We recently added a new stream of work to our portfolio focused on Futures & Foresight. Here’s what you need to know about it.
UN Global Pulse
UN Global Pulse is the UN Secretary-General’s initiative on digital innovation. We are funded entirely through voluntary contributions from UN Member States, foundations and private sector entities. Our role, much as the innovation landscape, is fluid which means we continuously reposition ourselves when and where it’s needed. In 2020, as our collective modus operandi was forced to change due to COVID-19, we found new ways of working. In the pages that follow, we’ve provided a snapshot of our activities, outlining their impact and their alignment with our key functions.
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A very long year.
The year 2020 was many things. UN Global Pulse (UNGP), along with the rest of the world found itself in an entirely predictable (and predicted) context. It was a year of asymmetries and competing logics. Offices, rather than being spaces for work, for creativity, and togetherness, became spaces of threat, of risk. Work and personal lives blurred, with our homes becoming makeshift offices and meeting rooms instead of intimate personal spaces. Reading a room became watching people through a virtual background and the constant fight with the unmute button.
Whilst we were adapting to a life at home, millions of the most vulnerable of our world were adapting to increased inequalities, to a stark lack of social security, to increased poverty and to death. It is in this context that we were asked by the UN Secretary-General’s office to assemble a team that could help the UN make sense of a rapidly changing world in all its complexity. This team needed to work out how technologies, partnerships, new streams of data and information, and innovation, could create new insights to fuel sensemaking and decision making.
The road has been both rewarding and challenging. From Jakarta to Helsinki, and from Kampala to New York, we learned a great deal in 2020. We got some things wrong and we were faced with failure. Some partnerships didn’t come to fruition. Funds did not flow as we hoped. In some cases, efforts to support were turned down. Data sets and algorithms didn’t always work, legal agreements stalled and timezones messed with scheduling. Some of these hurdles were acceptable because that’s the nature of innovation. You fail, but you learn.
You fail, but you iterate. You fail, but you share those lessons so that others can learn.
The good news is that there were a lot of successes. The team would build epidemiological models with UNHCR and OCHA, UCL and Durham University to support decision making in Cox’s Bazar refugee settlement. It would support WHO fight infodemics in Africa, countering often dangerous claims of cures, rumours of self-medication, and of anti-vaccine sentiment. With OHCHR the team would investigate the effects of the pandemic on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. With the Development Coordination Office (DCO) great lengths went to scaling existing tools and approaches. The Secretary-General and his Senior Management Group were briefed on progress, and the Deputy Secretary-General provided regular advice and guidance. The cadence of needs were matched with a revised approach from the UN Global Pulse team, and its partners.
Because we were not necessarily set up for crisis response, we created a Crisis Insights Team to test new approaches and ourselves and the way we worked.
The year 2020 required us to simultaneously manage change in a pandemic and to respond to the needs emerging from the pandemic. It also made us realize that change needs to be a constant in our now normal. Among the many things we learned in 2020, some are worth including here. We learned that we lacked experience in working in crises settings, our instincts and reactions were not well-honed in terms of the cadence of demands or context. We lacked structures and the right kind of fluidity. Our back end processes, including operational support, were hugely under resourced and underappreciated. This meant that getting new team members on board, or new funding streams, partnerships, or procuring tools was incredibly difficult and time consuming.
And whilst we learned the above and we adapted, we also learned that investing in teams rather than gadgets is an important — an essential — part of transformation and reform. Critical un earmarked funds allowed us to adapt quickly and to provide security during global upheaval. Time and time again we learned the value of true innovation which requires investment in understanding challenges and problems before producing solutions.
We also learned about mental health. Our team worked on models that predicted the numbers of deaths from the COVID-19 disease. For some, this will have a profound effect on their worldview moving forwards. Many of us dealt with home-schooling, becoming teachers and educators, or becoming our own personal trainers. Some of us had to self isolate for months on end and to be alone, perhaps at times unhealthily finding solace only in work. We learned that as managers, our role must also deepen in understanding and empathy.
Building on the above and much more, we also learned that we wanted a different future for UNGP.
This future refocuses our work but also our culture. We’re going to build on the last ten years of experimentation and engagement, and we’re going to broaden our work to include Futures and Foresight so we can better anticipate and hopefully influence the future of our world. We’re going to do more innovation that reaches beyond AI and data, so that we can contribute to an even more agile United Nations. We’re going to investigate how we can pivot towards Behavioural Science, and contribute to the ongoing digital transformation of the UN. We will innovate our operational backbone so that we can establish strong partnerships quicker. We will streamline our administration to have resources flow freely through our network to create better conditions for the network of humans to thrive.
