age, gender, ethnicity and occupation. We did this to drill down and pinpoint factors that may influence how people in different regions are experiencing development. By far, the most effective surveys were the ones administered and analysed without pre-existing bias or predictions, which is what we strived for. The final product was a 39-page infographic style report that breaks down the responses based on focus areas, including detailed analysis of the survey feedback.   Some UN agencies are already focusing more in detail on the results that impact their mandate which could guide their future work. Debunking cultural misconceptions One of the things that came up during the surveys is the practice of chhaupadi, through which women are banned from their homes, public areas, temples, and schools during their menstrual periods. According to our findings, this still remains a regular practice even though it was outlawed in 2017. To contextualize these findings, we held focus group discussions to in Dailekh, a district where only half of the population is literate, and the Human Development Indicators are extremely low. From the focus group discussions, we learned that school teachers often ask female students to stay at home for four days during their periods. This is a problem because school girls miss up to one fifth of the school year. Beyond this impact on education, the practice of chhaupadi has far reaching implications. A number of women die annually from animal bites, infections, and smoke inhalation as they stay in unsafe and unsanitary shacks during their period. The good news is that some communities are beginning to understand that this ostracizing practice is damaging and unnecessary. And with collective efforts to raise awareness, this practice can be eliminated. In the western district of Mugu, chaupaddi is now considered a thing of the past, in part, due to the investments at the community level to teach people about the biological aspects of the menstrual cycle and the impacts of excluding women and girls from their communities. In several districts in Nepal, UNFPA and UNICEF are providing life skills education to girls and boys, both in and outside of school. A programme called Rupantaran (which means "transformation") empowers and enables adolescents to become change agents in their communities.   What's next We are committed to giving communities a voice at the table from the very beginning of our planning efforts.  The Common Feedback Project team will continue to support the UN team to integrate feedback from communities into their development plans. As part of this effort, we are currently designing a new community perceptions survey to better understand the dynamics of harmful traditional practices such as chaupaddi. The data collected will inform UN joint programmes to eradicate these practices. We will keep you posted on our findings. Check back with us in the next few months!

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What 8000 Papua New Guineans have to say about sustainable development

BY Stephanie Laryea, Chika Kondoh | April 11, 2018

About 150 kilometres north of Australia lies the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. This young nation has over 1,000 distinct ethnic groups and more than 850 indigenous spoken languages. Of Papua New Guinea’s population of almost 8 million people, 80 percent still live in rural areas; and 90 percent of the provinces are only accessible by air or sea. Due to underdeveloped infrastructure, it's difficult to reach out to citizens that live in dispersed areas. About 30 percent of the population doesn't have access to mass media. If we don't know what citizens think about their country or what they need, how can we expect them to actively participate in society? Reaching people through SMS technology In our quest to find ways to localize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Papua New Guinea and learn what citizens think, we came across an interesting detail: when Digicel, the largest mobile phone network provider entered Papua New Guinea’s telecommunications market in 2007, it single-handedly opened communications to the most remote areas of the country. Access to mobile phones spiked from 1.6 percent in 2006 to 50 percent in 2016. Some of our colleagues at UN agencies are already using mobile phones to communicate with Papua New Guineans. In 2016, UNICEF launched U-Report in Papua New Guinea, a free social messaging tool that allows for anyone, from any community, to comment on the issues affecting them. UNICEF partnered with Digicel to carry out SMS-based communications to collect disaggregated data on a large-scale in a rapid, low-cost and interactive way. Drawing on UNICEF's positive results, the UN team in Papua New Guinea sent an SMS blast to 103,466 randomly-selected Digicel subscribers to ask if they’d be willing participate in a Sustainable Development Goal  survey. Around 8,043 people registered and received questions based on data gaps previously identified by the government during a period of 12 days. What we learned from 8,000 people With simple text messages, we collected disaggregated data from all 22 provinces, 89 districts, from women and men of all range groups in Papua New Guinea. Believe it or not, the oldest respondent was 79 years old! On average, 72 percent of the people who registered, answered our questions. The data collected suggests where interventions are required by the Government, the United Nations or other development partners. For example: 44 percent of women in the province of Milne Bay reported feeling safe on public transport, while only 16 percent of women in the country’s capital, Port Moresby, felt safe on public transport. A staggering 90 percent had witnessed the effects of climate change in their local environment 3 out of 4 said they had been affected by a natural and/or man-made disaster in the past 12 months. Disparities among provinces, age groups and gender, revealed that we need to shift from an aggregated approach based on macro data at the national level to a disaggregated intervention approach. Papua New Guineans want to be actively involved in civic participation. We identified that youth are vital agents of change; 75 percent of the population is under 35 years old. Harnessing the potential of Papua New Guinea’s youth and using their his to our advantage and using youth networks will be essential in advocating for the SDGs. The UN in Papua New Guinea’s ‘Youth Champion 4 SDGs’ have discussed the survey findings and have provided insights on potential reasons for the disparity seen in some of the survey results. To view the survey results in a quick and easy way, our partners at Viz for Social Good, a social non-profit organization specialized in data visualization, did an amazing job visualizing the data.  Click here to see the data in Tableau. Author: Simon Beaumont How we are using what we heard Together with the national government, private sector, multilateral organizations, bilateral donors, NGOs, and academia, we held the country’s first-ever multi-sectoral data workshop to discuss data gaps and identify available data sources among the stakeholders present at the workshop. We shared the SMS survey findings and the platform during one of the sessions. We also categorized the disaggregated findings into the four outcome areas of the new United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2018-2022  and shared it with the program priority working groups. Later this year, we will share our findings with the citizens of Papua New Guinea through mass media. Our plan is to use radio and newspapers to reach people living in rural areas and online/social media to target people living in the capital city. People will also be able to interact and share their concerns either by calling radio shows or using social media to discuss their views on key survey findings. With this, our hope is to raise public awareness on the status of the SDGs in Papua New Guinea. Next steps Reflecting on the use of SMS and mobile phones, the UN Country Team in Papua New Guinea will delve deeper to gather more sets of disaggregated data to establish a statistical model that will help development actors better target their interventions.  We will also look into mobile usage and demographic data, provided by Digicel, to build a platform of civic monitoring through SMS. This scaled-up project aims to push the agenda of area-based programming in the UN system as well as with relevant government departments, building on the findings that this SMS survey provided. Watch this space for more!

