By Elias Mouawad, Head of Exploration at UNDP Accelerator Lab, Lebanon.

Within the same sensemaking process we had launched previously, we organized a third plenary session bringing together all 40 participants from the previous workshops and presented to them the findings of the international conflict advisor’s mission. These are the result of a series of meetings and discussions focusing on conflict system analysis and mapping, targeting a wide network of partners from academia, community-based groups, UNDP staff, experts as well as the donor community.

“Lebanon is facing a crisis estimated to last between 3 to 8 years, and UNDP plays a  leadership role in defining the new response.” Given this new reality, “We need to change the way we do business ”. While this will become our North Star for the upcoming phase, we can’t but ask ourselves: What does this reality practically mean? How do we go about it? What role do we play as Accelerator Lab?


First, what does this new reality mean?

On a strategic level, given the precarious state of the country, we need to rethink UNDP’s strategy through a conflict risk monitoring lens on the short, medium and long term. This implies mitigating imminent risks caused by the crisis on the most vulnerable, managing foreseeable tensions by engaging more and better with communities and partners, as well as transforming these risks into institutional & policy change on the longer run. The onus is on developing the future-looking agenda and the unique advantage UNDP has through its presence in institutions and communities as well as its wide array of partners.

On a programmatic level, this means recalibrating ongoing programs and realigning them with emerging needs and demands of citizens and institutions. Building on this experience, new programs will be informed, designed and developed with citizens’ emerging needs and priorities at their core. This fast-changing situation requires flexibility, responsiveness, and adaptability at the institutional level and thus, new working modalities need to be instilled within systems and teams.

Second, how do we go about it?

After numerous rounds of analysis and to monitor causes of potential tensions, we developed a conflict system map taking into consideration the underlying causes of the crisis, with, as a starting point, the demands and grievances that were voiced during the protests. This mapping allowed us to build a collective understanding of the interconnectedness of the system and the key factors that balance it and make it resilient.  

As the situation evolved, more elements were added to the conflict system map and new leverage points identified. These points allow us to roll out experiments and better understand how the system is affected. These experiments would contribute to 1) adapt ongoing interventions to better respond to the changing reality and 2) inform new interventions.

Emerging challenges are complex. Solving them requires convergence of efforts, complementarity of skills and knowledge and an inclusive process. Institutionally, creating platforms for collaboration across teams, portfolios, projects, and seniority levels is essential in achieving this goal.

Third, what role will the Accelerator Lab play?

The lab is running a series of experiments in line with the “Mitigate, Manage, and Transform” prism. We are finalizing an exercise for the group to develop the conflict-risk indicators and proxies, their measurements and relative data sources. These will be captured in a conflict risk monitoring dashboard that will serve as a reference to explore new projects or tweak existing ones. We are complementing this solution with a human-centered prototyping exercise for cross-portfolio teams to use based on their different use cases. Then we will be scaling it through onboarding a wide array of partners to add to it and use it as theirs.

Other experiments we are working on include mainstreaming anti-corruption knowledge and prevention tools, facilitating inclusive access to justice, and investing in safe spaces for support for women online, especially as SGBV cases rise dramatically during COVID-19 lockdown.

Through these experiments, we are introducing the Lab’s tools and methodologies, and supporting the different teams to gradually integrate them into their practices when designing and implementing projects. We believe that by doing so we will trigger a change in individuals, teams, and organizations. A change that will enable a larger and deeper impact on the people and communities we serve, setting the stage to the new way we do business.

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