The good news is that some of this good work has already started. Our newest team joined our network from Helsinki in 2020 and they’re already shaping what futures and foresight could look like. In Kampala, the team is using digital technologies to understand the effects of COVID on peacekeeping operations. In Jakarta the team has been fusing behavioural science and human centered design towards improving financial inclusion in Indonesia. And in New York, the team is working tirelessly with the Executive Office of the Secretary-General to tackle operational challenges, and alignment with overarching priorities.
If 2020 taught us one thing, it is that change is never easy, but always possible.
A very long year. Buf if 2020 taught us one thing, it is that change is never easy, but always possible.
The year 2020 was many things. UN Global Pulse (UNGP), along with the rest of the world found itself in an entirely predictable (and predicted) context. It was a year of asymmetries and competing logics. Offices, rather than being spaces for work, for creativity, and togetherness, became spaces of threat, of risk. Work and personal lives blurred, with our homes becoming makeshift offices and meeting rooms instead of intimate personal spaces.
Whilst we were adapting to a life at home, millions of the most vulnerable of our world were adapting to increased inequalities, to a stark lack of social security, to increased poverty and to death. It is in this context that we were asked by the UN Secretary-General’s office to assemble a team that could help the UN make sense of a rapidly changing world in all its complexity.
Read more in the PDF version of our annual report.
WHY WE ARE
exploratory research on new insights that can be gleaned from unconventional data sources, artificial intelligence, and futures and foresight.
UN entities, governments, and development partners in making better use of data and technology.
We accomplish these objectives through a network of innovation labs which are made up of multidisciplinary teams of data scientists, engineers, designers, social scientists, communication experts, and data privacy and legal specialists who work together with development and humanitarian practitioners to test, refine, and scale digital innovation.
UN Global Pulse labs are helping UN teams, governments, and external partners close the gap between development and humanitarian priorities and the current pace of change that requires faster, better, and more streamlined solutions. We do this through research and development (R&D), human-centred design, policy development for responsible use of data, and scaling of proven approaches. Our work is guided by our collaborations, partnerships, knowledge exchange, and communications.
Covers the effects that we have on the practice and application of data science, data protection and privacy, and ethical AI. Under this definition, we research applications of big data and artificial intelligence and integrate new analytical methods into workflows to address existing and emerging challenges. We support development of instruments, partnerships, and mechanisms to strengthen privacy and data protection while encouraging an ethical approach to data and AI across sectors.
Accelerates UN-wide uptake of policies, software platforms, methods, approaches, and algorithms we have developed over the years or which have been identified to achieve measurable impacts. For instance, improvements in operational effectiveness and/or efficiency due to the adoption or adaption of UN Global Pulse tools, or due to an increased understanding of policies are considered here.
Is extremely important given our mandate to support digital innovation more broadly. We are conscious that we exist as part of a much more complex innovation ecosystem. Contributing different approaches to this ecosystem, for example in terms of new collaborations, partnerships, or futures and foresight, we support transformational changes envisaged by the Secretary-General for a faster and more effective United Nations.
In Action: COVID-19 Response
Data Science and ANALYTICS
Epidemic Modelling of COVID-19 We built an approach to simulate the effect of different public health interventions against the spread of COVID-19. Although created for the Cox’s Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh, the model is designed to be generalizable to other settings. The results are helping professionals in Cox’s Bazar settlement
Leveraging digitalization to cope with COVID-19: An Indonesia case study on women-owned micro and small businesses
This policy research report demonstrates the use of data innovation, combining big data analysis with traditional quantitative and qualitative research to assess the impact of COVID-19 on micro- and small businesses. These businesses are the main livelihood of millions of Indonesians and significantly contribute to the Indonesia economy. More than
At the end of September 2020 Indonesia had reported almost 275,000 COVID-19 cases since the first confirmed case in early March. It is the second highest number of cases in South-East Asia, after the Philippines. With numbers of people infected on the rise, parts of Indonesia have brought back the
People worldwide will be better able to spot the difference between information and misinformation about COVID-19, as a result of a new co-operation within the UN system.