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We want to hear from you: digital forums and community trust in local government in Somalia

BY Isatou Batonon, Liam Perret | April 5, 2018

Good news and Somalia are words that rarely appear in the same sentence. The country is slowly emerging from decades of conflict and recurrent drought, and continues to be the victim of tragic terrorist attacks, the most recent and deadliest of which occurred in October 2017. And yet, there is positive news to report. Somalia successfully organized presidential elections in February 2017, a major milestone for a country that has long been plagued by political instability. Other signs of progress include the formation of new federal member states and, most recently, of district councils. It is the establishment of these local governance structures, which are closest to the population and best placed to respond to local needs, which offer the most promising opportunities for successful state-building in Somalia. Seizing opportunities and addressing gaps As the district council formation and local governance process extends to new member states over the coming months, the quality of relationships between local government and citizens will become increasingly important. A local governance foundation based on trust, cooperation and legitimacy is critical to realizing greater stability and security in the country. It is in this context that we, the Somalia Resident Coordinator’s Office/Peace-building Fund Secretariat and UNICEF Somalia, developed a joint initiative aimed at giving voice to community priorities and concerns, and stimulating dialogue between local government officials and their constituents in two key districts: Baidoa and Kismayo. Our Daldhis project is funded under the Voice pillar of the UN DOCO Delivering Together for Sustainable Development Facility and implemented through the Joint Programme on Local Governance and Decentralized Service Delivery, a multi-agency UN programme which supports the establishment of legitimate and functional local government across Somalia. We want to hear from you The in-depth consultations we held with federal, state and district officials at the start of the initiative revealed that, not only were these stakeholders wanting to hear from their constituents, but they were also eager to interact directly with them on the issues that citizens care about. District and state officials have generally been confined to the capital cities and been unable to conduct any outreach in the community. Drought-related population movements and low levels of access due to chronic insecurity, both of which have disproportionately affected this part of the country, have all posed challenges to stronger engagement between local authorities and their constituents. There is subsequently a real demand for cost-effective, accessible and open spaces for public engagement and dialogue. Public officials expressed to us their eagerness to hear from citizens about the quality of service delivery, security and public participation in decision-making. There was also interest in understanding the public’s perception of government efforts to integrate the large numbers of IDPs and former refugees who have arrived in Kismayo district in particular. While government authorities are the primary beneficiaries of this initiative, we and other implementing partners also lack the means to conduct real time community level surveys that can serve programme implementation and the needs of their government partners. Nuanced feedback gathered from citizens in pre-existing and valued social spaces can be useful in making the policies and services delivered by government and implementing partners more responsive to the needs of citizens. Establishing the interactive forum and building engagement As part of the UN Country Team, UNICEF, in partnership with Africa Voices Foundation, designed a research and citizen engagement initiative based on the community scorecard methodology. While this approach has been tried before in more stable parts of the country, the challenge in southern Somalia was to establish large-scale and inclusive forums for citizen-government dialogue that are unhindered by barriers of insecurity or access. Given the extent of mobile phone penetration and reach of radio in Somalia, it was decided to base the initiative around SMS messaging and interactive radio in Baidoa and Kismayo. Five radio stations were selected across the two districts – including a mixture of independent and government owned radio stations to ensure greater engagement public engagement and a diverse range of opinions in the radio discussions. Each week questions on service delivery, security, civic engagement and returnee integration are disseminated through radio broadcasts across the target districts. Citizens then respond via toll-free SMS messages with their opinion/perspective on the topic. These messages are analysed by Africa Voices Foundation to provide in-depth insight into citizen perceptions on priority topics, and how they vary by demographic group. In the first instance, this analysis provides the key talking points for monthly interactive radio consultations. Emerging themes, trends and illustrative messages are read out on air in conversation with policymakers and government officials who are given the opportunity to respond and interact with callers. The analysis also serves to amplify citizen voices as robust forms of evidence for decision-making. The first of two rounds of the scorecard exercise has recently been completed. The first set of questions have focused on citizen perceptions of service delivery, security and local government roles and priorities. 1,055 people engaged through SMS in the two districts over the first three weeks, with especially strong reach among youth (68% of respondents were under 24 years), IDPs, those in urban centres and those with secondary or higher levels of education. Key findings from analysis of citizen feedback show that: Men, older people and those with higher education and were all more likely to be dissatisfied with local government services than other audience members. The narratives used by citizens to proclaim satisfaction with service delivery often focused on perceptions of overall positive change in their environment, rather than predetermined notions of what government should deliver. Those dissatisfied with local government performance often discussed this in terms of government failing to live up to certain political values, whether they were transparency, fairness or abiding by Somali cultural and religious norms. They also mentioned a range of services that they perceived as lacking including education, healthcare, infrastructure and water and sanitation. There was a clear lack of consensus amongst radio audiences on which institution(s) should be responsible for security. Many voices pointed to the community and citizens themselves as being the primary arbiters of security, rather than any formal institution. We shared these findings in the form of reports produced in English and Somali with local authorities. We recently organized the first of two radio shows in Baidoa and Kismayo and included key representatives from local and state level government who were interviewed based on the concerns that citizens had raised. Radio and citizen feedback State and district authorities have reported being satisfied with the radio format as a way of disseminating their work to the public, and value it as a space to hear and respond to citizen perspectives on their work. They also see value in using citizen feedback to guide civic education efforts, particularly as the district council formation process intensifies in Jubbaland and Southwest states. Public engagement: A key lesson we learned is that an initiative such as this one should remain flexible and adapt to trending topics so as to remain relevant and build public engagement. Participation from the public and from local government officials has not been as strong in Kismayo as it has been in Baidoa. Kismayo district has been at the centre of ongoing political tensions between the Federal Government of Somalia and the Federal Member States, as each vies for their share of power and resources under the new federalism arrangements. Representatives of the Member States met in Kismayo recently to discuss their grievances with the Federal Government and this coincided with the first round of the scorecard. The airwaves were dominated by discussions about these tensions (and of the deadly terror attack that had just taken place), and this left little room for public engagement on the scorecard questions which focused on service delivery. While this can be difficult to achieve within the context of a small pilot project, a longer-term intervention should be able to tap into initiatives like the Somalia Big Data project implemented by the UN Global Pulse to identify and leverage trending topics. Technology: Using new technologies increases the reach and inclusivity of citizen engagement but it also comes with limitations: FM radio coverage is mainly focused on urban areas and use of SMS responses means that those with very low levels of literacy may be excluded. This is also reflected in the demographic breakdown of respondents, as described previously. However, the literacy barrier may be overcome in the future with the introduction of other technologies such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR). The reach of shortwave radio may also increase participation from rural areas. Findings: The nature of the SMS and radio-based scorecard means that it is not possible to gain a ‘representative’ sample of respondents from which to calculate statistics that can be generalised (e.g. x% of people believe that public services are of poor quality). However, this initiative seeks to unearth rich qualitative data that can provide the ‘why’ behind trends and public opinion that surveys fail to provide. Moreover by ensuring diversity in the discussions, and drawing comparisons between groups (e.g. men and women, IDPs and non-IDPs), it is possible to discuss how perception varies between them. The finding that women, younger and less educated respondents were perhaps less willing to criticize government performance than their male, older and more educated counterparts was of particular interest to government officials as it suggests the need for greater engagement with this segment of the population in order to solicit and respond to their feedback. Radio stations and citizen-state dialogue: This is the first time that government-run radio stations are engaging in an initiative such as this one in Somalia. The project is providing an opportunity to build the capacity of these radio stations and strengthen their role as facilitators of citizen-state dialogue and cooperation. The space we created through SMS and radio has also opened up opportunities for citizens to discuss issues that fall outside of the scope of the intervention. For example, a number of messages have focused on Somali values and government’s relationship with al-Shabaab. This suggests that there is real potential for such an initiative to promote broader debate and dialogue in Somali society. As we move  into the second and final round of questions and radio shows focusing on citizen engagement and reintegration issues, there will be more opportunities for the Somali government and its development partners to better understand how constructive relationships can be fostered and sustained between citizens and local governments, as they seek to build the foundations for inclusive, effective and accountable local governance in Somalia. PHOTO: Internews Europe  

