Photo: Accelerator Lab Py

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has left, in addition to its health impacts, important economic and social consequences. There are many needs, and financial resources have become more limited than ever. This necessarily means optimizing everything we have at hand to achieve the best results in our work, undertakings, public policies, and social initiatives. In other words, we need innovation and, above all, social innovation.

Social innovation is the search for solutions to community problems. Generally, we tend to believe that the innovation process demands new and unprecedented inventions, but it’s important to recognize that innovation also means modifying what already exists in order to improve it. 

The decision to promote new inventions or adapt what already exists should respond to people's needs or to a specific problem and be based on the analysis of data to avoid unnecessary costs in the innovation process. In fact, this will allow us to identify problems with greater precision and explore the existing solutions. By avoiding blind decisions we can focus interventions and optimize resources. 

But here we cannot escape a reality in which the data we need to make decisions is not always available. So, what can be done? This is where there is much to learn from Wendá, a web platform for public-private collaboration that seeks to articulate, promote and strengthen civil initiatives. 

Wendá emerged at a time when mobility restrictions were adopted as mitigation measures forCOVID-19 and when going out to collect data was not possible. Hence the emergence of this web platform which registers social, commercial, and public service, generating a lot of qualitative and quantitative data that previously did not reach everyone. 

 

Wendá in Practice 

So far, 4,478 initiatives have been registered. This led to Wendá being awarded in the categories "Data Analytics" and "Transformation and Digital Government" by u-GOB, a Mexico-based civil society organization that seeks to make governments in Ibero-America perform better through innovation and digital transformation. 

The analysis of data from the Wendá platform identified the efforts that many initiatives have made and allowed them to support competitions for social and business innovation, such as Moiru, Valemi and Calle.idea. 

Moiru supported the implementation of solutions to strengthen Paraguay's resilience in the context of the Pandemic, and evaluated topics such as sustainable agricultural production, both for subsistence and for income generation, the promotion of nutritious and healthy food, and access to production resources. A total of 105 initiatives were registered for the competition. 

 

Valemi was a contest for micro and small enterprises, where the beneficiaries received vouchers and training to improve their competitive capabilities in the digital world; 270 initiatives were registered.  

Calle Idea is a contest for sustainable interventions based on the theme of “tactical urbanism” with the aim of generating improvements in the management of urban, vehicular, and pedestrian traffic, promoting citizen participation and the use of sustainable mobility, with a total of 21 initiatives registered. 

 

 

These types of processes, such as contests, monetary and/or technical support, or participation in laboratories have a positive impact on innovation and, in turn, generate new data. It is essential to analyze these data in order to capture and quantify the impacts generated, identify the opportunities for improvement, and to learn the lessons generated by the interventions. These will inform the design of evidence-based interventions, whether in the public or private sphere, allowing for better utilization and targeting of limited resources. 

 

Learning from Wendá

The National Innovation Strategy and the UNDP Acceleration Laboratory analyzed the over 4000 points incorporated into Wendá central map as different typologies: "Needs", "Offers of Help" and "Products and Services" related to the challenges posed by the pandemic. These typologies were categorized at a second level to look for relationships between them, and, in this second level of categorization, we observed that most of the ventures were related to food security and flexible manufacturing. This data analysis of the initiatives allowed us to focus on two challenges: 

  • the food security challenge: a social innovation focus, seeking to facilitate the mapping, characterization, and analysis of community and social enterprises related to agriculture and sustainable food; and 

  • the flexible manufacturing challenge: a business innovation focus, seeking to facilitate the mapping, characterization, and analysis of clusters of manufacturing SMEs, in order to identify barriers and strategic opportunities for flexible manufacturing and then design comprehensive development interventions that improve inter-firm cooperation within clusters. 

The learning loop methodology (discovery, exploration, experimentation, and growth) will generate contributions to the specific challenges, specifically in the quest to build a more resilient Paraguay. In the next installments we will be addressing the discovery stage of the food security and flexible manufacturing challenges.

 

By Jorge Garicoche, Ana Lucía Giménez and the UNDP Acceleration Lab Team. 

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This blog was originally published at National Innovation Strategy's page. For the original publication, click here

Para la versión en español, click aquí.

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