Leveraging collective intelligence for the SDGs: 13 stories from the Labs
During the first full year of operation, the UNDP Accelerator Lab Network experimented with a rich variety of collective intelligence methods, tackling issues from depopulation to waste management. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many Labs started with relatively mature methods, such as challenge prizes, geographic information systems (GIS), crowdmapping and citizen science.
The availability of open tools and resources, and the established communities of expert practitioners in national innovation ecosystems, were important enablers. For example, in Tanzania, the Lab used the OpenStreetMap platform to carry out crowdmapping activities, while in Argentina, the Lab partnered with a global citizen science project to build DIY sensors for measuring air quality. Other Labs experimented at the boundaries of collective intelligence practice, exploring methods that have rarely been tested in real-world settings. In Mexico, the Lab launched two such initiatives that use exploratory data analysis of open government data and non-traditional datasets to evaluate what works in public sector spending and programs.
The Labs’ first year coincided with the global COVID-19 pandemic, and many teams pivoted their portfolio to help manage the impact of the crisis in their countries. Four of the case studies presented here concern COVID-19-response directly, while others had to adapt quickly as a result of changing circumstances, for example by moving in-person activities to online platforms.
Although it’s still early days, the Labs’ combined portfolio of experiments in collective intelligence design provides a glimpse of how collective intelligence approaches can serve multiple purposes to advance the SDGs. These 13 stories are grouped into four ‘use cases’ – practical ways in which people are using collective intelligence approaches to achieve ambitions relating to the SDGs. In this section, we provide a brief introduction to the main features of each use case, as well as the detailed accounts of the relevant Labs’ initiatives.