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The United Nations sees innovation as one of the key ways it can transform itself into an institution that offers solutions for our increasingly challenging world. It is seeking to transform its internal operations and culture and the ways it helps promising ideas to emerge, develop and expand (scale) as widely as possible to help change the world.

The journey to scale may be well known in the business world, but for social innovators, those people and organisations that want to change the world, the path is less well trodden. There are bright spots of innovation within the United Nations; yet there are often chasms in moving from experimentation in labs to adoption by individual agencies, then to implementation by many agencies, and finally out to have a lasting impact in the wider world.

To help the United Nations bridge these chasms, this report reviews experience and practice in supporting social innovations along the journey to scale. It also looks at how UN Global Pulse (UNGP) might support innovators on this journey — how to accelerate adoption of proven successful innovation from a small group of early enthusiasts across to the mainstream — to take a revolutionary idea and make it commonplace.

UNGP is the United Nations Secretary-General’s Innovation Lab. With a network of hubs around the world, it uses innovation to support the United Nations Secretary-General’s ambitious new goals for the world. At UNGP, we cannot actually scale United Nations agencies’ innovations, but can support their trek to the top, in much the same way sherpas help mountaineers reach the summit.

The report identifies a number of “pain points,” or obstacles, on the journey to scale and suggests specific interventions to surmount these in a systematic way that results in a repeatable process for many teams.