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The why and the how of Central America’s first all female hackathon

BY Alice H Shackelford | March 28, 2018

While hackathons are commonplace in some parts of the world, we wanted to try one in Costa Rica. Our first hackathon at the United Nations in Costa Rica was a chance to use technology to connect Central American experts in science, engineering and technology with sustainable development problems. During the formulation of our United Nations Development Assistance Framework for 2018-2022, we identified several challenges that Costa Ricans face daily: urban sustainability, waste management, security issues and a lack of mobility solutions for persons living with disabilities. Another related issue in Central America is the lack of women's participation in the digital tech space. Is there something that we at the UN in Costa Rica could do to create more equal spaces for women to unfold their skills in the tech sector? We think so! Bringing women and tech together To make this happen, we thought an all-women hackathon would fit the bill. We could work with brilliant women to come up with sustainable development solutions using technology. We linked up Cooperativa Sulá Batsú, The Center for Urban Sustainability, the Inter-American Development Bank, Google, the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Education, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research, CENFOTEC University, Universidad Hispanoamericana, Tecnológico de Costa Rica,  MIT Media Lab and Access Now, to organize the first female Central American hackathon and promote women’s empowerment. To join efforts means to go further! The way our hackathon worked 180 women from Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Mexico signed up for the hackathon. Interestingly, 60 percent of the ‘hackers’ came from rural areas. We organized a preparatory workshop on 7 and 8 October 2017 to discuss the problems we wanted to solve: urban sustainability issues. We also did some skills sharing about design thinking, prototyping, digitally based business models, and how to deliver an elevator pitch. Of the women who participated, 65 came to the face-to-face sessions and 48 connected via live stream. During the prep workshop we agreed on six goals: To promote an environment of mutual support, exchange and collective construction To address issues of 2030 Agenda, especially SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and SDG 13 (Climate Action) To promote gender equality and women’s empowerment by encouraging them to get involved in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) To promote the conditions for technology development from the perspective of young women in Central America To develop leadership conditions for young women in the tech sector To promote the creation of a technology network for young women in Central America Ready, set, hack!   We kicked off our 30-hour hackathon on 21 October 2017. For two days, women between 15 and 35 years old hacked non-stop at CENFOTEC University and the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (TEC). We divided the women into four categories, according to their age and technology creation experience. It was amazing to see how women who took part were pouring energy and creativity into their prototype idea. The Center for Urban Sustainability and the Inter-American Development Bank helped us to highlight inherent problems associated with solid waste management, urban mobility and public spaces. We also had Dr. Colin "Topper" Carew, the CodeNext Director from MIT Media Lab share his knowledge about technology and innovation. After 30 hours of coding, designing, troubleshooting, and a lot of coffee, the hackers came up with 36 prototypes; among these, 13 with a focus on solid waste management, 12 on urban mobility and 11 on public spaces. Some of the inventions were: A website and a mobile application that identifies insecure areas where assaults, harassment and kidnappings have been reported. The platform classifies the city into green, yellow and red zones indicating the safest and most risky areas. The idea is to encourage people to take preventive security measures and to help authorities develop actions to ensure the security of its citizens. A robot that maps the sewerage network to help local governments identify saturation and damage of the city’s sewer networks. The information can help the municipal governments in the decision-making processes linked to the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation. An app that provides bus schedules and routes for people living with disabilities. The app is connected to the bus service and has a "buzzer" function that notifies drivers ahead of time that a person with a disability will board the bus. This allows the driver to prepare the road vehicle and make it easier and safer for the person getting on the bus. The diversity of the innovations only confirmed the importance of creating opportunities for women to participate in the construction of digital technology. Betting on this project was definitely an awesome decision! Wrapping it up To mark the success of the hackathon, each team showcased their innovation to a high level jury from the United Nations, government, international cooperation representatives, civil society organizations and academia. The goal was to assess each project, evaluate the main successes, and make note of points for improvement. Instead of giving out an award based on rankings, the organizing committee provided valuable guidance that would help the teams advance in their work. Each team member received the same award and certificate.   What’s next? One of the key objectives for us at the UN in Costa Rica was to make sure that all teams would be able to finalize their proposals with support from the partners. It was also important to strengthen the tech skills of each woman that participated to ideally set them up for a successful university career related to the issues addressed at the hackathon. For example, our partners at Cooperativa Sulá Batsú invited the young women to be part of the TIC-as project, which aims to integrate young women from rural areas and urban areas in training spaces related to STEM, as an alternative to enter the labor market. The teams interested in finalizing their innovation can also continue to polish their proposals. For us, a huge indicator of success is that these scientists, engineers and IT experts  are now part of the solution to the problems that we face in sustainable development. This experience motivates us to continue working in innovative ways to work more in partnerships and to learn from the talent pool that is available to create sustainable solutions for real problems. The CENFOTEC University and the Tecnológico de Costa Rica established a follow-up strategy to create training spaces in the technology field and provide support throughout the admissions process to all the women interested in enrolling in a career in STEM. One area we haven’t  yet worked on, but would like advice on, is connecting women in STEM with catalytic finance. If anyone has ideas or tips on this so that the hackathon is a launching pad, do get it touch!

