Global Pulse Labs: Building Innovation Hubs at the Country Level

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In an increasingly interdependent and fast-changing world where crises emerge without warning, speed around the world and impact vulnerable populations in complex and long-lasting ways, leaders need not only new tools but also the means to continuously improve their capacities to adapt to new challenges.

The Global Pulse Initiative recognizes that using local innovation is key to the success of Global Pulse. That is why it is launching a lab-based approach to technology innovation, both at UN Headquarters and in the developing countries, where the energy and creative thinking needed to make Global Pulse a success will be found. To this end, Global Pulse's country-level deployment strategy is centered on the concept of an innovation laboratory, or Pulse Lab.

The Pulse Lab is the means by which Global Pulse listens to the voices of the vulnerable – not only for what they have to say about their needs, but also for their experiences, their innovative ideas, and their knowledge of what works, what doesn't, and why.

A network of five Pulse Labs will be established in selected countries by the end of  2012. Intended to function as semi-independent entities, they will serve as a hub for public-private partnerships, cross-disciplinary learning, and more effective collaboration with academic institutions, UN Agencies, NGOs, and local communities. The Labs will develop partnerships to build national capacity for innovation in data collection, real-time information analysis, and evidence-based decision-making. This will assist governments to develop policy and use resources efficiently and effectively to protect vulnerable populations with targeted responses. In time, a Pulse Lab will become a national brain trust and a center of excellence in innovation for crisis resilience.

The Pulse Lab is a physical facility housing a multi-disciplinary team of up to 20 people whose mission is to use innovation to support the work of Government in the use of emerging technologies for the protection of vulnerable populations. The Lab can be set up as an autonomous private-sector organization, as part of a university or academic institution, as part of a UN Agency country office, as a semi-autonomous government entity, as a unit in a government ministry, or as a long-term project within a technical partner in the region.

The Pulse Lab will develop a locally-contextualised implementation of the Pulse technology platform in the local language. Through a process of requirements gathering, rapid technology prototyping, field experimentation and rigorous evaluation, the Pulse Lab team of development practitioners, policy experts and technologists work closely with national institutions to strengthen capacity for early detection of impacts and rapid and effective policy responses.  They will work closely with both national and local government to identify gaps and opportunities, and use iterative rapid prototyping to develop a robust and scalable approach to monitor crisis impact and vulnerability.

The country-specific Pulse Lab will be established initially as a funded autonomous public/private partnership that over time must develop a path to sustainability.

Pulse Lab Deliverables within 18 month of Inception:

  1. Adapt the Pulse Analytical Framework to the national context
  2. Develop an overall approach to defining indicators and define an initial set of core national and sub-national impact and vulnerability indicators
  3. Understand gaps in current data collection efforts, current technological capacities, and design ways to bridge those gaps
  4. Establish strategic partnerships with mobile phone carriers and other relevant commercial services providers
  5. Customize the Pulse Platform to meet national requirements and translate it into priority national languages
  6. Identify relevant national information systems already in use nationally and develop a roadmap for integration
  7. Develop a practical framework for monitoring and evaluating progress, together with the means to highlight and share lessons learned and best practices

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