On 2nd September 2019 the UNDP Accelerator Labs was established in Sierra Leone. As part of a global network of 60 labs serving 78 countries, a team of three dynamic young people were recruited to lead exploration, solutions mapping and experimentation on grassroots innovations and solutions, and work towards accelerating learning and knowledge sharing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
In first week of September, the team attended an intense one-week boot camp is Kigali, Rwanda, to get orientated in our roles and to understand the tools and learning cycle to be used by the accelerator labs. A team member stated, “as we have grown up and lived in Freetown all our lives, Kigali as a location for the bootcamp was very inspiring. Freetown and Kigali share similarities especially in their green scenery and beautiful hilly landscape. She went on to say, “however, this is where the comparisons end. The impeccable planning and cleanliness of Kigali is what left the biggest impression on the team. You think to yourself, how is this possible? How was this done? What can we as ‘Freetonians’ learn from this? Can it be replicated? This is our challenge!”.
On our return to Sierra Leone, the Acc Lab team has been putting in motion the groundwork to establish collaborative partnerships with strategic partners from Government, UN Agencies and the Private Sector. The ability of the Lab to innovatively speed up learning and affect change will be dependent on mobilizing a collaborative effort to ensure key developmental challenges are understood, local solutions are found, tested and up-scaled.
The Acc Lab team in collaboration with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation in the Office of the President and other ‘technovation’ partners will be conducting an exercise to understand the entrepreneurship and digital innovation landscape in Sierra Leone, culminating in the development of an extensive and interactive ecosystem map. In tandem with the collaborative national exercise, the Lab has begun a nationwide grassroots solution mapping exercise. The Team will design a structured way for the database to be regularly updated as new ideas are formed in communities. This information will feed into the national ecosystem map.
The Acc Lab team has also initiated discussions with UNICEF in Sierra Leone on the recently signed MOU between both agencies in a “Call To Action” to explore existing and new innovative ideas and solutions that could be jointly implemented to have wider coverage and make a bigger impact.
The Team has also organized a Social Good Summit (SGS) 2019 as another way of sourcing local solutions and ideas that could be experimented on. The SGS in Sierra Leone was organized by UNDP in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and national youth commission as a National Youth Innovation Competition. This year’s edition was the sixth and this year’s event global theme is ‘combating climate change: we only have one planet let’s rally to save it’, locally the theme was ‘Na wan environment wi gεt, leh wi join an for protεkt am’. This theme couldn’t be better suited to Sierra Leone’s context and the current global challenges resulting from climate change.
The official launch of the UNDP Accelerator Labs in Sierra Leone also took place October. The launch was another platform for building relationships and partnerships. We would like to encourage partners that would like to learn more about what the lab is about and how we could collaborate to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.