Faizal, our humanitarian data advisor and one of the co-authors of this piece, often recounts what one of his supervisors said to him from his days as an information management officer. These were the days when he would, with 24-hours’ notice, journey to a disaster zone and be in charge
Solidarity should be a core principle guiding the development of innovative and ethical AI applications to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the newly published article co-authored by World Health Organization, UNESCO, ITU and UN Global Pulse experts . The article, AI cooperation to support the global response to COVID-19,
The COVID-19 outbreak has generated a vast amount of research to support detection, patterns of transmission, treatment, development of vaccines and impacts of the pandemic. At UN Global Pulse, we joined worldwide efforts since the onset of the disease conducting research to scale high-impact data science and AI methodologies to
The number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow at an alarming rate – with over 487,000 people being infected worldwide as of March 26, 2020 – and predictions paint a gloomy picture of the next weeks and potentially months to come. Members of our data science team joined forces with
From plague outbreaks to COVID-19: On the value of ship traffic data for epidemic modeling of diseases
Ships are an important means of transportation for both people and goods, which also makes them potential hotspots for diseases, especially those with a longer incubation period. The recent clusters of COVID-19 infections on cruise ships such as The Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess are cases in point, but
A Joint Statement on Data Protection and Privacy in the COVID-19 response was issued today after endorsement by UN System Organizations.
Joint release by WHO, UN, UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, UNAIDS, ITU, UN Global Pulse, and IFRC
UN Global Pulse has developed a two-phase “Risk, Harms and Benefits Assessment Tool,” a data privacy, ethics and data protection compliance mechanism designed to help identify and minimize the risks of harms and maximize the positive impacts of data innovation projects. The assessment can be used at the onset of a data innovation project,
Governance of AI
The AI governance challenge is vast and complex, straddling the fields of technology, law, philosophy and ethics. As an innovator in the area of AI for humanitarian aid and development, we continued to lead efforts to ensure that the use of technology does not infringe on human rights, especially when faced with the challenges of a global pandemic.
With that goal in mind:
We continued to serve as a Co- Champion for the UN High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation’s Recommendation 3C on artificial intelligence and as a Key Stakeholder for Recommendations 3A/B on digital human rights.
We hosted a high level event on Protecting Human Rights During the Covid-19 Crisis and Beyond, during the UN General Assembly in September.
We amplified Global South participation in the development of AI Governance processes, by supporting the Governments of Uganda and Ghana to develop Ethical Standards for AI.
We contributed to the global efforts of creating a normative instrument on the ethics of AI, led by UNESCO, and became a member of the expert working group to develop an internal ethics code for the UN System.
We worked with the Global Data Access Initiative (GDAI) to enable data sharing across the public and private sectors.
To ensure these and other AI tools enable human progress and contribute to achieving the SDGs, we need to be proactive and inclusive in developing policies and accountability mechanisms that protect human rights, including those that ensure access to reliable quality and unbiased data for training safe and trustworthy AI models. That will be UNGP’s guiding imperative as we forge ahead in 2021.
Operationalizing Our Approaches
Over the years, our network has created AI-powered products for accessing and analysing different data sources, some of which we believe have the potential to be scaled for wider purposes and geographies.
The latest in our toolkit is PulseSatellite, a web-based tool that combines cutting edge artificial intelligence with human expertise to extract the most relevant information from satellite imagery for use in humanitarian contexts. Since its development, we’ve been figuring out how we can put this product in the hands of users in the field to free up valuable time spent by analysts performing tasks that an AI can perform in a fraction of that time. Of course the challenge is combining speed with accuracy, and this is what we tried to accomplish. Use cases for PulseSatellite currently include: monitoring population displacement, settlement mapping, damage assessment, flood assessment and identifying the direct impact of earthquakes, volcanoes, cyclones and landslides. To test its capabilities, we opened it up to UN agencies and started working with different teams from different agencies on select ideas. In July 2020, the flood assessment capability was successfully deployed by UNOSAT, our long term partner in this endeavour, after heavy monsoon rains around the Brahmaputra river and in the Sylher district in Bangladesh.
Another example is Qatalog, a multi-faceted tool for accessing and analyzing PDF documents, radio, and historical social media data related to specific topics, themes, and discussions. The idea for Qatalog (Query / Assign / Tag and Analyse) was born out of our own experience with products for social media analysis that existed on the market but that did not fit the needs for our sustainable development and humanitarian projects. For one, while social media is widespread across most of the developed world, it is less so in developing and least developed countries, which excludes a large portion of the most vulnerable populations. Therefore, we developed a product that incorporates alternative sources of big data, like information from radio talk shows. In 2020, we integrated radio as a data source for querying and tested its usability. In addition, after discussions with colleagues across the UN, we realized that many parts of the Organization continue to use PDF documents for reporting purposes, which prompted us to include PDFs as another source of information. To streamline the onboarding of new users, which our team spent hours doing on an individual basis, we also created interactive tutorials that allowed us to get people on board faster.Throughout the process of development, we’ve faced challenges and had to reconfigure and reshape how Qatalog functions. One of the biggest hurdles has been shifting from beta testing to regular use by multiple agencies, which required infrastructure changes for sustainable operations.
