The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Gambia Accelerator Lab came together in October 2019 to facilitate a new approach to how things are done at the country level. It generated much excitement within and outside the United Nations (UN) framework and revealed a sentiment long harbored but only recently addressed. This is the need for drastic change in development practice against a backdrop of pressing but evolving issues and widening inequalities within and between countries. As the lab advances toward completing a first learning cycle, it has developed an action plan to guide its activities and interventions in The Gambia around youth unemployment.
Establishing Internal and External Partnerships on the Ground
Since its on-boarding, the lab team has organized several activities to gain insights into work currently being done by the various internal and external partners. The co-creation engagements have allowed the lab to brainstorm over ways it might engage these actors in testing an initial experiment. This process builds on what has already been developed by the lab team from the on-boarding bootcamp, during which youth unemployment was identified as the major challenge it will address.
Internally, the lab has gone beyond ideation meetings with the UNDP program units and UN agencies to undertaking initiatives with them. For example, the lab participated in a Joint UNDP and UNICEF Call to Action, by co-developing two project proposals that explored capacity building through skills development and sustainable livelihood through a waste to energy transformation project. Both projects were selected for evaluation, an outcome which demonstrates that traction that can be made in this new collaborative approach that defines the lab.
Conducting Outreach to Rural Gambia
The work of UNDP or UN in The Gambia extends to all regions of the country and so the lab has taken on a similar approach to engaging with external actors. As the lab advances toward completing its first learning cycle, it has also conducted several informational workshops and a horizon-scanning field visit in the West Coast and Central River Regions of The Gambia. The latter was embarked upon with the UNDP Governance Program unit and has enabled the lab to begin drawing a map of existing homegrown solutions from which to derive data and potentially build a portfolio of experiments.
Another key milestone in the UNDP Gambia Accelerator Lab’s action plan is to host an official launch ceremony of the lab. In working toward that milestone, the lab has planned additional workshops to engage with the public sector, the private sector, and actors within academia and in civil society. Other actors that the lab anticipates having to meet in the current initial learning cycle are key state-owned enterprises.
These engagements will position the lab to fine-tune its focus and design an experiment that will produce results with potential impact for multiple agencies and partners. Developing these partnerships also extends to think tanks and tapping into individual expertise, which will help the lab members to develop more competencies. This process is vital to the challenge of scaling the outcomes of their experiments in a cluster of countries as part of what is fast shaping out to be the world’s largest learning network.
Youth unemployment is an issue being tackled by multiple local actors and the Accelerator Lab in The Gambia is eager to hear your ideas on how to collective tackle this challenge. The lab views itself as a mobile bantaba (communal event/meeting space) so perhaps it’s just a matter of time before they’re in your city or village.