Explorers, assemble!

Credit: Soroush Karimi/Unsplash

What we achieved

The Explorers Global Summit 2020 was the first of its kind, organized by and primarily for 60 Explorers but reaching more than 300 colleagues across UNDP. Spanning three weeks in December 2020, the Summit featured 12 core sessions and five region-specific social events — for Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the Arab States, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Summit took up a cumulative 27 hours on Zoom, bringing together colleagues across 27 time zones — quite a feat given our fully booked agendas, immersion in COVID-19 response, and the fact that this event was not part of any of our official tasks!!

Explorers Global Summit 2020 at a glance

What we learned

The embedded, unspoken value of the largest learning network on sustainable development resides in our ability to share and receive knowledge, skills and “ways of work” between countries, even continents, and localizing to fit our community needs. This network of explorers has proven to be of great importance to our local community, partners and UNDP in general. A committee of over twenty Explorers from all over the globe, organized into three working groups — Reflection, Data and Methodologies, and Partners and Stakeholders — worked hard over six months to make the Summit happen. Here are key takeaways from the three pillars of the Summit:

The design prowess of Explorers was on full display through various Mural boards created to facilitate collective sensemaking.
Accelerator Lab global recruitment campaign 2020 — same message but loads more learnings to share with the new cohort.

Where do we go from here?

It was evident through the Summit that our strongest asset is our community, a network of then-60 (now 91) Explorers. The big question is, how do we continue to strengthen this community, and to what end?

A network extending to every corner of the planet — from the Masks & Metaphors virtual social.
  1. Rethinking our Explorers’ interface: Explorers have been keeping in touch through bi-weekly calls, ably coordinated by Leyla Seyidzade, our Explorer in UNDP Azerbaijan. Throughout 2020, these calls were treated as an open space where we could spontaneously share ideas, questions, concerns, and so on. Moving forward, we have restructured these calls into collective intelligence activities around themes of common interest such as citizen science (guest speaker session facilitated by Claudia Olmedo, UNDP El Salvador), connecting with the partnership ecosystem/SDG 17 (Mural board game facilitated by Ana M. Grijalva, UNDP Ecuador), and sharing among colleagues in Country Offices working on their new Country Programme Document (facilitated by Nadia Ben Ammar, UNDP Tunisia). Forthcoming sessions may include guest speakers, blog presentations, and structured debates.
  2. Improving management of Collective Intelligence: The process of producing and using knowledge requires appropriate tools to help us manage not only data but the plethora of toolkits, instruments, guides, and manuals out there. A team of Explorers led by Ievgen Kylymnyk, UNDP Ukraine, is developing a library of tools to facilitate this (currently in a very early prototype stage, but you can already take a peek). Some of these ‘tools’ used daily by the AccLabs are Kumu.io to map complex systems, Nesta’s Collective Intelligence Design Playbook to support the design of efficient crowd-wisdom projects, and Mural to facilitate nearly everything we do.
  3. Incepting collaborative learning-by-doing projects: We have reignited regional groups for more inter-country collaboration, as well as developing digestible knowledge products or research sprints across regions. An example of this collaboration is the report on The Changing Nature of Work produced by six Explorers of the UNDP Bureau of Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States.

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UNDP Accelerator Labs

UNDP Accelerator Labs

Building the world’s largest learning network around development challenges. 91 Labs in 115 countries. http://acceleratorlabs.undp.org/