Voices from Eurasia


How do you inspire entrepreneurship in a conflict-affected region?

12 Apr 2017 by Janthomas Hiemstra, UNDP Ukraine Country Director and Sofiya Oshchebska, National Coordinator - Crowdfunding Academy, UNDP Ukraine

Pavlo, 71, is a, blacksmith from Lugansk and will open his new workshop in Kharkiv region. Photo: UNDP Ukraine
The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has not only disrupted everyday life in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, but also led to staggering unemployment. Out of 23 major enterprises in Luhansk region, 19 are currently not operating, while half of the enterprises in Donetsk region have lost about 950,000 jobs. Supporting employment is challenging in the best of circumstances, and far more so in conflict situations. How do you talk about the benefits of entrepreneurship to people who lost everything and, after being displaced, are just trying to find their place in a new community? At UNDP Ukraine’s Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, we have an ambitious goal: to promote entrepreneurship in Donbas, inspire people who worked all their life in mines and factories to step in the unsure path of entrepreneurship, and make them believe in themselves and their country again. So we decided to start by showing the joy of creating and developing your own business through the stories of ordinary people. Stories of people like us who, despite all the difficulties, have succeeded. … Read more

Prototyping the government of the future in Armenia

24 Jan 2017 by Marina Mkhitaryan, Max Perry-Wilson, Hasmik Soghomonyan

No matter where you live, reforming how the public sector operates is a difficult task. How do we ensure that public services are designed to be as effective and accessible as possible? How do we make government agile and responsive in the face of black swans and wicked challenges? How do we develop a bureaucracy that handles a myriad of tasks as efficiently as possible? In post-Soviet contexts, this challenge is even greater. In the Soviet era, a top-down hierarchy rarely rewarded risk-taking and experimentation, a sentiment that is still too common today. Our own research in Armenia shows that experts fear “rocking the boat” with new ideas without say-so from a higher-up. This results in a channel of creativity that flows only from the top down, leading to services that do not account for citizens’ voices. After all, public sector innovation is not only about listening to citizens’ voices – it is also about optimising working process and getting your big bureaucracy to work effectively and efficiently. … Read more

A survival book for data innovation

15 Dec 2016 by Vasko Popovski , Benjamin Kumpf , Milica Begovic and Jennifer Colville

Agricultural success in Egypt. Photo: New World Project / UNDP
New data sources are sprouting everywhere, but there’s hardly a place that systemically uses them to make a difference. With that in mind, a group of enthusiasts from UNDP in Eastern Europe and the Arab States regions embarked twenty months ago on a big data for development exploration journey with support from the Government of Denmark. The idea was to test new sources of data to generate better insights, improve delivery of services, and generate new solutions to persisting development issues. On the data high seas they were joined by colleagues from the UN Global Pulse who used their experience with big data innovation projects. Then UNV mobilized their online data volunteers. … Read more

Crowdfunding is not (only) about the money

11 Nov 2016 by Marina Petrović, Milica Begović, Robert Pašičko and Kristina Lauš

If you need just money, go to the bank and don’t use crowdfunding. Use crowdfunding if you need awareness building, campaigning, initiating debate, attract other funders and build up your community. When we started our first campaign for an energy independent school in Croatia, we didn’t have the slightest idea where crowdfunding would take us. From conducting a successful campaign to setting up Crowdfunding Academy and UNDP Alternative Finance Lab, helping to launch more than 15 campaigns in 10+ countries - crowdfunding has definitely taken a hold on us. In the UK alone, crowdfunding for civic causes has gained $30 million over the last five years. But crowdfunding is so much more than about getting the required financing for your project. Let’s take a look at some other benefits of crowdfunding: amassing social capital, enabling broader visibility and scaling-up of a given project, as well as catalysing social action and policy-level impact. … Read more

From "welfare as cost" to "welfare as investment": Social impact bonds and the case of Sitra

06 Apr 2016 by Milica Begovic Radojevic, Innovation Specialist based in Regional Hub for Europe and CIS

Funding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be a daunting challenge. By some estimates, it will take nearly 20 times last year’s official international aid or the combined GDP of Africa’s 30 biggest economies in additional funds each year to keep on track. … Read more

