Innovation for crisis
2019 I4C regional learning event: Innovating for collaborative solutions
‘Innovation’ has been the buzzword of the decade, often overused and at times misunderstood. In business, politics and academia, innovation has become the preferred term to talk about new, different and ground-breaking ideas. Similarly, the United Nations has embraced the concept of innovation to conceptualise, develop and implement programmes that are designed to overcome the challenges of our time and reach a larger number of people under financial and time constraints.
The scale and complexity of the Syria crisis and its impact on Syria and neighbouring countries is unprecedented and has necessitated a high level of innovation to reach more people in a context of legal, financial and social constraints. The crisis in Syria began in 2010 and continues till this day, resulting in one of the worst humanitarian and development crises of our time. Thousands of Syrians have been internally displaced, and 5.6 million have fled to neighbouring countries – Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Turkey currently hosts the largest number of refugees in the world with over 3.5 million Syrian refugees, while Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world, with Government estimates standing at 1.5 million Syrian refugees.
As such, UNDP’s Sub-Regional Response Facility (UNDP-SRF) for the Syria crisis, home to the UNDP-UNHCR Regional Joint Secretariat recognised early on the need to identify and take stock of these innovative practices. The Innovation4Crisis (I4C) platform was created in 2016 out of the need to establish a multi-stakeholder platform that encourages regional engagement around partnerships, developing collaborative solutions and the exchange of knowledge.
In 2019, the UNDP-SRF held its second-edition of the I4C Regional Learning event on 27 and 28 March at the Dead Sea. Supported by the Government of Finland, the theme of this year’s two-day event was Innovating for Collaborative Solutions.
With the participation of over 125 people from various UN agencies and I/NGOS from the region; in addition to the participation of 35 businesses from Finland, the event explored how UN agencies, and local and international organisations respond to the protracted Syrian crisis across the sub-region. It reinforced the importance of developing new partnerships and working across multiple sectors, particularly with the private sector, to ensure a well-coordinated response to the crisis.
Participants shared their innovative work, got to know potential partners, and generated ten new, joint solutions to the refugee crisis that meet the needs of: refugees, host communities, local businesses, governments, NGOs and international organisations. From developing affordable, decent, environmentally friendly temporary housing with an integrated WASH package to overcome housing and energy challenges; to creating a digital platform for trade that connects the supply chain in agriculture like “an Airbnb for Farmers” to strengthen and expand value chains, the solutions that were generated could be tested with minimal risk in an existing UNDP accelerator such as or thematic accelerators within the UN system.
Finland is a strong ally to UNDP in its advocacy and support for the resilience-based approach to the Syria crisis. As well as supporting UNDP country offices in both Lebanon and Syria, Finland supports UND’s innovation work at the regional level through its partnership with the UNDP-SRF since 2015.
To find out more about UNDP’s innovation4crisis initiative please visit www.innovation4crisis.org.