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Letting a thousand flowers bloom: An update from Kosovo on the Global Goals

BY Kotaro Takeda, Flutra Rexhaj | March 15, 2018

The UN Kosovo* team is on a mission: to bring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to Kosovo and to bring Kosovo to the SDGs. As we enter 2018, the Kosovo Assembly has just passed a Resolution endorsing the Sustainable Development Goals. Kosovo is a busy, complicated place, and its institutions are working simultaneously to achieve various development strategies (a Development Strategy, a Gender Strategy, the European Reform Agenda, etc., etc.), but they all contribute towards the creation of a more inclusive, sustainable future. We are pleased that Kosovo sees the value in adopting the SDGs and in using them to help power its own development agenda. The unanimous vote constitutes the natural conclusion of two years of “letting a thousand flowers bloom”. Given the unique political context in Kosovo, and other factors, the UN Kosovo Team has, from the beginning, taken a bottom-up approach to “seeding” the SDGs and preparing the ground for more formal activities to adapt and implement the SDGs. It all began five years ago with the participation of 9,000 Kosovars in the global survey “The World We Want” that helped to establish the goals. We are proud of the fact that there was Kosovar DNA in the Global Goals from the very start. Building on this initial level of public awareness, the UN Kosovo Team, with its partners, has been exploring multiple avenues for promoting and bringing the SDGs to life in Kosovo. Here are just a few of the many stories behind our approach of “letting a thousand flowers bloom”. SDG1 No Poverty: The Journalism Poverty Prize Poverty rates in Kosovo remain amongst the highest in the region. According to the Statistical Agency of Kosovo and the World Bank (2015), the poverty rate (those living below 1.82 euro per adult equivalent per day) was more than 17 percent, while the extreme poverty rate (those living below 1.30 euro per adult equivalent per day) was 5 percent. While many activities of the UN agencies along with partners have contributed to reducing poverty, none have been as successful in terms of raising public awareness about the persistence of poverty and inclusion as the Annual Journalism Poverty Prize. For the twelfth year in a row, the UN Kosovo Team and the Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) have provided professional journalists the opportunity to showcase their stories about the reality of poverty in Kosovo. The best examples (print and online news, video, radio, and photography), as selected by a professional jury, win the Poverty Prize. PovertyPrize-15 In 2017 we were joined by the remarkable artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa, who created a public installation of black and white photographs portraying prize-winning stories of poverty and social exclusion in Kosovo. The timing was powerful: Alketa was calling for Kosovars to vote to end poverty just as politicians were finishing a final week of campaigning prior to local elections. We had over 30,000 Facebook and 15,000 Twitter impressions that day. “Vote to end the poverty”- Alketa’s powerful art installation was mounted on the walls of the “Termokiss” building, (an Alternative Community Centre for Youth), sending a powerful message. “It is not so much about charity as it is about justice”, said Alketa. SDG 5 Gender Equality: 16 Days Against Violence Against Women Although Kosovo’s legal framework guarantees full equality for men and women, discrimination against women continues, resulting in inadequate protection for some basic human rights guaranteed by law. The 16 Days campaign began in Kosovo in 2013 and, since then, it has become the centerpiece of our efforts to combat violence against women. Every year, more people get involved and we must scramble to manage an ever-increasing number of events without diluting the impact of this unique campaign. In 2017, we were as always led by UN WOMEN, in partnership with the Kosovo Women’s Network, Care International, the Women’s Centre for Human Rights, the Assembly of Kosovo, and international organizations and missions, including OSCE, UNMIK, KFOR and EULEX, on more than 65 separate advocacy activities taking place across Kosovo to raise awareness of the need to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The highlight by far of this year’s events was the ballet performance “One Day”, performed by the Kosovo Theatre Ballet. This was a deeply personal story and a message of hope based on the experiences of a Kosovar survivor of domestic violence. This was another example of art and advocacy can mix in Kosovo, to powerful effect. It comes in the wake of the global success of the Bafta-winning short film HOME– a fantasy on the struggles of migrants, which was recognized as one of the most successful achievements in the region for 2017 by Al Jazeera. SDG 4 Quality Education: Podium, the UNICEF Innovation Lab approach to teaching the SDGs Creating environments where young Kosovars can learn about the Global Goals is another of our priorities since only the engagement and commitment of future generations will ensure long-term societal commitment and bring about lasting change. The Advocacy for Social Change initiative “Podium for the SDGs”, organized by the UNICEF Innovation Lab, UNV and the UN Development Coordinator’s Office, reached hundreds of young girls and boys from across Kosovo during its outreach phase. Later, over forty of them attended workshops where they learned to identify and link community needs to specific Global Goals, how to collaborate with peers, and how to advocate for their communities’ priorities. SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals: It’s Festival Time! The UN Kosovo Team continued to build on its long-standing partnership with the Dokufest, a world-class documentary film festival, in Prizren, Kosovo, to promote the SDGs. This year’s theme “Future My Love” was perfectly suited to Agenda 2030. We created a SDGs booth to allow participants at the festival to create a video recording of the future they want. And we helped to shed light on the boundless talent of young women filmmakers in Kosovo. UNV and the UN Development Coordinator’s Office also supported the 8th edition of Anibar, the annual animation Festival in Peja/Peć, where children were taught about the SDGs and were encouraged to produce their own animations around their favorite goals. In addition to working with these existing platforms for SDG advocacy and learning, we took the first steps in 2017 towards partnering with private sector around SDGs, with a focus on sustainability and partnership-building. More than 35 representatives from the private sector, UN Heads of Agencies, the American Chamber of Commerce, USAID EMPOWER programme and The Partnering Initiative contributed to discussions on leveraging partnerships for sustainable development. Setting SDG baselines 2017 also marked the first steps in setting up a robust data platform, to help inform the public and assist decision makers to monitor and report on the implementation of Agenda 2030. Gathering reliable data in Kosovo is always a challenge, but the SDGs represent a critical opportunity to promote synergies with existing efforts and to raise awareness of the need to further invest in improving capacities for data collection and analysis. What’s next? We’ve had a lot of fun so far, experimenting and piloting different ways to bring the SDG message to Kosovo. Now, with the Kosovo Assembly and leadership fully on board, it’s time to take stock and focus attention on nurturing those flowers that are blooming the most. In Kosovo, there is never a dull moment! * References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

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Crowdsourcing for Development Insights in Madagascar

