ūüí° Go back to the main page for background information on this collective intelligence space!
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‚ÄčLet's begin¬†with the following framing questions¬†on¬†transforming systems¬†and¬†the¬†2020 HDR:


1. How do social norms influence the environment and power dynamics in your context? In what ways, do you/your community participate in (or avoid) these social norms? 

2. When¬†is¬†nature (‚Äúnature-based solutions‚ÄĚ)¬†closely incorporated into development in your context?¬†How are you/your community advocating for and engaging in these efforts?¬†

3. When and which incentives have supported people and governments to act responsibly in your context? How have you/your community encountered obstacles to identifying, shaping, and making effective, these incentives?

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Watch the welcome video by Pedro Conceição, Lead Author of the 2020 HDR and Director of the Human Development Report Office

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ūüí° Please share your insights, lessons learned & concrete examples below ‚¨á! All perspectives are welcome!

Comments (23)

Adriana Dinu Moderator

I am very much looking forward to this exchange over the next three weeks, and I am delighted to be a discussant in this conversation. If this can get us to a place where we arrive at concrete points on how to make the 2020 HDR matter to the general public, I think we will have achieved something big.

To get us started, I’m going to share a short story from my own field experience. In 1997, I was a young conservationist. I cared deeply about wildlife and protected areas, bordering obsession. So, when I was asked by the NGO I was working with to come up with a management plan for this biodiversity-rich land they bought in the southern Belize, images of pristine rainforest hosting jaguars, ocelots, margays and harpy eagles came dancing to my mind and I jumped at the opportunity!  Little did I know how much the experience will enrich and change me, even without seeing any of my target species.

This last piece of 10,000 acres of forest linking the mountains to the reef was purchased in the name of a local NGO and set as a private reserve to avoid its conversion to shrimp and citrus farming. An initiative close to my heart. Clear strategy, I thought, as I mobilized resource for the rangers‚Äô salaries and equipment, biodiversity survey, the management plan and a field station. None of these, however, reduced the pressures on the reserve from slash and burn farming and extraction of resources. I started asking why and listening to the voices of the Mayan communities. None of the voices spoke about biodiversity. They spoke about lack of jobs, of economic opportunities, of access to electricity, of roads to school and markets. This wasn‚Äôt my language. Mine wasn‚Äôt their language. I listened more to deepen my understanding, learning and opening my heart, and rediscovering what my Ecology Professor taught me way back in the 80s ‚ÄúNatural capital is the capital for development, you cannot deplete it and still expect development, but you need to use it sustainably‚ÄĚ. In 2001, Hurricane Iris hit hard the southern Belize and flattened most of the Mayan houses in the area. The Reserve held the only traditional building materials the communities had, it was the only safety net, so we agreed immediately to a sustainable extraction plan. The mind, the heart and the hand were connected across a perceived nature - development ‚Äúdivide‚ÄĚ. I have not been to Belize since 2001, but I often think, where my professional path would have taken me without this experience. Today, twenty years later, the local NGO is more successful than ever, managing 770,000 acres called the¬†Maya Golden Landscape, working with three protected areas and eight communities in an effort to achieve harmony between nature and development. It‚Äôs symbol and name, Ya‚Äôaxch√©, is ceiba tree, the sacred Mayan tree, representing the interconnectedness of all living things, as is the belief of the ancient Maya.

I share this story, so that you can share yours. I am asking us to together answer:

  • What would make human development appeal to the heart and mind of general population? What stories would make the 2020 HDR accessible to the general public?¬†
  • What would it take for us to communicate about planet and human development with compassion and empathy, not only with data-driven, ‚Äúlogical‚ÄĚ arguments?

The 2020 HDR does not offer recommendations, so it leaves us with space to answer the big question: ‚Äúso what? what do we do now?‚ÄĚ. This is our opportunity to offer our stories, concrete examples, dreams and ambitions for the future of the planet and human development. I am looking forward to hearing your stories.

Laurel Patterson Moderator

Colleagues, I am delighted to be a discussant in this collective intelligence space and I look forward to our exchange over the next 3 weeks. 

