What we Learned About Testing a Platform-Based Business Model at the UN in Moldova
30 January 2019
Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women
Earlier last year, we were on a quest to test whether a platform-based organizational model would fit the new generation of UN Country Teams. A platform-based business model creates value by facilitating exchanges between two or more interdependent groups. To make these exchanges happen, platforms create large scalable networks of users and resources that can be accessed on demand.
If you think about it, we at the UN in Moldova have all the ingredients to apply this approach in our work. We have 11 agencies with permanent presence in Moldova. We also have seven agencies without an office in the country which contribute to national development— remotely or on an ad-hoc basis. While these programmes, funds, and specialized agencies have their own mandate, leadership, and funding, they do have one thing in common: they are seeking to drive progress in multiple development areas. So we thought, why not combine the UN’s diverse presence in the country to address multiple barriers to sustainable and accelerated achievement of the country’s development goals such as poverty reduction, reproductive health, gender equality and food security at the same time to help ensure a multi-faceted approach to development? This is our story so far.
Lesson 1: Our current system is too fragmented and requires re-thinking
One thing is clear. The UN aspires to support every country’s effort to achieve the 2030 Agenda. In Moldova, we believe that it’s important to redesign and rethink the way that people, ideas and resources intersect and interact to maximize the effectiveness of development assistance.
At the core of our work is our own effort to adopt the Delivering As One approach, where we focus on our internal human resources and their ability and skill to innovate, measure impact of the programmatic work and identify new areas for collaborative intervention.
What we did notice is that we’re very fragmented on several levels, including non-coordinated interventions, competition for scarce funding, difficulties to coordinate work of non-residential agencies, unclear boundaries of the agencies’ mandates, and the list could go on.
There are areas where we’ve successfully managed to work together as a UN Country Team. One example of this is the Gender Thematic Group. Through this group, agencies that work on women’s empowerment and gender equality meet regularly, learn about each other’s plans and programmes, and try to achieve more consistency and alignment through their interventions. The Youth Thematic Group is another good example because it’s meant for designing interventions that support youth and involve coordinated inter-agency work.
Lesson 2: It’s imperative to do a detailed analysis of the current situation using a systematic approach
With the guidance of the Resident Coordinator Office, UN agencies did a complex analysis of the current situation to scope out areas of cooperation between agencies. We also did a complex foresight exercise and an organizational network analysis to understand the current and future areas where our functions can intertwine and where a platform-based model would make sense.
After we did the foresight exercise, we discovered that there are several areas where it makes more sense for UN agencies and the UN Country Team to act together. These areas include migration and children, coordination of non-residential and residential agencies, collaborative interventions (joint work programmes and projects), leveraging existing partnerships and harmonizing business practices.
Through this exercise, we were also able to see that as the UN, we could take three possible and plausible scenarios of development into consideration to achieve the 2030 Agenda in the country and beyond. These scenarios are: The Future is Near (business-as-usual), Virtuous and Vicious and a scenario titled 'Transformers, as the third one.
Lesson 3: Not everything can work on a platform-based model
Taking a collaborative approach around specific interventions, functions or internal business processes requires adopting a new modus operandi. To ensure that these collaborative efforts are sustainable from both an operational and financial standpoint, it’s important to build strong relationships with the teams that you are going to collaboratewith, have a solid value proposition for local partners and have the ability to meet a need of a specific target group. It’s not all about the technology, but the people.
We are new to the concept of the ‘UN-as-a-platform’ and there are no previous or current business cases using this approach throughout the organization to guide us. What exactly can we put in platforms in the future? Can we build a platform-like collaborative ecosystem based on trust, mutual benefits for the UN agencies and partners on the ground? How do we build a strong value proposition to last for much longer that a usual programmatic cycle? These are some of the questions that we are currently trying to find answers to.
Are you working on applying a platform-based model in the UN? If so, talk to us.