I recently returned from the 2018 UN Innovation Bootcamp, which took place from July 24-27, 2018 in Beirut, Lebanon. The Bootcamp was organized by the UN Development Operations Coordination Office, and it brought together cross-sectoral teams working in data innovation, collective intelligence, behavioral insight and foresight/future, and innovative finance from 21 countries. I attended as one of the mentors from Sierra Leone.

As a mentor, I was matched with teams to help them think about their project design and implementation at country level. However, I was also an active peer learner, and I connected with experts and novices who all had a similar interest in improving lives through data and innovation. This was pretty neat. I also learned about how the United Nations embraces data and innovation in their country operations and explored opportunities for doing more.

UNSDG: A brief introduction
The United Nations Sustainable Development Group unites 40 UN funds, programs, specialized agencies, departments, and offices that play a role in development.

The UN Development Operations Coordination Office, the secretariat of the UNSDG, supports 131 UN country teams serving 165 countries and territories to work together to increase the impact of the UN system.
Several country teams use innovation in their country programming, including human-centered design, foresight/alternative futures, big data, real-time monitoring, crowdsourcing, innovation labs and camps, mobile feedback mechanisms, micro-narratives, and behavioral insights.

Examples of projects by participants at the bootcamp are:

SDGs: Real-time monitoring to enhance participatory planning in Colombia-Data

Collective intelligence to engage Iraqi youth in mapping their cultural heritage, devastated by the war in Iraq

A data accountability framework based on collective intelligence in Lesotho

Combining UAV and Satellite Imagery for Improved Crop Monitoring in Malawi

Using AI to automate the Rapid Integrated Assessment mechanism and to nationalize SDGs in Serbia

Block-chain for Public Services (Land Registry) An effective solution to enhanced transparency, accountability, and inclusivity in Uzbekistan

I grew significantly through the experience of engaging with participants on a daily basis, learning about their projects and actions, sharing cutting-edge innovation practices, and introducing new skills, tools, and innovative concepts in a peer-learning environment. Upon my return to the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation, I have continued my normal projects and dug deeper into applied machine learning and technology design as related to the SDGs.