In¬†Transforming Systems in the Decade of Action, we focus on a ‚Äúknowing-doing‚Ä̬†gap. In¬†brief, this means¬†we know we want to do things differently in the UN,¬†but we aren‚Äôt always doing those things. In 2018, I was brought into a study on 'rule¬†breaking bureaucrats.' It was basically thinking through how a system¬†as complex as ours evolves, and the role of people who stretch rules without necessarily breaking helps¬†our institutions to evolve and adapt. When I think about the¬†2020 HDR,¬†it brings¬†up these questions for me:¬†

  • How do we(UN practitioners)translate our principles into actions?¬†
  • How do I push things¬†far enough¬†(‚Äúbend but not break rules‚ÄĚ)¬†to bridge the ‚Äúknowing-doing‚ÄĚ gap?¬†

I‚Äôll share a¬†short¬†personal story¬†to demonstrate the¬†challenge¬†I think¬†we face. It starts with our implicit principle at the UN to engage, listen and partner with a wide group of stakeholders,¬†but our difficulty in embodying it.¬†When I was working in Somalia, I helped design and run the first TEDx¬†Mogadishu,¬†livestreamed into the Social Good Summit.¬† We wanted to hold a series of discussions across Somali entrepreneurs, private sector, activists, academics on what was driving a revival of the capital city, and we wanted to host in our UN common compound, which was important so that we could livestream,¬†but¬†owing to security requirements, it was incredibly difficult to allow ‚Äėoutsiders‚Äô into the compound.

In the end, we managed to hold the TEDx in the compound and all the voices and ideas we wanted to amplify were in the room. The Department of Safety and Security led the charge in making it happen, but it was also a coming together of many different actors in UNDP, in security, in our compound management team to share a common ambition for an event like this, and find a way to make it happen.

The result was what may seem like a something small, but it was something big. We collectively found ways to vet and clear participants through security, and we had to re-create physical space in the UNCC to be conducive to these dialogues, livestreamed, and with a small audience. It created new relationships, to interact and be inspired by local action and local actors we don't normally have the opportunity to listen to. Several of the ideas shared and people connected sparked new collaboration, and in a context so often reflected in terms of its problems and challenges, this was a space for growth and possibility.

As we inquire into the 2020 HDR and offer ways to put it into practice, I reflect on issues of power and equity that hinder us from re-imagining rules or procedures to embody the changes we seek to see. I ask : How are we stepping out of our power to shift norms and create incentives to advance human development?  

Aarathi Krishnan

Thanks Laurel Patterson and Adriana Dinu in getting the conversation going! 

When I think about the HDR and the opportunities it provides us to reimagine differently - I also think about 'what would it take for us all to behave differently, to shift within ourselves our own forms of power and what is both the learning and unlearning journey that has to accompany this?'

I also wonder about the idea of future harm and future risk (obviously). Before working out our incentives to change, should we also think about what are the harms that we could be inflicting on future generations, in very real terms - and what that future cost might mean for us today?

Just short reflections here as I think about both your comments and looking forward to more conversations on this! 



Ximena Rios

Thanks, Aarathi Krishnan¬†, for bringing up a great point: we (at the UN) need to courageously unlearn what we consider the ‚Äúappropriate‚ÄĚ communications channels with their typical contents and learn how to inspire a critical mass of humans to change the system. Questions that strongly resonated with me in Theory U sessions were: what do we have to let go? and what do we have let come? I other words, what do we have to unlearn to adjust our message to this time ways to engage the coexistent human generations? The Unlearning process changes the power dynamics at the individual and organizational level in this highly intellectualized and mentally perfectionist society. I have learned from the communities that: it is only when we emotionally accept that the required change (no matter how complex) is THE way to survive that we put aside differences, commit, and proactively embody the no-one-left-behind principle. Like the cabildos in Chile nowadays. When the social message deeply touches me by demonstrating that what is happening there (to others) is connected to what is happening here (to me, my family), then I am ready to get out of my comfort zone. In that sense, the studies and numbers are essential to demonstrate the connection, but the message has to engage our fellow humans‚Äô hearts beyond their brains. We need to ignite the people on the street to pressure the political systems to improve and the private companies to expand their business view. To wake up the coexistent human generations, we need to speak their language, translate those numbers into the impact on their lives. This is why Greta‚Äôs message resonates so loudly in GenZ. It is now clear for them that without climate change, there is just no survival. It is not just that the message is indeed dramatic, but it is a personal, a call in their ‚Äúlanguage‚ÄĚ that they can relate to. Then the question could be how we can learn to translate the report into a personal call for all generations?

One hint to find a path is to remember that generations are different from the ‚Äúmind‚ÄĚ (and the social paradigms that identify us), but we all have the same constitutive human emotions. What is the call that we all would hear?

Martin Zelinka

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for sharing your stories. We (Acc Lab, UNDP Ukraine) launched an online course about biomimetic solutions in April 2021. We created content for 4 weekly lessons, there is a webinar every week and yesterday we also held a special Ask Me Anything Session. Why are we doing this? Well, we deeply believe that biomimicry is a great way to sustainable future and we want to promote the idea in Ukraine.