Using automated speech recognition to support peacekeeping operations was one of our biggest undertakings of 2020. United Nations peacekeeping missions increasingly need to operate in hostile environments, characterized by frequent attacks executed by extremists and militias directed primarily at military contingents of UN Missions, but also at the civilian population. We acted as the technical implementation partner to design, develop and deploy a technological prototype that would enhance MINUSMA’s (the UN Mission in Mali) situational awareness. The project built on our years of experience working to develop speech-to-text technology for African vernacular languages, and transcribing and analysing public discourse in Uganda and Somalia. Applying this type of technology to a peacekeeping context though presented new opportunities as well as challenges. Our team, spread across 7 countries, worked closely with MINUSMA and our project partners in the UN Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT) to design and build a functional prototype, which we successfully tested with our partners on the ground in Mali. Due to the sensitive nature of peacekeeping operations, we cannot go into detail on the exact nature of this work. However, based on the results we obtained in this initial phase, we will continue to build the technology in close collaboration with our partners.
Shaping the innovation ecosystem
As we look at the speed of change around us and the new development and humanitarian challenges that emerge and evolve, we need to be able to draw from and share each other’s experiences to become more agile and better adapted. With COVID-19 throwing the world off course, our network had to quickly change and adapt our approach to provide partners with expertise and mechanisms that would allow them to quickly respond not just to the pandemic, but also to the infodemic that accompanied it. To do that, we worked inside the innovation ecosystem bringing stakeholders together through engagement in relevant working groups and initiatives, and by increasing the number of workshops and internal capacity building meetings we hosted.
Building Capacity for Data Innovation
Generating Statistics from Mobile Phone Records to Support COVID-19 Response
National Statistics Offices (NSO), which are the custodians and main producers of data at national levels, are increasingly experimenting with big data, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to requests from statisticians in Africa, our labs in New York and Kampala conducted a series of webinars to build the capacity of NSOs to use anonymised mobile phone data for decision-making in response to this pandemic and future crises.
Data Science Africa 2020
When UNGP Kampala and Makerere University first envisioned the idea of a Data Science Africa week, they wanted to create a space for youth and enthusiasts to learn about machine learning and AI and how to leverage them to advance sustainable development in Africa.
This year’s event took place between 24th July and 1st August and was held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. UNGP Kampala supported its organization, as is traditional for our Lab, and showcased some of the latest functionalities in data innovations that have been developed in the past years.
Even though participants were unable to interact online as much as they would have in person, the virtual nature of the event allowed more people to participate with an overall count of over 200 attendees from about 15 countries in Africa. The majority of the participants are students in Computer and Data Science associated fields.
Global South AI4COVID Programme
The Global South AI4COVID Programme was launched in 2020 to support multidisciplinary research focused on evidence-based AI and data science approaches to aid COVID-19 response and recovery in low- and middle- income countries.
UNGP Jakarta serves as a technical resource hub for grantees for timely flows of knowledge and expertise and plays a key role in augmenting global communication efforts, identifying opportunities for policy linkages and facilitating mobilization for action in the Global South.
AIS Big Data Hackathon
Our team in UNGP New York worked alongside the UN Statistics Division, UNCTAD, Marine Traffic, and CCRi, to host the UN’s first AIS Big Data Hackathon. The challenge featured 17 teams selected from a pool of applicants from across the world who developed innovations around two primary themes: the economic and trade impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and the environmental impacts of the shipping industry.
Modelling the Spread of COVID-19 in Settlements
We invited health professionals and researchers to an informal workshop to share lessons-learned and future directions from projects that used epidemic modelling techniques against COVID-19. Participants included colleagues from: DFID, ICRC, OCHA, UNHCR, WHO, the UN Asia Statistics Office, Delft University of Technology, Durham University, Harvard University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Manchester University.
For us, putting together this workshop provided an opportunity to connect with others working in this area to make sure that we coordinate our response for better decisions and stronger support for the people we serve.