Phone-charging shoes? Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore

27 May 2015 by Sandra Ismanovski, Communication and Partnerships Officer, UNDP fYR Macedonia

Two winners emerged out of the 130 submitted ideas to the Climate Challenge. Photo: UNDP fYR Macedonia
A dynamic team of four Macedonian university students has recently come up with one of those brilliant inventions that make you scratch your head and wonder ‘How come nobody thought of that before?’ They’ve proposed an energy-saving device that makes use of our everyday walking and running to generate energy for charging devices like mobile phones and tablets. As UNDP, we launched a call for ideas to tackle Climate Change, back in December 2014. Out of the 130 ideas submitted, our panel picked the ten most promising and organized a 2-day Climate campto help support the shortlisted candidates. After a few months of development, the team behind phone-charging shoes now has a great opportunity to turn its idea into reality—a cash prize of 10,000 US dollars as the winners of the country’s Climate Challenge for innovative solutions to help prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change. … Read more

Social innovation labs: Game-changers in developing countries?

20 May 2015 by Jasmina Belcovska-Tasevska, Social Innovation Specialist, UNDP fYR Macedonia

As MindLab’s Deputy Director Kit Lykketoft pointed out in her recentblog, innovation, experimentation and alternative approaches are becoming ‘the new normal’. And this new normal is no longer exclusive to small groups of people sitting in comfortable conference rooms designing something for people in other places—it is rapidly becoming something for everybody everywhere. While the social innovation lab trend has been accelerating in developed countries, the question we asked ourselves at UNDP was whether they could work in developing ones. Could they work to help the emerging economies of developing countries? What could be the role of labs in such countries? Only a year and a half ago, we still weren’t sure of the answers to those questions. … Read more

Build it yourself: Welcome to the tech for citizen engagement challenge

18 Feb 2015 by Nilgun Arif , Harry Gibbs and Nadine Abou Elgheit

It’s called the IKEA effect.
You value something more when you’ve helped build it. Surely anyone who’s ever suffered through a harrowing afternoon assembling that pernickety SVÄRTA loft bed frame can recall the swell of pride and accomplishment after finally figuring it out. Might not a similar thing be the case when it comes to the various institutions of governance? If you are able to participate in the institutions making the decisions that affect your life, you are more likely to associate pride, trust and responsibility with them. Going a step further, recent research out of Cyprus has revealed that greater trust in institutions makes people more willing to try to overcome sources of conflict with people from communities outside their own. So, how can UNDP find new ways to get citizens to co-construct solutions to some of their communities most pressing social problems? We think we have a pretty cool answer: We are excited to announce the launch of a TECHNOLOGY FOR CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT CHALLENGE using our Mahallae platform! … Read more

Volatility and the ‘new normal’: A discussion with Helen Clark

25 Jun 2014 by Ariel Rubin, Communication Specialist, UNDP Europe and Central Asia

Helen Clark in Zadar, Croatia. Photo: UNDP
Last week, at the International Development Conference for South-South Cooperation, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with my boss: former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Forbes’ 23rd most powerful woman in the world, and (to my delight) Blood on the Tracks-era Bob Dylan fan, Helen Clark. Ms. Clark is presiding over the UNDP at a time when great change is underway both within the organization and beyond. Among all the things I wanted to know, one theme seemed to tie it together: How is UNDP preparing for a future that seems to be more and more difficult to predict? … Read more


09 Jun 2014 by Vasko Popovski, Disaster Risk Management, Social Innovation & Development Specialist, UNDP Europe and Central Asia

Volunteers would really bolster the amount of big data for development. Photo: Zaven Khachikyan/UNDP in Armenia
In preparing for the upcoming research and development event ‘Foresight for Development – Shaping the New Future’, one of my tasks was to compile an essential reading list for the participants. This is easier said than done. There are gigabytes and terabytes of publications, books, and blogs out there. How was I to synthesize this into two pages? Since many of the participants - and in the development sector in general - are quite new to foresight for development I have tried to pare down an essential list of that provides a good basis not only for preparing for the event, but also for learning more about these sometimes nebulous concepts. Okay, ready? Here we go. … Read more