There is a national round of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge organized by UNDP Ukraine and the Institute for Biomimicry/ USA in May 2021 and we would like to boost the number of participants! The winners of the national round will be supported in an incubator and, hopefully, successfully apply for the international round!

Please, support, share this idea, let us know what you think about it, or reach out to me for more info if you are curious :)

Good luck with your projects!


Seockhwan Bryce Hwang Moderator

Thank you, Martin. Would you mind sharing one or two examples of biomimetic solutions from the course? Would love to learn more. 

Jordanna Tennebaum

Dear Colleagues, 

It is great to be apart of this important space as we reflect on the 2020 HDR and work on putting it into practice. This notion of moving from concepts and understanding to practical applications has certainly been a focal point of The Action Learning Lab. 

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to one of the above questions that has stood out to me: When and which incentives have supported people and governments to act responsibly in your context? How have you/your community encountered obstacles to identifying, shaping, and making effective, these incentives?

At the Accelerator Lab for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, the question of how to incentivize public or stakeholder participation in projects has certainly come up. Often, when we think of incentives, they are conceived as physical items- objects, awards or sometimes status symbols of involvement. 

As an alternative to the above that I believe is worthy of further consideration are cultural incentives that encourage action. In Barbados, solutions, challenges and daily realities are often referred to at the grassroots level as a "We Thing," meaning that the impacts of factors such as COVID-19 or climate change impact everyone- no one is divisible from the whole. In light of this, a form of incentivization that frequently works is in emphasizing collective impact, i.e.: when you do not litter at beaches, everyone benefits, and therefore you are impacting the community at large. 

Picking up on and emphasizing these social and cultural cues can be essential to the incentivization discussion. However, what makes this challenging are finding ways to tap into the defining spirit of communities on behalf of public sector actors. What is the solution to this? At the Lab, we frequently try to approach locals on their terms - either within the markets they operate in, by using more colloquial language or by being conscious of the ways in which they want to impact their societies from a We Thing standpoint. How else can cultural incentives be recognized and developed?

Jonathan Hall Moderator

This is an important comment Jordanna Tennebaum - thank you. The HDR recognises the importance of societal norms (which is what I think you are talking about here) in shaping behaviour often in a way that can be far more effective than typical incentives like taxes, regulations and benefits. And the HD report I think mentions an example from rural India where fertility decisions were shaped more by social norms than other considerations (something that is not unique to India of course eg https://www.livemint.com/politics/policy/how-social-norms-influence-fer…).  They can also be more politically palatable than harder incentives.  So while the UN might be  concerned at the idea of government policies that seek to limit population growth, the idea of trying to challenge social norms that promote having lots of children might be less controversial. Of course norms can be forces for good and bad, nor are they always easy to change. But when they do change they can shift behaviour very quickly. Just look - here in NYC at least - at mask wearing post COVID. No one is wearing a mask here because they are worried about being regulations. They do so because it is the right thing to do and/or because other New Yorkers would very quickly tell them to put one on. The police are not involved.

It would be good to know more if you have experience of policy nudges that have been effective in shifting norms? 

Jordanna Tennebaum

Jonathan Hall Thank you for your build regarding my comment on incentives! It is good to note how this is recognized in the HDR, as well as the shaping of behaviors through social norms via your mask example in New York. With regards to my experiences and observations on policy nudges resulting in societal shifts, in 2019 Barbados formally introduced legislation that banned the sale or use of petrol-based single-use plastic. While some aspects of the ban have been challenged in terms of implementation, this policy direction resulted in new discussions and perspectives on waste management, the environment and plastic usage. Within this landscape, broader shifts occurred at the public level as many locals reconsidered their relationships with plastic and the roles they could play in its reduction. Relatedly, the private sector made necessary adjustments through the incorporation of plastic alternatives. Consequently, on a general level, norms and behaviors were changed due to legislative measures as there has been increased awareness of and action on the elimination of single-use plastic. 


Jonathan Hall Jordanna Tennebaum 
Thank you for sharing these stories about the interplay between social norms and regulations in incentivizing change. This reminded me of how by helping to shape new social norms, new incentives for behaviours can be created. Growing up in the Eastern Caribbean eating turtles and their eggs was normal. So when laws for protecting these creatures were adopted as part of our island's participation in   / negotiation in regional and international agreements it seemed really hard to understand how they could be adopted locally in a small country. At the time, we were probably a nation of just 40,000 people. The persons whose job it was to now enforce these laws and arrest the new rule breakers were relatives, friends and community members. Most likely they too would have enjoyed eating turle eggs and meat. 
Through a number of multi-year campaigns that included outreach to schools, television and radio programmes, youth groups, churches, the engagement of hotels, fishermen and other stakeholders.... the community came to realize that turtles were worth far more in the ocean than in their pots. Turtles represented a key attraction for our tourism industry, they helped create better paying jobs for the country and communities.. they were part of our unique marine ecosystems something that we should be proud of and care for. The survival of turtles and other species was clearly linked to our socio-economic wellbeing of communities and individuals...
These days no one is catching turtles and should one get accidentally trapped in a fish net it is quickly released. Should anyone decide to catch and eat turtles, it would raise a social outcry and would be reported to law enforcement. Yes, there are now high fines and jail terms but the real deterrent is the new understanding of our co-dependence with nature and the new social norms that have been developed..

