Key innovation methodologies and examples


Behavioural Insights generates understanding into human behaviours which can reveal why many conventional policies have failed and, in turn, explores how to encourage decisions that are conducive for sustainable human development.

UNDP Moldova used behavioural insights to understand why Tuberculosis patients were not following through with treatment, and fielded randomized control trials to design three interventions ‘nudging’ patients to increase completion of treatment.


Big Data initiatives utilize new, digital data sources to inform projects and programmes in international development.

UNDP China, together with China’s largest internet provider, Baidu, launched a Big Data Joint Laboratory to pioneer new methods and frameworks for using big data to support development goals. The inaugural product is an e-waste recycling app, “Baidu Recycle”, which allows end users to schedule certified collection of their obsolete home appliances for safe disposal and recycling. By the end of 2014 more than 100,000 people used the services.


Challenge prizes is an approach that taps into the collective experience of the public at large to generate potential solutions to specific problems. Challenges achieve change by influencing society or specific communities and individuals in many different ways, including identifying excellence, influencing public perception, focusing communities on specific problems, mobilizing new talent or mobilizing resources and capital. Proposals are screened by the challenge organizers and the “winning” solution generally receives some kind of prize, whether technical support, funding, or other.

UNDP Burundi held an open innovation contest to develop and support ideas/projects offering innovative energy and technology solutions that would reduce the use of fuelwood consumption in all its forms in Burundi.


Crowdsourcing is a way to problem solve by collecting input from the community. Crowdsourcing has existed in one form or another for centuries. The difference today lies in the technology.1 Crowdfunding is a type of crowdsourcing scheme that secures funding for a project or business venture from a dispersed group of people, the crowd. An online platform may be used to advertise the call for funding, promote the dialogues between funders and implementers, together with real-time reporting.

UNDP Papua New Guinea helped introduce a corruption reporting tool by SMS “Phones against Corruption”, a crowdsourcing approach that is easily accessible, anonymous and free of charge, offering a safe space for the public to report corrupt practices.


Data Visualization includes the representation of data graphically and interactively, often in the form of videos, interactive websites, infographics, timelines, data dashboards, maps, etc. Visualization often enables better identification of trends and patterns that are sometimes unclear or difficult to discern in complex or large data sets, as well as better communication of information.

UNDP Europe and CIS have an archive of infographics that visualize development challenges like gender inequality as well as solutions like green futures through the interaction of data sets and trend analyses.


Gamification can enhance civic learning and local engagement beyond the traditional geographical and social boundaries, and can be used for, among other things, a more participatory policy formulation, city planning, and for building strong communities. It can be used to increase knowledge and awareness; empathy and trust among stakeholders; and enables a more informed decision making by collecting inputs and perspective from wider informants, or “unusual suspects”.

UNDP Bhutan launched a game focused on youth unemployment with the objective to bring together all segments of Bhutanese society to this pertinent issue. An online game focused on three ‘missions’, creating discussions which enabled participants to share their thoughts and personal experiences with regard to unemployment issues.


Human-centered Design starts with the needs of the user, emphasizing the importance of diverse user perspectives and encouraging solution seeking among multiple actors, so that the end-user is at the heart of the development process.

UNDP Nicaragua is exploring ways to limit deforestation and pollution from wood-burning stoves by working together with local communities to identify needs, and test technologies for producing traditional foods.


Mobile feedback mechanisms enhance the ability to collect and disseminate information across a variety of development issues, from voting information to real-time disaster risks and employment opportunities. The targeted gathering of structured information using mobile phones, tablets or PDAs using a special software application can be used to assess changing public sentiments on the delivery and quality of public goods and services. The proliferation of mobile phones has enabled institutions to better reach people with tailored responses to address community issues. Mobile phone allows anonymous reporting to protect the informants, and collect information in a less costly manner.

UNDP El Salvador held a hackathon to create mobile apps that enable citizens a platform to voice their opinions and requests regarding public services in order to promote a more responsive government, one that is accountable to its citizens that will deliver better services.


Social Innovation Labs bring social entrepreneurs, community activists, government agencies, academics and citizens together to generate ideas and prototype and test solutions to pressing development challenges.

UNDP Egypt held an Innovation camp with local youth and government representatives to identify challenges to reporting sexual harassment and generate testable ideas. Three solutions were identified as having a high potential for success and a private sector partner is providing seed-funding for testing.


Hackathon is an event which brings together computer programmers, end-users and other interested people  to improve upon or build a new software program or app to respond to a pressing social challenge.

UNDP Haiti brought a together team of computing students from l‘Ecole Supérieure d‘Infotronique d‘Haïti for a two-day hackathon to work with the local community of Fort National, Port-au-Prince, to create an app which will help facilitate young entrepreneurs through their business start-up journey in the LIDE project.


Strategic Foresight enhances traditional approaches to public planning by bringing different groups across society together to explore a variety of future scenarios and to design more adaptable plans to suit likely changes.

UNDP Rwanda and UNDP’s Global Center for Public Service Excellence, conducted a foresight exercise to strengthen the anticipatory and adaptive capacity of the Government of Rwanda to mitigate risks, maximize opportunities, and speed up delivery of development results. The Government has since requested UNDP to support embedding foresight in national planning instruments.


Sensing works with end-users to generate data, both quantitative and qualitative on their experiences to gain insight into real-time issues and changes in society. This could be in the form of using micronarratives to collect thousands of short stories from citizens using special algorithms to aggregate information collected, or SMS polling to collect statistics on relevant and often sensitive topics which are largely unavailable via standard surveys.

UNDP DR Congo is using a narrative based methodology to gain insights into how a development intervention has contributed to changing living conditions focused on people’s stories rather than traditional surveys focused on opinion. This methodology allows the expression of a bigger variety of possible responses and promotes both qualitative and quantitative data collection, analysis, comparison and visualization. In this way, monitoring the changes in patterns and stories that can be translated into actionable decisions helps to make programmes more effective.