Hunting Black Swans

26 Jun 2014

imageNesta fast idea generation tool

By Bradley Busetto and Kathy Leach

The nature of global development challenges has changed dramatically.  While the foci remain the same – such as poverty and climate change – their pace and interconnectedness have caught many off guard.

Unpredictable events – so called “black swans” – are becoming increasingly common.  Look no further than the frequency and unpredictability of natural disasters for examples.

For this reason, old approaches are looking tired.  The idea that development was about poor countries just doing what rich countries have been doing is increasingly absurd.  Development is now a shared challenge for all of us.

Time to retool

So how do development agencies and NGOs retool in order to remain relevant within this rapidly changing environment?

How do they work with entrepreneurs, designers and local problem-solvers that often find very creative ways to overcome systemic challenges? 

How do they bring the insights of the disadvantaged, disengaged and unaffiliated into the design of projects, so that they co-create with citizens rather than design for beneficiaries?

Connecting hubs of innovation

Based on these questions, UNDP in Armenia is embracing many of the emerging toolkits for open innovation, and applying them to development.

London has had a disproportionate influence on this mission.  Whether through Social Innovation Camps, or behavioural insights, or service design, the connection to the UK’s innovation buzz is invaluable.

The DIY toolkit is the latest connection.  UNDP and the British Embassy in Yerevan hosted Brenton and Theo from Nesta and tested their fabulous tools with a collection of Armenian NGOs.

Even some of the most connected development workers walked away with something new.

DIY is here to stay.