I should also point out that these processes have led to the loss of local knowledge - for example the techniques for finding and capturing turtles, their preparation and related social practices. Sometimes protection efforts can lead to over-population of protected species that can adversely impact ecosystems in the future. So who knows we may need to 'rediscover" this knowledge of how to hunt turtles in the future. I guess this points to the fact that our interventions are never perfect or complete... So we need greater engagement, greater openness and perhaps be less "certain" about the outcomes of our interventions and set up monitoring to continually assess the impacts and learn from our work... 

Seockhwan Bryce Hwang Moderator

PAUL HECTOR Thank you very much for sharing this fascinating example. I find your point about the loss of local knowledge especially enlightening, since conservation projects can often be implemented and scaled up too cruedly and hastily. The all-too predictable upshot is a failure to recognize the immense impact that the human tampering of a delicate ecosystem can bring. Imbalance by over-population of a few target species can be just as devastating to the environment as their endangerment, as we have seen from numerous failed efforts.

Besides the potential benefit of population control like you mentioned, making efforts to document and preserve indigenous knowledge has value regardless of its practical applicability, as it wasn't created in vacuum but rather is part of the cohesive cultural fabric that continues to be weaved. Just because certain strands or colors go out of style don't mean that we should choose not to recognize them or blindly remove them in a way that tear apart the whole structure. In that sense, I suppose, conservation for people and the planet is as much art as science - full of imperfections like you said. Also as you have mentioned, frequently monitoring for the possibility that one solution may fail or bring whole new challenges is the best way to prevent destruction via good intentions.

Sophia Robele

Something I have been thinking about in the context of shifting norms and incentives is the concept of ‚Äėstewardship‚Äô ‚Äď this word that we most readily associate with the environment, with physical resources, with our responsibility to nature‚Ķbut one that we rarely seem to apply to other human beings. Of course, in many ways, development paradigms imply the responsibility that we have to one another, but the idea of stewardship, of this being responsible for the wellbeing of other people in a way that is not simply about goodwill, carries a different kind of connotation‚Ķa different weight.

I am not raising this to suggest that we should take the focus away from instilling a sense of stewardship over nature, but just to put forward the question of how stewardship of nature is interconnected with stewardship of other people‚Ķ that maybe in fact the entry point to being environmentally-focused is being people-focused. Which first requires us to inquire more seriously into the ways we are currently centering people in our development paradigms‚Ķ of what it means to be ‚Äėhuman centered‚Äô‚Ķof whether we sometimes conflate being human-centered with being individual-centered.

The ways we fail to recognize the reality of the oneness of humanity seem inextricably linked to the ways we fail to recognize our oneness with our physical world. At the same time, maybe the end game doesn‚Äôt have to be about convincing everyone to love the planet or feel a direct responsibility to it necessarily. Inasmuch as some people might come to feel a sense of stewardship for nature solely because of the value it has in and of itself, for others, maybe this will come from a sense of social justice and commitment to equity ‚Äď from a felt connection to the rest of humanity (both in the present and future), or even in a more immediate sense, a connection to one‚Äôs own community.

More broadly, as we know, our environmental issues ultimately come down to the injustices built into systems of power ‚Äď institutionalized into policies and governance systems, into capitalist economic models, into the ways we have structured ourselves as societies, etc. We can‚Äôt actually address the roots of our environmental problems without addressing the roots of the inequities in human systems/relationships to one another. For instance, it is hard to imagine an end to climate change without an end to racism‚Ķwithout a rise in consciousness of the ways that racism enables our existing power structures to persist ‚Äď ¬†standing ‚Äúin the way of bringing about a society centered on basic human dignity and environmental stewardship rather than maximizing economic growth and corporate profit.‚ÄĚ But of course, it is much easier to make the case for ‚Äėnature-based solutions‚Äô than it is to talk about anti-racism, or even ‚Äėhuman dignity-based solutions‚Äô in a conversation about the environment. Part of it might be that we like to focus on entry points where there is a linear, immediate, direct connection‚Ķbut part of it might also be that, in western societies in particular, we don‚Äôt necessarily feel responsible to other human beings (and by extension, to putting in the work to truly examine the ways that we contribute to systems of harm, including the unequal effects of something like climate change, or the ways that we don‚Äôt question the economic structures that contribute to it‚Ķbecause often we benefit from them).

