This is a prototype. Please help the UNDP Accelerator Labs contribute to it. Contribute to this toolkit on Github..

Values and attitude


This toolkit was produced in the cultural context of UNDP’s Accelerator Labs and Chief Digital Office. It inherits their culture of deep listening, immersion within the everyday reality of the Global South, respect for grassroots innovation, openness, and epistemological humility. It does not seek to provide turnkey solutions, but to share the knowledge accumulated along the way, in the hope of making the task of supporting innovation ecosystems a little less difficult.

Support, nurture and take stock

Innovation is an important ingredient of development. It helps national communities find ways to confront new, emerging challenges, and new ways to confront old ones.

Innovation is rarely done in isolation. Behind any successful innovation stands a plurality of agents (businesses, government agencies, education establishments…), and artifacts (legal frameworks, physical infrastructure, market institutions, financial services…). This is why we talk of innovation ecosystems, using a metaphor from ecology. Just like with actual ecosystems, innovation ecosystems are healthier when they are denser (more individual animals and plants) and more diverse (more species thereof).

For this reason, good interventions on innovation are supportive and nurturing of national actors. Before you make a decisive move, it’s a good idea to take stock of what is already there. In this toolkit you will find resources to help you design and run a mapping exercise.

Don’t compete with extant actors

If you see actors performing a role in an innovation ecosystem, do not try to outcompete them. Maybe someone is running an incubator, or an innovation challenge; even if you think you can do better than them, it is almost always a bad idea to launch your own initiative. Rather than replace, add to the system: maybe provide something they are not doing yet, or launch an initiative to help them do better. This makes ecological sense; also, it makes your initiative more politically acceptable, and hopefully welcome.

Don’t try to control

Like all complex systems, an innovation ecosystem cannot be controlled. You are a contributor to it, not its boss. Listen, stay open, seek alignment, put actors in line of sight of one another.