Budva, Montenegro 23 - 25 April 2014
The latest stop on this UN's journey was a "clash with the titans of innovations" - NESTA, an innovation charity from the UK. A strategic retreat brought UNDP, UNICEF and UNHCR staff together with leading NESTA innovators to get acquainted with the newly developed innovation toolkit: Development Impact and You.
At the opening session, Rastislav Vrbensky, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative took the participants back to 2011 when UNDP Montenegro became one the three pilot country offices for innovation in Europe and Central Asia.
“Over the past couple of years, we have piloted over 15 innovative practices, served as a resource point for the Center and other county offices, and hosted UNDP’s first global event on innovation in Budva, 2013,” said Vrbensky, reminding that the event resulted in the Budva Declaration, a commitment from UNDP to, among other things, mainstream innovation thinking in project and programme design.
The UNICEF Representative to Montenegro, Benjamin Perks underlined importance of being opened for the latest thinking and new ideas.
“United Nations has imperative to harness the latest knowledge, science and ideas in order to support human rights protection. That’s why it is important to build culture of innovation. In order to become able to overcome obstacles, we need to constantly learn, and that means also to be ready to try and fail. It’s all learning process,” said Perks.
The UN-Nesta joint exercise was centered on applying the carefully selected tools to real-life challenges submitted by UNDP and UNICEF teams. It was also a unique opportunity for NESTA to test the toolkit on the ground.
“This exercise is equally beneficial for us as it is for you, since this is one of the first opportunities to test this ultimate innovators’ toolkit. We worked hard to compile it and we finalised it only recently. Out of more than 700 different tools, throughout various networks around the globe and participatory testing, we filtered it down to 200, and then zeroed in on 30 best ones”, said Theo Keane, Senior Programme Manager at Nesta.
And it worked!
Under the guidance of NESTA representatives, seven teams of mixed background and skill sets from UNHCR, UNICEF and UNDP, worked together on resolving concrete challenges using selected components of the toolkit.
“The tools proved to be effective and easy to use. By asking all the right questions, the tools allow substantial guidance towards solutions which usually do not cross our minds when doing business as usual”, said Marija Novković, project manager with UNDP, emhpasizing that the toolkit is fit for collaborative processes.
The NESTA crew seemed to be quite impressed at the end of the day.
“We could hardly get a better team to test our innovation toolkit” NESTA’s Brenton Caffin stressed out at the end, hoping to keep the partnership with UN team in Montenegro going.
The team went on to engage in a team building session the next day. Interestingly enough, innovation was clearly noted amongst teams in that part of the retreat, as well, showing to be a definite strength within the UN team, as participants managed to find new ways to overcome obstacles and challenges. Also, once could not help noticing strong enthusiasm for new tasks among most team members.
Looking forward to see what emerges next from our teamwork!