BY Hasina Rakotondrazafy | January 31, 2018

Madagascar is considered a biodiversity hotspot. Besides its majestic landscapes, this island country houses 5 percent of the world’s most unique species and plants. Known for its rich biological and ethnic diversity, the country hasn’t escaped the consequences of climate change. Since 2016, the southern part of the country has been facing the impacts of a serious drought due to the climate phenomenon of El Nino. The critical situation of this region has led the UN to focus several of its interventions in this area, specially to work with young people. Partnering with youth Representing over 50 percent of the population in Madagascar, the UN recognizes that young people are a key pillar to drive the country’s development. Several UN agencies have been partnering and working with them for many years. To monitor our work and enhance our accountability to the people we serve, we invited participants of our projects in the southern regions of the country to answer an important question: How are we doing? With this basic question in mind, the UN in Madagascar engaged in a exciting exercise to collect their perceptions on our work in their respective localities and, even more important, collect ideas to improve the impact of UN future actions. We specifically looked into the following projects supported by UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, FAO, IFAD, ILO, WFP and WHO. : AINA: A project that aims to mitigate the effects of extreme poverty by reducing the number of vulnerable families experiencing acute malnutrition. MIARO: Which focuses mainly on the prevention of chronic malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of the child. Maison des Junes: Works with young people so that they can better express themselves and be agents of social change. Ex-Juvi: Seeks to reintegrate young people that have been in conflict with the law. MRPA: Helps protecting the environment while creating and capitalizing on human and natural resources to maintain sustainable development. For this exercise, we partnered up with the Madagascar Innovation Lab, a young and dynamic group that designed, developed, and created a just-in-time analysis and collection tool called Integrated Data Processing (IDP). The Madagascar Innovation Lab, which is creating job opportunities for young minds alike, has a staff made up of 50 percent women and people with backgrounds ranging from machine learning experts to business analysts that work together on many innovative projects, including ours! Gather, upload, sync and repeat To provide reliable, consistent and accurate data in a timely manner, the Lab developed a  mobile application which allows the data collection agents to upload the information. We also developed a website to make available all the collected data http://snu.idp.mg. Data collection practices have been a vital part of the life cycle of development projects for decades, however, traditional paper based data collection can be a daunting task as it tends to take several months to combine the process of data collection until conclusions in reporting can be reached. This can ultimately alter the decision-making process and could potentially affect getting a project off the ground. With this new project that we are testing, using tablets or mobile phones allows the agents to expedite the data collection process. The application can hold an unlimited amount of surveys and questionnaires written in any language, categorized by indicators, demographics, and other specifications. How cool is that!   Initial results During the last months of 2017, we conducted our data collection in the south part of Madagascar with the help of 80 volunteers from two youth centers supported by the UN. The exercise involved four major regions, four cities, and eight districts, reaching more than 17,500 people. During the data collection, our volunteers informed participants about the initiative and how the results will be used. Much of this southern region is located in remote areas, only accessible by jeeps with a 4-wheel drive, motorcycle, or on foot, therefore getting there can be an adventure. So, to prepare for our data collection process, the agents are equipped with solar panels and power banks, which ensure they always have access to power supply. For the most part, Madagascar has managed to provide phone and data coverage to large areas of the island, so even from the remotest locations, our agents are able to sync the data on a daily basis. This has allowed our information and communication technologies to be fully functional from almost everywhere. Month’s worth of data can be mined and analyzed in an instant which allows us to gain access to information on various social, economical and environmental aspects of life in Madagascar. Making use of the data Our next immediate step will be to analyze the data to adjust our future actions based on the needs expressed by the participants during the survey. While we embark on full data analysis exercise, we have already made available to the general public the data regarding the participant’s opinions on each the projects and their ideas on how they could expand to support communities in new ways. We are excited to know how to better serve these regions, often left behind by key development interventions. From a coordination point of view, we are interested in looking at the data with an integrated approach to identify new joint initiatives where UN agencies can partner - an essential ask from the 2030 Agenda. We are also planning to use the data to review or UN Development Assistance Framework, but a quick win will be its use by the two youth centers supported by us that helped with this exercise: more activities related to young people’s concerns like drugs, alcohol, employment, professional training, early pregnancy, corruption, could be added to their interventions...  And this is just the beginning! We know from reflections on collective intelligence work that most often the missed step is going back to the people who are consulted to show them how their opinions and ideas will be put to use. We are already planning some activities to close the feedback loop. You will hear more about that adventure in our next installment! Photo: MIL team photos taken by BLU Life One X2 phones.

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How art is helping us promote the SDGs in Mongolia

BY Mariyam Nawaz | January 17, 2018

Curious onlookers stopped to watch graffiti artists including Heesco, Dasher, Risky, Ulaambayar and Degi paint the old wall of the United Nations House in bright colours. Each art piece, a unique and positive representation of the 17 Global Goals. The urban art installation was the kickstart of our public awareness campaign on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Mongolia. Nine Mongolian artists helped us reaching the crowds: Sydney-based Mongolian artist Heesco, Ulaanbaatar’s female artist Boldbaatar Odonchimeg, Dashkhuu, Bilguunnaran, Ulambayar, Sodbayar, Tuguldur, Boldbayar and Enkhbat Michid. It was set up on the Mongolian Youth Day (August) and the wall quickly became a landmark; everyone stopped to take a photo or two. The masterminds behind the campaign was the United Nations Communications Group, a team comprised of all the communications specialists, from all UN agencies, working in Mongolia. Our idea was simple but challenging: tell people what the SDGs could represent to Mongolia and its young people, namely, because one in every three inhabitants in Ulaanbaatar is young. Going for a spin around Ulaanbaatar to learn about the SDGs As communicators, we know that a successful campaign is made up of different elements, and we started with the basics: we developed and distributed an action guide (in Mongolian) listing how citizens could contribute to the global agenda of Mongolia. This action guide, which is also available online, was printed and handed out at every event we held. The great twist of using this guide was that we got celebrities to join our efforts. Famous artists, journalists, models and athletes posted their photos on social media with SDG logos promoting the guide. Most of these celebrities were initially approached through a third-party media company who helped with the promotion of our campaign. With 1.1 million Mongolians on networks like Facebook, social media was a key channel to spread the word. Thinking back, collaborating with celebrities in the country was essential to the success of the campaign. In addition to the art wall, booklets, and famous people advocating for the SDGs, another highlight of our campaign was a big tour bus that stopped in three different parts of the capital city. We were inspired by the Belarus train. If you haven’t seen this amazing initiative, you can check the blog here. We set up a registration link for people to sign up online and, with the support of our UN Young Advisory Panel, selected 35 people to come along, as well as media representatives and performers. And the journey begins… On October 1 2017, our seven months months of hard work, came to fruition: 35 people at the UN House hopped on the SDGs-branded bus that looks like a bandwagon. The first stop was the Ger district. Staff from UNICEF, UN-Habitat and ILO greeted everyone. Young singers from the Music and Dance Conservatory Mongolia, Enhlen Altandul, and Tengis Tserenbat won people’s hearts with their outstanding  performances. Our SDG photo frame got popular and people lined up to take photos to share in social media. Meanwhile, face painters placed streaks of red, blue and yellow paint on children’s faces as they skillfully drew SDG logos on their cheeks. After the one hour show, we drove to the most central location in Ulaanbaatar; the State Department Store, where we displayed calls for action on big standees and an SDGs photo booth. Colleagues from UNFPA, WHO and UNESCO led the way at this hub. Youth organizations including AIESEC and the Centre for Citizenship Education joined and helped make drawings on the SDGs. A young baker sold cupcakes with SDGs logos on them. The famous actor, Orgil Makhaan addressed the audience and invited everyone to take part in the country’s development. The last stop was the Light Street, which was organized by UNDP, FAO and IOM teams. The UN Resident Coordinator in Mongolia, Ms. Beate Trankmann,  joined the public too. Small children from Kung-Fu school performed and the bus tour ended, successfully. To sustain the buzz, we placed sixty small billboards with “Your Participation is Important” as a call of action across the city for 15 days. The QR code on the board directed people to the action booklet. Our campaign ended on a high note on October 24, which is UN Day. For this occasion, we developed a SDGs Cartoon brochure that tells the story of Mongolia and the SDGs. People loved it. Through the combination of social media engagement and activities like the bus tour, flashmob, and the SDGs wall, we reached more than 160,000 people of all ages. Thousands of people were reached and engaged through outdoor events, display of SDGs message on billboards, online initiatives (33,769 people engaged through blogs and stories, 78,000 on Facebook and 52,900 impressions on Twitter) and distribution of material across the country through the National Statistics Office. Traditional and new media also played an important part in getting our messages across. Leading bloggers published their stories in Yolo and UNREAD. The leading magazine Mongolian Observer did a cover story on SDGs and UN in Mongolia dedicating 17 pages. The road to success   For us at the UN in Mongolia, this campaign was a combination of success and a starting point to continue the conversation around the SDGs. Everyone at the UN in Mongolia poured their hearts to make this campaign happen, our colleagues’ energy was unstoppable! One of the things that really inspired us and fueled our energy was the amount of people (more than 40!) that showed up and volunteered, one way or the other, during the different activities of the campaign. One of the key achievements of the campaign, besides the tremendous outreach and engagement of public online and in events, was the establishment of a “SDGs supporter network” of media, bloggers, young volunteers and celebrities in the country. A big challenge that we faced through this journey was finding common grounds for each UN agency to contribute to the campaign. Each agency has its own mandates and core mission, so we invested time in coordinating our efforts to agree on a campaign strategy that helped us create clear guidelines on key messages, branding, hashtags, visibility and roles/responsibilities. Having said that, by far the best thing of all was to see the way artists used their talents to advocate for our campaign. I believe that somehow, we tend to underestimate people’s capacity to understand sustainable development. Thanks to this campaign, I got to see firsthand how passionate people are about making their country a better place for everyone. Watch this space for more, we’ve got more initiatives in the works! http://www.un-mongolia.mn/new/