Creating the Enabling Environment for Innovation to Thrive
Global Privacy Assembly COVID-19 Taskforce and Working Group
In 2020, while we continued to be an active observer of the Global Privacy Assembly, we also joined the group’s COVID-19 Taskforce where we contributed our expertise on how to ensure safe and privacy respectful data sharing mechanisms during the pandemic. This work led to the adoption by the Assembly of a Resolution on the Privacy and Data Protection Challenges Arising in the Context of COVID-19. This work will continue in 2021 under the newly formed Global Privacy Assembly COVID-19 Working Group that aims to strengthen the collective capacity of members to respond to data protection and privacy challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Smart Africa Data Protection Working Group
Smart Africa is an organization initiated under the auspices of the African government that works to harmonise data protection legislations across Africa. Because of our years of experience developing frameworks for the safe and responsible use of data, we were invited to join these efforts as a member of the working group. In 2020, the group began mapping the existing data protection and privacy frameworks across the continent to identify commonalities and points of divergence. This line of work was derailed by the pandemic and is set to continue at full speed in 2021.
Smart Africa AI Working Group
Through the AI Working Group, our network and partners are sharing policies for strong and ethical AI across Africa, fostering AI expertise and solutions to help create the enabling environment for open data to boost AI exchanges across Africa. The working group was established in 2020. Its first order of business was creating a blueprint for national AI strategies to help guide efforts of African countries. Based on this blueprint, the group will select pilot projects which will be implemented in 2021.
Global Data Access Initiative
To enable cross-sectoral data sharing mechanisms, we joined the Future Society’s AI Initiative and the Mckinsey & Company’s Noble Intelligence initiative to create a Global Data Access Initiative. This mechanism brings together some 70 companies and organizations to turbocharge innovation by serving as a platform for collaboration between governments, the private sector, academics, and international institutions. In 2020, the GDAI organized a high level event during the UN Data Forum as a first step in setting up the technical infrastructure needed to facilitate access to quality data.
Expert Group on Governance of Data and AI
We continue to chair the Expert Group on Governance of Data and AI, which includes international leaders who serve as advocates for privacy and the human rights-centric approach to data and AI in development and humanitarian practice. Since its launch in 2015, the Group has been a key contributor to the efforts and deliverables of our network by providing its expertise and guidance, including on the development of the UN Principles on Personal Data Protection and Privacy, the UNDG Guidance Note on Data Protection and Privacy, UN Global Pulse’s Risk Assessment Tool, and our work around data protection and privacy during COVID-19.
GSMA AI for Impact Advisory Board
This GSMA initiative defines the technical, commercial and ecosystem requirements to deliver viable data- driven products and services that adhere to principles of privacy and ethics. It is guided by a task force of 20 mobile operators and an advisory panel of 12 UN agencies, which we are one of. At the national level, the GSMA supports real-world implementations, replicating proven models and delivering market- shaping campaigns to unlock demand and address barriers. During the year, we continued to advise the group through regular consultations.
GEO-AI Working Group
UN Open GIS is an initiative of the United Nations to develop open-source technology in the field of geographic information systems. The newest working group of UN Open GIS, created in 2020, is the GEO-AI Working Group, which we co-chaired together with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In its first year of activity, the Geo-AI Working Group gathered experts from across the ecosystem and began ideating how to incorporate their common knowledge into GIS work. The Group held its first consultation in September to consolidate the expertise of its growing members. One of the Group’s objectives is to address current challenges in implementing AI into geospatial work, like reducing the obstructions of satellite imagery by cloud cover.
Our Publications and Scientific Articles
UN & Development Partners
Private Sector Companies
Crisis Insights in Response to COVID-19
Modelling the Spread of COVID-19 in Cox's Bazar Refugee Settlement
Identifying Areas with High Risks for COVID-19
Fighting the COVID-19 Infodemic with Radio Data Mining
Forecasting Migrations Related to COVID-19 Motivated Border Closures
Using Social Media Monitoring Against the COVID-19 Infodemic
Governance of AI During COVID-19
Why We Are
UN GLOBAL PULSE IS THE UN SECRETARY- GENERAL’S INITIATIVE ON DIGITAL INNOVATION, REAL-TIME DATA, AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, HUMANITARIAN ACTION, AND PEACE.
UN Global Pulse New York
UN Global Pulse Jakarta
UN Global Pulse Kampala
A New Lab:
UN Global Pulse Finland
A new Lab joined our network in 2020! UN Global Pulse Finland is made up of experts spanning the fields of innovation, transformational and change management, communications, sustainable development and humanitarian response. The Lab engages with a variety of partners to develop, co-create, and promote technology and innovation solutions which accelerate progress on achieving the SDGs. This includes cross- sector collaborations with government ministries, NGOs, development banks, academia, and the private sector.
