How do we learn from a network of ecosystems to reinvent knowledge management?

Behind the scenes: Our laundry line of notes on how to create a learning network that surfaces, shares, and even creates knowledge.
  • How do we follow the emergence and dynamism of individual labs in a network to understand if and where learning is being accelerated?
  • How do we maintain subsidiarity through distributed, independent operations and still create space for convergence in knowledge creation across a network like this?
  • What is this network learning?
  • How do we fill in its blind spots with what our (current and future) partners know?

What knowledge is being created in the network of labs?

  • We generate experiential knowledge created on how to deploy a range of innovation methods: what is the most effective way to convene a hackathon? What are the benefits and limits of behavioral insights experiments? What does a data powered approach to positive deviance look like? This is an essential kind of knowledge as we test out and codify new ways of working within global development.
  • Our solutions mappers and their teams also generate forms of ethnographic evidence that unpack the practices, knowledge, and inventions of women and men who are innovating around problems they face in their communities. Inspired by the Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network, we try to learn from frugal innovation to inform the design and delivery of development programmes.
  • As a sensory platform, we see and cultivate weak signals of change to understand the real time state of sustainable development. How is the pandemic unfolding and affecting people’s livelihoods? What does the future of work look like? Weak signals of change are a form of intelligence that this lab network creates.
  • And when we run experiments, we probe systems to see what effect our interventions make. Here we create and share experimental knowledge. This is where we are trying to learn how to document tests and probes so that practitioners across the world can pick up where another lab team left off, modifying to suit the contexts that make or break the utility of knowledge transfer.

The Network Learning Prototype

  • The labs reflect on their work in free form. We’re tapping into what the labs write as a start, though there are multiple forms of reflection and audio is probably next on deck.
  • Machines help us find the signposts. Given the massively distributed way of working across the network, we need some help from our [machine] friends to know where to look to find patterns in all the written reflections.
  • Humans read for patterns. We read the reflections the labs create and try to draw out insights, nuggets of learning, and patterns across the 91 lab teams.
  • We set an R&D priority and learning questions. Our first priority is to learn more about informal economic activity — we’re currently seeing that it doesn’t go away with GDP growth and needs some new approaches.
  • We convene ‘learning circles’ to explore learning questions.
  • We blend the experiential knowledge coming from the labs with the body of knowledge in research circles.

Seeing the synapses created by a network

Machines point to patterns. Then we explore learning questions

  • What perceptions and motivations drive informality?
  • Is there an unseen contribution to environmental sustainability that comes from the informal sector?
  • What does the rapid digitization brought on by the pandemic mean for informal entrepreneurship?
  • Is there a way to approach informality through hybrid policies that protects people from hazardous labor and taps into informality’s ingenuity at the same time?

What do we produce out of all of this?




Building the world’s largest learning network around development challenges. 91 Labs in 115 countries.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

What is a Hot Potato

Humanizing a Job

Episode 13: The “Difference”

Top Ten Questions In Every Interview

The Great Return — Just Say No

Best Virtual Team Building Activities for Remote Teams

Chapter 3 — Deep work is meaningful

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
UNDP Accelerator Labs

UNDP Accelerator Labs

Building the world’s largest learning network around development challenges. 91 Labs in 115 countries.

More from Medium

How one investigative news team explained their goals, mission and reporting process

Computers and Educational Innovation

Good Reads and Playlists that Inspired Us in 2021

Re-telling stories — Methods for dissemination of local heritage sites