This also connects to the colonial legacies that we perpetuate through global development itself‚Ķand why conversations around decolonizing development should really be made central to a conversation like this. I appreciated that the HDR alluded to the ways that development really privileges certain knowledge systems over others, particularly in highlighting the sophistication of many indigenous systems of knowledge and governance when it comes to living in harmony with people and planet. But what does it actually take to center a multiplicity of worldviews in the collective shifts needed? And not to reinforce another form of othering in the ways that we seek to ‚Äúintegrate‚ÄĚ different philosophies and epistemologies into development efforts?

Part of the challenge is the ways that we in the UN or other development organizations so often try to project a ‚Äėneutral‚Äô stance in prioritizing certain forms of evidence or solutions, and under the banner of neutrality ultimately end up erasing other worldviews. Just like in the case of racism or other ‚Äėisms‚Äô, so much of the challenge of dismantling existing power structures comes from the ways we invisibilize our own biases by treating certain ways of thinking and being and seeing as the baseline or standard. In development, for instance, our ideas about what is ‚Äėrational‚Äô, what constitutes ‚Äėhard data‚Äô, what urgency implies, what the bounds of a system are, what notions like ‚Äėhuman agency‚Äô and ‚Äėfreedom‚Äô imply, are often grounded in a western, or even white supremacy, logic ‚Äď but we treat them as neutral and universal, such that all other logics are then seen as ‚Äėalternative‚Äô.

Even the ways we talk about the need to better integrate indigenous wisdom into sustainable development efforts is quite telling: the fact that it needs to be integrated begs the question ‚Äď integrated into what? Into whose process of development? It ultimately means that we are defining the process of development as owned by certain players, as something connected to certain institutions and power-holders of knowledge, when in reality development processes have long been led by indigenous peoples, by spiritual communities, etc. The reason we don‚Äôt recognize the progress and value borne out of these efforts has to do with the ways we define progress, and development, and the goals of development, and the time horizon.

We particular tend to devalue worldviews that don‚Äôt fit the western model of ‚Äėrationality‚Äô, including the many spiritual or even religious traditions that in fact emphasize and work to foster the very values and social practices deemed necessary for environmental change . It‚Äôs great that the HDR highlights the importance of different philosophical traditions that emphasize interdependence and use that awareness as the basis for social organization, or even that it acknowledges the role that religion has on people‚Äôs ‚Äėintrinsic motivation‚Äô and therefore needs to be factored into any conversation to do with norms. This kind of acknowledgement is an important first step. I think we still have a ways to go, though, in learning how to really value multiple forms of knowledge and ways of understanding reality (i.e. to ‚Äėvalue‚Äô meaning seeing them as equally valid as frameworks through which to understand and approach development/not to see them as alternatives or things on the margins), especially given that this work of reorienting what we value and validate through our processes requires slowing down, focusing on human relationships, and embracing complexity: things our development systems, our political systems, our economic systems are not really set up to do.

When we actually start to embrace these different ways of being and knowing, it also has a lot of implications for how we understand ‚Äėcapacity‚Äô in the context of this work: of where it exists, of the directionality of capacity development efforts needed. When things like capacity, or wealth, or capital, are not merely viewed in economic or technological terms (as our development paradigms tend to do) but rather in terms of things like the strength of community, or spiritual wisdom, or architectures of belonging and mutual support mechanisms, our understanding of which societies are the most ‚Äėdeveloped‚Äô or advanced and which ones are plagued with ‚Äėcapacity gaps‚Äô that impede development really shifts. To bring in a personal example from my own religious community, the Baha‚Äôi Faith, something that struck me recently in thinking about our own capacity development processes for community building work is how many of the Baha‚Äôi communities that are the most ‚Äėadvanced‚Äô in these processes are in non-western countries (the learning from which is shared on a global scale)‚Ķ how when the focus of human development is not only on material progress, but also on the spiritual capacities and systematic processes for strengthening the relational infrastructure for change (cooperation, belonging, unity, love, etc.), it creates a different landscape of societies that remain ‚Äėunderdeveloped‚Äô. In particular, it puts into perspective the challenges to progress that emerge from cultural norms that center individuality/individual freedoms and happiness over a focus on community and the happiness of others. I think this is particularly relevant for the kinds of questions being posed by the HDR around the capabilities needed to address our ecological crises‚Ķ of where we need to be looking for ‚Äėexpertise‚Äô in the context of building capabilities for changes at the level of social norms, values, and perceptions‚Ķ

Nicole Anand Moderator

Thank you, Sophia Robele . This is incredibly thoughtful. There is so much to unpack here, so I will stick to one strong insight you offered: "the ways that we contribute to systems of harm, including the unequal effects of something like climate change, or the ways that we don’t question the economic structures that contribute to it"

I hope that others contributing to this discussion and those who are working on human development and trying to make the 2020 HDR a reality, will be inspired by this to zoom out of a narrow lens and think about the broader area of inquiry: systems of harm. This also connects well to Aarathi Krishnan 's comments. 