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From radio to theatre, bringing the voices of youth to centre stage in Lebanon

BY Alex Shoebridge, Kristine Najjar | December 13, 2017

When we last blogged in this space in May 2016, we wrote about our plans to support the roll out of the 2030 Agenda in Lebanon. We knew that engaging the public – especially youth – would be critical. As part of our approach, we didn’t want to come in with any pre-developed solutions, but rather let young people provide the answers, even pose the questions. We wanted to enable youth-generated evidence that could be shared with policy makers and linked to national efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. In 2016, the government wasn’t ready yet to engage on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Supporting a conversation with the public was our best and, at the time, the only option. It held the promise of generating better and less-filtered information, and creating new public spaces for citizen-to-citizen interaction to achieve the SDGs. Radio and theatre as a way to learn from young people in Lebanon Together with UNESCO and the radio station, Voix du Liban, we launched “Chabab Wa Tanmia,” a radio show produced and hosted by six young journalists that focused on bringing a youth focus to bear on the SDGs. Each week the show would cover a different SDG-related area . Young people called in from across the country to share their priorities and concerns. Subjects ranged from how to address smoking among youth (a widespread issue in Lebanon), to how to strengthen community services and support mechanisms for the elderly, and how everyday actions can help protect children’s rights.   On top of the radio show, to better understand the development perspectives of those furthest behind – such as unemployed youth or women-headed households – we collaborated with the American University in Beirut (AUB) to produce two case studies reflecting a broad set of consultations with Lebanese and Syrian refugees and other vulnerable groups. Employing playback theater – a type of improvisational and interactive theater in which people tell stories about their lives and watch them being enacted on the spot – helped people narrate the issues, such as corruption in hiring, and gender discrimination in all aspects of daily life. Theatre methods created an opportunity for youth to share their experiences and find common ground. It also meant that we, as the UN and partners, could learn from young people. One major takeaway for the theater programming centred on the need to focus on lifelong learning opportunities for families to support the development of youth. And now… a platform for government engagement These initiatives have been important for enhancing citizen-to-citizen interaction, and providing public spaces for people to express themselves. They have also been key to understanding some of the issues we should focus in the future. Having listened to more than 500 people in our engagement efforts, which includes those who participated in the radio shows, on social media, and via the national consultations spearheaded by AUB, we will be putting an increased focus on corruption, gender discrimination and child rights. Nonetheless, without government leadership we won’t have a platform to amplify what we have been hearing. Recently, the Government committed itself to working on the SDGs by establishing an inter-ministerial committee, which will be a key entry point for UN engagement in supporting the roll-out of the SDG agenda. The committee provides a forum to bring all ongoing SDG initiatives under one umbrella, which is a real opportunity to connect what we heard from people to political decision-makers. Together with the government, civil society and the private sector, we aim for our work to feed into a national multi-stakeholder consultation process that reflects the priorities and perspectives of those left farthest behind. People informing priorities As a result of our consultation process with youth, corruption, gender discrimination and child rights will be highlighted in our deliberations with the government and will inform our work planning for 2018. Things may shift in Lebanon’s current political environment. But the country has weathered many political storms – and it is not easily shipwrecked. We are hopeful that the work that has been done will lead to tangible results for the people of the country, and leave no one behind.   Do you have experience utilizing key findings from youth engagement activities and elevating them to the national level? What have you learned?

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How we helped the UN use #dataviz for social change