Due to its wide range of experiences, knowledge, and skill sets, the Lab is an ideal addition to the UN Global Pulse network. Its focus areas will be on:
- Building Futures and Foresight capabilities which will enhance the work of the UNGP network. This is in part a response to the question: How can we make the UN more agile and responsive to better address needs and new challenges, for example, preparing for and mitigating health emergencies and disasters?
- Promoting system wide change in scaling innovation for sustained and improved humanitarian, peace and development outcomes.
- Becoming an operational hub for experts, technical support, learning and building capacity for our development partners.
The Lab aligns with the UN Secretary-General’s priorities and with Finnish Development policy objectives such as gender equality, human rights, and climate change. It will use innovation and technology to help achieve the SDGs and other pressing global priorities. This means drawing on and sharing lessons, expertise and know-how from a much wider development community. Our hope is that this approach will create a better quality of global digital public goods which will benefit more people, communities, and systems.
A warm welcome to our new Lab in Finland!
We Multiply Impact by Tailoring Our Services
As an EXECUTOR, UN Global Pulse implements projects together with UN and other partners, contributing subject matter expertise, and helping develop projects from proof of concept to operationalization.
As a FACILITATOR, UN Global Pulse focuses on project facilitation and acts as a bridge connecting private and public sector entities.
As a TECHNICAL ADVISOR, UN Global Pulse provides highly- specialized expertise as well as advisory and technical guidance on various specific initiatives.
We Bring Partners Together
We Create An Enabling Environment for Innovation
A New Line of Work Focused on Futures & Foresight
While COVID-19 has thrown the world into havoc, it also presented an unforeseen opportunity to transform the ways we work to change the future. This is our momentum to accelerate positives and to anticipate emerging threats, plan for more uncertainties and take preventive action to build a better, more equal, and inclusive world. The UN Secretary-General has placed great emphasis and investment in being able to transform the UN into an organisation that can do all of the above, and much, much more.
This means shifting from single-point and mandate- driven innovation to creating value and innovating with and within global networks and driving deep connections with the broader ecosystem of UN and non-UN stakeholders. To help these transformation efforts we recently added futures and foresight as a new stream of work in our portfolio.
What does that look like?
First, we’re adding to elements that already exist by supporting the Secretary-General’s strategic priorities through a system-wide approach to futures and foresight, working together with groups like the UN Network for Strategic Futures and Foresight to contribute to assets and tools. In addition, we’ll be bringing new foresight expertise into UN Global Pulse to target the SG’s priorities by building capacity in his own office. This work includes operationalizing strategies like the Data Strategy and Innovation Agenda, providing new frameworks, models and standards to work as one, and including practical issues like sharing data across silos for better outputs.
Second, we’re going to build foresight capacities through a needs-based service offering. A service to the UN System and beyond. To do this, we can play to our existing strengths and use new technologies such as ML and other AI tools to modernize the foresight practice. We will explore new ways to help us make sense of the world, sharing what we learned and asking questions to understand what the disruptive changes mean to each mandate.
We will also work to help build capacities in terms of methodologies and processes. This will involve building awareness and educational approaches that help decision makers, managers, and others know when and how to use this service for maximum value, like in resource allocation exercises or policy formation. We’ll do this through simple steps, like making people aware of what futures and foresight is, or by making sure that insights and sensemaking carried out in one part of the UN are shared with other parts.
Third, we’re going to test what works and what doesn’t. We plan to practice what we preach and use innovation processes and methodologies to experiment: against testable hypotheses, challenging our own (and others’) assumptions around the most useful approaches. We will share learnings of mistakes as well as successes, and where we create insights and sensemaking we will share outputs and products with the broader system — across silos.
Finally, futures and foresight efforts need to be grounded in inclusion, diversity, and ethical practices. We will therefore drive the use of best practices in the uses of futures and foresight, making sure that awareness and capabilities in ethical practices are used widely. We will ensure that frameworks, policies and guidelines have data accountability and interoperability across the system. Where we do carry out exercises in sensemaking or in the design of data gathering exercises we will use diversity and inclusion as guides and tools to help us create the best insights possible and improve diversity and transparency at each step of the insight value chain.
It’s a large piece of work and there is a lot we don’t know, but it’s also an exciting and meaningful addition to our portfolio and one we think will drive transformation across our United Nations. So we’re pretty excited about it and ready to start learning.