One way forward might be to determine categories/classifications/archetypes of harm that hinder human development, and hence help us come up with concrete levers for changing incentives, shaping social norms and building nature based solutions. What might those categories of harm be? What might those levers of change be to mitigate those harms? 

Kenyatta Mirindi

"How do we translate our principles into actions"?  also  an example of  encouragement  and build on industry-led initiatives ,while working as a market research for think 3E A business enterprise back in 2011, the company was running at a loss of 25% of its budget mainly due to the high travel costs it incurred. It regularly sent its staff to meetings overseas where they exchanged knowledge and ideas with partner companies. The Company also sold its services to customers in other countries, so there was a lot of overseas travel. Travel costs needed to be reduced and other ways found to deal with international partners and customers that didn't involve travel.

As a team of market researchers I decided to initiate brainstormed ideas of ways to solve the problem, I did considered colleague’s view; I came up with the idea of making the company website more interactive by introducing SKYPE as a new method of communication. This would allow partners and customers to negotiate contracts and discuss ideas and problems (mainly over Skype), and therefore there would be less need for face-to-face meetings and international travel I also suggested to review, disused on a regular basis the company website for it improvement. The company implemented the idea. I worked and instruct IT experts to develop the website's capabilities and to give training to others to use the new functionality. Within 6 month the company started to see improvements of to its finances as planned overseas meetings could be cancelled and the business conducted on the website instead. Very little travel was needed and costs were immediately reduced. Customer service levels were also improved and managed well as the company could conduct business more quickly and efficiently with its partners and customers and didn't need to wait for face-to-face meetings. Travel spending was reduced to 8% within 6months. 

Daniel Barraez

Dear colleagues,
I am glad to share with you in this space. The discussion on how to actualize and put in practice the 2020 HDR is crucial. I am going to share a short personal story to attempt to answer the two questions of Laurel Patterson.

Shortly after finishing university, I was part of a team in Venezuela to support the state oil company in improving the exploitation of oil wells. All of us in the group were very happy to help with our efforts to generate the greatest wealth in the country. As the project progressed, the company produced a video showing an oil well where the methodologies developed by the team were implemented. We were very impressed when we saw that the entire area around the oil well was heavily contaminated.  Birds and plants bathed in oil. Several colleagues from the project exchanged opinions. The uneasiness about the environmental impact was widespread.  We immediately got in touch with colleagues from the university who specialized in environmental issues. We wanted to elaborate on a new project to measure and reduce the environmental impact of oil exploitation. However, we realized that the idea, although good, was insufficient. Oil as an energy source was inherently polluting. In addition, the people living near the wells felt that oil exploitation generated well-paying jobs, and we realized the social implications were complex. How to provide energy and jobs to the people without harming the environment? Our project became a project to substitute oil energy with clean energy. We began to estimate how many wind and solar generators would be required to provide electricity to the small villages and how many jobs would be generated. We can always make an effort to do things differently!.


Shivani Nayyar

Thanks Daniel Barraez for sharing your story. Hopefully every country will be making the transition to clean energy and ending subsidies to fossil fuels. In the HDR, we note that in terms of technology this is feasible. For example, the prices of solar energy have fallen dramatically over the last few decades (by 89 percent since 2010). In fact, solar energy is now reported to be cheaper than traditionally generated energy. 

The issue for developing countries is often the availability of financing. This is something the report emphasizes. While the technology exists and is affordable, sometimes the main chunk of the cost is the high financing cost faced by developing countries, where investments are considered risky and a high risk premium is charged. 

At the policy level, the elements of energy and technology and climate finance need to come together, with national and multilateral efforts. 

Claudio Providas

In the case of Iran we do see a combination of factors that work against each other, on one side the tremendous pressures imposed by Climate Change, desertification and severe water stress and on the other an already stressed economy by sanctions and now Covid19 forcing both existing interests groups to become very protective of their positions and control of existing business models but also a population that has learned to be resilient and search for innovative solution to address import substitution.

Population growth, a youth bulge and the decrease in the quality of life in large cities coping with pollution and traffic, and lately Covid19 are unique opportunities to advocate, test and mobilize support for new behaviours and nature based solutions.