BY Chloe Tseng | November 29, 2017

Working in the city of innovation, San Francisco, I’m surrounded by big tech giants and people who strive to make the world a better place. Early last year, Helena Price, a Silicon Valley photographer, started a project "Techies." She interviewed and took 100 portraits of underrepresented minorities who work in tech. Her project challenged the stereotypes and encouraged tech companies to hire a more diverse workforce.   Her message “everyone can leverage her/his own strength to make a difference” inspired me to initiate my personal project #VizforSocialGood. I created a series of data visualizations that illustrate challenges women face and shared them on Twitter to promote gender equality. After giving a talk about #VizforSocialGood at the Tableau Conference last November, I received a great amount of interest from the audience in contributing their skills. Therefore, I decided to transform my small project into a community that helps mission-driven organizations harness the power of data visualization for social change. In the past 10 months, Viz for Social Good has grown into a community with more than 500 volunteers globally. We have partnered with several organizations, including the United Nations Children's Fund to visualize and increase awareness of the child refugee crisis; the United Nations Development Programme to analyze people’s views on poverty, inequality, and climate change to influence global leaders; and Stanford University to identify factors holding women back in science, technology engineering and math. Getting the conversation started with the UN Development Group During my quest to build partnerships with nonprofits, I stumbled upon the United Nations Development Group’s Data Visualization Contest sponsored by Tableau. I saw this as a sign that the UN was craving for data visualization, and thus I reached out and proposed a collaboration. In the first conversation with the UNDG team, I was impressed by their enthusiasm for data. I also saw countless, untapped opportunities for data visualization that could empower staff to carry out their missions. This conversation ignited my desire to bridge the data literacy and technology gap for the UN. That’s how we started our journey!   The fun and not so fun bits For this particular project with UNDG, our goal was to scope the UN Country Teams’ external partnerships and topics that they were working on in 2017. We quickly discovered that the data had 445 columns, and thus reshaping data was needed. We also learned that some of the value in the data were entered manually by staff, so the data was not always consistent. Therefore, it took us some time to “clean up” the data and make sure that the value is consistent across the board (for more details you can check Michael Mixon blog Anatomy of a Viz). Having said that, we truly enjoyed working with the UNDG team! They were genuinely curious about learning everything on data and data visualization (as proof, you can check the recording of our webinar where we got more than 200 participants!). Their passion was contagious and encouraged all of us to keep moving forward with this project. It’s certainly fulfilling to see how our visualizations have been used to educate people internally and externally, and have helped the team understand their own data. Check out the selected data visualizations by clicking on the images! Author: Neil Richards Author: Chloe Tseng Author: Michael Mixon Author: Lilach Manheim Author: Ivett Kovács Getting involved with Viz for Social Good First the good news: anyone can become a volunteer. Viz for Social Good is a community, not a competition, that allows everyone to enjoy creating visualization while making a positive impact. Each project is just like a virtual hackathon -- we receive a data visualization project request from nonprofit, we share the project with the community online, and anyone who is passionate about the social cause can jump in. People can then share their data visualizations on Twitter using the hashtag #VizforSocialGood. It’s always fun to see how each volunteer analyzes and interprets the same data in a very different way. To join the community visit: https://www.vizforsocialgood.com/  Our future plans Next year, for nonprofits, we want to scale our impact by not only designing visualizations for them but also strengthening their skills through presentations and trainings. Also, we would like to get involved with many other more social causes that we haven’t worked on this year, such as LGBT issues, racism, and wildlife.   For volunteers, we hope to provide them more growth opportunities through in-person hackathons in their areas. Our community mostly connects virtually, so we would like to have local events for people to get together, talk about a social cause, and visualize it. Don’t be shy, come and join our community!

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New voices to build Costa Rica’s future

BY Alice H Shackelford | April 26, 2017

We at the UN in Costa Rica are designing our  next UN common plan for 2018-2022 to support the Government in its efforts to achieve the Global Goals by 2030. To do that, we are following the crowdsourcing spirit of the new development agenda. We are trying to adapt our decision making  so that our new UN Development Assistance Framework is developed with the full wisdom of the crowd. An outreach strategy to leave no one behind To transform the national and UN planning we worked  with a clear objective: engaging those who are often left out of  mainstream development and public policy discussions. In Costa Rica, these communities are often indigenous people, people with disabilities, people of African descent , youth, LGBTI population, migrants, refugees, women (domestic workers and migrants), and children and adolescents. Our intention was to get to know their needs and demands, to know more about their perceptions in terms of development, and, most importantly, to build on what they know to make them part of the solutions. For this participatory journey, we partnered with the University of Costa Rica, specifically the School of Communications, to find the best methods to build a consultation strategy. This partnership helped us identify some of the building blocks for our outreach strategy: People-centered: The way we engage people will be customized to each of the groups that we will approach, i.e., language, accessibility, etc. Action oriented: When we do consultations as the UN, we must have a purpose beyond collecting the demands, needs and solutions; it should invite to action and "engage" people on promoting the 2030 Agenda. Complementary methods: Combine quantitative and qualitative to tell the story behind the data. Expanding reach: We need to combine two types of consultation: virtual tools which can expand the consultation to many people and collect data in an innovative way, and other more traditional techniques to reach the most excluded communities. Less is more: The online platform should be concrete, with a minimalist design that will allow users to swiftly engage in the consultation process. Messages should be short, concise and clear. With these blocks in mind, we moved to develop and implement our strategy to involve those communities that are commonly left behind. And our journey begins As a start we invited people, mainly individuals who had not participated in this type of consultation, to participatory meetings, where they could discuss the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a creative and interactive way. We consulted 400 women and me from traditionally excluded groups such as: people of African descent, indigenous peoples, LGTBI population, migrants, women (domestic workers and migrants),  young people, persons with disabilities, refugees, children and adolescents. We travelled to various regions in the country (San José, Caribbean South, Limón center and the indigenous area of Térraba) to reach these communities or otherwise they wouldn’t be able to engage in these dialogues. The kind of questions we ask are: What are your group’s demands regarding development? Do the Global Goals encompass your demands? Which SDG should be accelerated in the country and why? What are concrete actions that could be taken to achieve these SDGs? Who can we work with to achieve them? The people we talked to reflected on their experiences, shared their perspectives on SDGs and posed possible solutions to the identified problems. What did we learn? During the consultations, each group had their own specific priorities, but there was a common refrain: People in Costa Rica that we spoke to understand their rights and are ready to claim their fulfillment. Here are some great quotes from people we spoke to during these sessions acknowledging and demanding their rights: "Because of our geographical situation there is little access to specialized educational centers, barely a school, so in order to have an education we have to travel long distances or leave the community, and this is not always easy ... it is a lie that we have access [to education]." Young indigenous person from the Térraba territory. "The labour market leaves out a very vulnerable part of the population... us young people... We do not have work and we cannot find a job ... we end up taking whatever work we can get". Young person during our consultation. "I know many women who want to work, and are hardworking, but they either don’t get a job, they get paid scraps, or the salary is unfair for the job they do." Migrant person present at our consultation reflecting on SDG 1, No poverty. "Access to justice is not real... the stigma for being Afro still exists and when it comes to imparting justice there is a tendency to blame the Afro because of discrimination..." Afrodescendant from the southern Caribbean region. We hear these experiences and value them as important data. In order to gather more inputs during our consultation process, we also set up a web platform to share information about the 2030 Agenda and its goals, asking the people of Costa Rica to have their say in the priorities. We currently have collected more than 250 responses on the platform.   This crowd-sourcing process has impacted how we formed our development priorities. For the first time, the fulfillment of the rights of most excluded populations in Costa Rica, was made explicit in our UN strategic plan as one of the three objectives for the UN and partners to achieve in the next four years (2018-2022): Support to the Government of Costa Rica to implement the national agreement for the Sustainable Development Goals Strengthening Costa Rica’s public sector management Support most excluded populations towards the fulfillment of their rights To keep ourselves accountable, we are now thinking about how to share back with the communities the impact that their voices had on our planning process and how they will transform our future work for the country. Meanwhile we are already working on a monitoring framework for our plan. Towards public accountability The monitoring and evaluation framework is part of any UN strategic plan design phase. So, we decided to be in touch with these communities and other actors engaged in our programmes to check up on whether or not we are delivering on our promises. For that, we thought about upgrading our web platform and use it to monitor the UN programme in Costa Rica. When we shared our plans with the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy, their enthusiasm with the idea was such that they proposed to change the scope of the platform and use it as a tool to measure the Costa Rican government's accountability towards the achievement of the SDGs. Costa Rica is the first country in the world to sign a national pact with its people to deliver on the Global Goals in the 2030 Agenda.  And they are inviting people to have their say. Check it out.