As previous occasions, integrating all stakeholders early-on in the discussions and solution definition is key, from awareness and behavior campaigns to addressing specific issues such as plastic or water management.

UNDP is involved in the revival of a mayor wetland, and area of 150,000 Square KMs and 5 million people, Lake Urmia restoration involving local communities in sustainable agriculture & biodiversity conservation in pilot areas has resulted in:

  • 35% water saving for irrigation
  • 40% decrease in use of chemical fertilizers & pesticides
  • Better crop yields (15%)

Forbes Magazine recently featured a story about a dying lake coming back to life and UNDP Iran’s role in this tale of hope https://bit.ly/3bHxGeI

Green development: Energy Efficiency: UNDP has initiated a project with the Government and the Municipality for 244 pilot buildings in Iran to focus on energy efficiency on residential buildings (old and new ones).

  • Review of the legal, policy and regulatory frameworks
  • Demonstrative pilots showcasing combined energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in demonstration buildings
  • Introducing mechanisms for a competitive energy efficiency and environment market; green instruments (white certificates) development to be traded in money markets.

Some results:

created 1200 direct/indirect jobs and led to saving of 8% & 20% in electricity & gas consumption respectively in 244 pilot buildings. Other achievements of EE project:

  • Cooperation with 15 government organizations, 30 private companies, and 5 specialized NGOs
  • Energy saving of 33 Gigawatt/hour
  • Saving of the equivalent of 24,000 barrels of crude oil
  • Carbon dioxide emissions reduced by 5800 tons
  • Participation of 3000 persons in training and public awareness programmes

Going back to the original questions:

1) we need evidence and to include beneficiaries in the advocacy efforts, integration of poverty-environment, something UNDP has decades of experience

2) conditionalities for Covid19 relief and recovery linked to green solutions, in our cases working with Women, jobs and reforestation

3) connecting urban-centric digital markets with rural value-chains, UNDP supporting innovation, re-conversion and diversification

4) supporting green financing and green instruments, in our case for example white certificates and bonds linked to energy savings.

Seockhwan Bryce Hwang Moderator

Thank you for sharing all these concrete, heartening examples, Claudio Providas. I fully agree that placing the beneficiaries at the heart of these efforts is a vital condition of any development work but especially one in which they are often bear the initial and biggest brunt of the stressors and shocks hindering progress.

A couple of questions about their roles in the projects you mentioned above:

1) can you share more context in which the trainings and advocacy programmes are taking place, and is there room for injecting some of the crucial key messages from the HDR on social norms, nature-based solutions and incentives into the curricula? 

2) Are the youth actively included in said programmes? We may have started envisaging and implementing solutions for a sustainable future, but it's the youth of now that will actually lead that future and be tasked with seeing ongoing efforts to completion.

Simon Cooper

I'd like to build on the questions Adriana Dinu and Laurel Patterson posed, and echo what Sophia Robele said. Adriana and Laurel's stories both spoke of Stewardship (of nature and of a difficult-to-achieve purpose) and Sophia used the word explicitly. Stewardship can be in-our-time - for communities, individuals and the natural world who are not "us" but who exist in the same world as we do. But what if we extend our Stewardship to those not yet born? When we talk of responsibility to nature we implicitly mean now and in the future. I leave it to you to decide whether empathy is stronger for those alongside us or for those ahead of us, but if we adapt our approach to what author Roman Krznaric calls "Cathedral Thinking", thinking for a future we know we won't be there to experience. He suggests imagining the world you would want if you didn't know into which generation you would be born, or treating future generations how you would want past generations to have treated you. In essence, what is the HDR we want to read in 50 years time?

I think of this as being like Doughnut Economics applied over time. An apt comparison because Roman Krznaric and Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics, are married. It will be intriguing to hear her speak in tomorrow's dialogue. 


Daniel Barraez

Dear colleagues,
On the question about creating incentives raised by Laurel Patterson, I would like to comment on the relation of the public policies to raise funding for the SDGs, such as taxes and incentives, and the identification of citizens with these policies.

The changes needed to achieve the SDG often require financing. A common source of funding is taxes. While governments may be clear when justifying new taxes to finance their development policies, they are often less clear when explaining to people the use and benefits to society of those taxes. Citizens understand that taxes reach the government's coffers but are unaware of their end-use. The dissonance between the generation of resources and their uses can affect citizens' necessary support for development policies and their sources of financing. This dissonance has an implicit logic of short-term costs and medium or long-term benefits: the charges for citizens and businesses, the payment of taxes are short term. In contrast, the benefits of taxes are medium and long term. The argument is that the implementation of policies is not quick. It takes time: the government first collects the taxes, centralizes them, and months later, executes the spending.