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Taking pilots to standards: Marking 10 years of ‘Delivering as One’

BY Alexander Freese, Gerald Daly, Helene Remling | November 2, 2016

We’ve all felt the touch of coordination. Whether for a hiking trip, a wedding or a picnic in the park: planning together who does what, working on more challenging treats in a team (that barbecue, photo book or treasure hunt!) leads to better results than anyone could have achieved alone –  and it is always more creative and fun too! When it comes to complexity, organizing the activities of 32 UN entities with development operations in 165 countries and territories and a total budget nearing 17 billion US Dollars can hardly be compared to a picnic in the park. But still, coordination in either scenario is essentially about common sense, pooling ideas and resources. Underlying is  the conviction, that one needs to go together instead of alone to achieve common goals. In November 2016, the UN has perhaps a less known anniversary to celebrate. Ten years ago a process was initiated that put the common sense of coordination for better development results on center stage for the UN development system: ‘Delivering as One’ was born.  Aimed at supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, this initiative was launched by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006 based on recommendations by Member States to strengthen coordination and management of the UN development operations. Test, evaluate and standardize But what does it take to bring to bear the full potential of a cooperative and collaborative UN on the ground? ‘Delivering as One’ equipped UN teams in 8 countries with flexibility and resources to experiment and find answers to this crucial question.  Some six years later,‘Delivering as One’ was formally recognized by Member States as a valuable business model for UN development activities. Building on five crucial pillars of the UN at the country level, namely one programme, a common budget, one leadership, and to communicate and operate as one, the UN set off to formalise the approach. Mandated by the UN General Assembly, senior UNDG leadership launched a unique interagency process  to come up with  Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for ‘Delivering as One’. These procedures were to codify the approach and bring together the lessons learned from the pilot countries for the benefit of all UN teams across the globe. If you would like to return to the travel analogy, the ultimate survival guide for a successful camping trip. In 2014 the UN Secretary General and 18 Heads of UN Agencies signed the SOPs, making the SOPs document the UN guidance document with the largest ever number of signatures by UN leaders. We’ve learned a number of valuable lessons in this two year journey of reviewing, drafting and negotiating a guidance document that would help unite UN efforts on the ground. With Ban Ki-moon’s term ending and a new resolution to guide the UN development system underway, the UNDG is at an important crossroads and  these lessons could inform future UN change processes:  1. Maintaining momentum: Reforming big institutions takes time. But with concrete yet strategic requests such as for the SOPs, change can happen fast. New resolutions and leadership create momentum for necessary change that should be harnessed. Sometimes this does not allow for in-depth preparatory research, but this time around much data has been collected on the functioning of the SOPs at the country level, paving the way for speedy progress in taking the SOPs to the next level. 2. Co-create change with those who will implement it: The UNDG set up a dedicated high level group to develop the vision of the SOPs, and a series of working groups to flesh out technicalities. Even though the high level group included colleagues from the regional and country levels, due to the very ambitious timeline, little time was left to consult and communicate intensively with important stakeholders such as country level agency staff who would be the eventual implementers of the SOPs. This might have caused delays in the behavioral change required by UN staff at the country level. 3.Keep the big picture in mind, even as you work out the detail: Developing the SOPs was a technical consolidation of experiences with ‘Delivering as One’ At the same time it was a political negotiation as to what extent agency procedures would later align to the the new standards. The UNDG focused on the technical aspects, and could have informed senior leadership and communicated to its governing bodies better about the strategic goal of the SOPs along the way: A UN system at country level ready to provide integrated policy support and solutions to multidimensional development challenges as versatile and complementary teams and has the internal procedures in place to fully support it (e.g. to allow for truly joined upfront analysis and planning). 4.The plan-monitor-adjust loop: The adoption of the SOPs falls in a period of change for many agencies, with shifting funding structures, calls for reform of governance mechanisms and the Agenda 2030 that requires taking policy integration and coherence to the next level. The SOPs embody a whole-of-UN approach that mirrors the whole-of-Government ethos that is called for to find the ideal balance between the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda breaks new ground. In the same way, the SOPs allow for continuous adjustment of technical details while maintaining their broader strategic intent. To this end, the UNDG has set up a system to track progress in the implementation of the 15 core elements of the SOPs to allow for the analysis of bottlenecks and accountability towards Member States. Challenges ahead: Changing the way we work In 2015 the UN turned 70, a year that will always be remembered as a year marked by major agreements signalling a paradigm shift in tackling global challenges. But while it was an opportunity to look back, it was also a chance to look ahead.  To help us deliver on the universal and transformative 2030 Agenda, the main challenge going forward is to enable UNCTs to provide equally integrated support to Governments through fully implemented SOPs. We need to gather more evidence on the value addition of the SOPs towards the UN’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda, and in continued reduction of transaction costs and duplication in the UN development system. On average, 16 resident and non-resident agencies in each of our 131 UN Country Teams make an incredible breadth and depth of expertise available to  Governments and societies. They provide pooled expertise, policy support and resources at country level. The SOPs allow us to harness the opportunities inherent in this vast offering by the UN system. As the recently published first Progress Report on the SOPs shows, much has been achieved in the short time span of two years since the launch of the SOPs: They have contributed greatly to improved inter-agency collaboration and enhanced the strategic positioning and relevance of the UN development system at the country level. A growing number of UNCTs are now organized around results groups and the most advanced ones focus their policy capacities around joint policy products and joint work plans. Around one third of UNCTs are implementing, or are in the process of preparing, common Business Operations Strategies in support of their United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Programme Country Governments that have formally requested the UN to ‘Deliver as One’ are responding much more positively to questions on the UN’s alignment with national priorities, its overall contribution to development, and its focus on the poorest and most vulnerable people. The SOPs were agreed upon, signed and rolled out. Nevertheless, more time and effort is needed to fully implement them across all UN Country Teams. To realise the full potential of the SOPs, we also need to bring the required actions at headquarter level to the governing bodies of UN entities. Member States should understand that this change does not come overnight. Persistent follow-up is required from all stakeholders. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. As John Hendra, Senior UN Coordinator “Fit for Purpose” for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, put it we can build on the SOPs as the “floor” – for UN support to the 2030 Agenda at the country level. They are flexible and common sense principles of working together, transparently, efficiently and effectively. They also ensure government oversight and ownership, helping the UN to better align with national development needs and objective. In this sense, progress made in the past 10 years on ‘Delivering as One’ makes for a great campfire story perfecting a journey towards a UN that delivers better together. A story told jointly by so many UN colleagues from a diversity of organizations, based in countries across the globe, united by the UN values, vision and mission. This is an encouraging result from the 2012 quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR) resolution and positive signal going forward into the negotiations of the next resolution on the UN’s operational activities for development.

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