It is necessary to break with this logic to achieve a greater identification of the people to the policies to finance development: the benefits of taxes must be perceived by the people as quickly as their costs. There are experiences of increases in fossil fuel prices and new social transfers to a vulnerable population, which coincided. They did not wait for the new revenues from fuel price increases to be collected: the same day of the rise in fuel prices, households received their transfers!. The fuel rise did not reject by the population. When costs and benefits are simultaneous, citizens are more likely to identify with policies that raise funds. 

Ashwini Sathnur
  • Question 1:

For the objective of implementing and deploying the new Innovative ideologies in the market places and for enabling the enhanced version of the utilization of the product solutions, marketing and communications methodologies are vital. These Innovative ideologies are based on the subject areas and conceptual frameworks of the digital technologies and it's interlinkages to the social and economic dimensions. Thus the mechanism of outreach to the community is a necessary feature.

  • Question 2:

Nature based solutions are integrated into the technological tools and techniques via the creation of new innovative ideologies and conceptual frameworks. For example, the digital technologies are included within the subject areas of the regenerative agriculture which enhances the climate change transformations in the applied frameworks of the sector of the food systems and the food value chains.

  • Question 3:

Mechanisms of crowdfunding platform channels and the funding support grants have enabled the contributions of the innovative ideologies research articles and product solutions. There are no challenges or bottlenecks in the subject areas of the tasks assignments and activities!

An example product solution based on the subject areas of Innovative ideologies and digital technologies is attached here, along with this comment!

Kenyatta Mirindi

The choice we make on a daily basis will determine the kind of society we want to become and how we are to achieve that society  

Different types of chosen business models should provide value to our planet earth and end users. World’s business organizations must have the capacity to capture value in the process of serving our society.
 Any given operation system technology need to create and provide value for whoever uses it.

Most projects focused on an intuitive Companies website, which incorporated features for those thinking about who their users are and what they want, in order¬†to develop a skill and improve business and meet expectations precisely to exceed competitors in terms of technology and maximize their own profits without regard for our planet earth. ¬†This may be the model of business employed to determine the tactics available to compete against, or cooperate with, other firms in the marketplace.¬† Firms across the world advertising for vacancies in Business sectors have increased significantly compared to the number of employees in the sector of environmental activities.¬†¬†Our PLANET EARTH (ALMA MATER.¬†¬†LA MERE NOURRICIERE) must be considered as a business website which we run on a daily basis. We must stress the importance of making every effort to ensure its maintenance without compromising the ability of our and future generations‚Äô needs. The identification of gaps from systematic reviews is essential to identify other issues. Also ensure a proper identification and engagement of business world user groups and other stakeholders involved. ¬†It is important to understand that not all stakeholders¬† will have the ¬†same influence or effect on a project, nor will they be¬†¬†affected in the¬†same manner. However, we need to engage them by¬†facilitating workshops with managed expectations from different areas of the business to ensure engagement and support of the project with architects to model end-to-end processes and resolve identified other gaps. Organise¬†events and organisations strategies,¬†like community groups or festivals and fairs, during which they can¬†try to reach and engage the audiences¬†as a form of publicity, awareness¬†‚Äúvalues toward a scientifically informed understanding of earth systems, taking a whole-of-society approach with a clear intent to restore nature and reduce our footprint.‚ÄĚ UNDP.¬† The use of the exhibition approach or the fringe activity¬†to building a team with newly acquired members¬†

¬†UNEP, UNDP and other relevant institutions¬†¬†can still play the role of¬†Stakeholder management/workshop facilitation¬†‚Äď to facilitate¬†¬†various workshop sessions to elicit sustainable requirements for our planet earth,¬†analyse the cause and¬†¬†effect of ‚ÄúComplex global challenges, the geopolitical weaknesses, losing our life support systems, irreparable deterioration of the environment, the world outdated models of economic growth, the existing global¬†¬†inequalities, exclusion and discrimination, and diminishing agency, the unequal distribution of digital access between and within countries, failure to mobilise a global response, and leaving behind those less fortunate that lead to failure, the levels of transparency‚Ķ" 2020HDR¬†and many more likely to be identified in the ongoing Stakeholders‚Äô consultations , make sure all the findings are inclusive , accurate and reflect the scenarios.¬†Any issues affecting progress between environment and digitalisation processes should be listed together with any associated assumptions made.

Attend regular stakeholders’ meeting such as design authority, change board, steering committee to provide project update using RAG and RAID to discuss and escalate issues when required.  Set up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor information inputs, performance and ensure deliverable solutions are effectively and efficiently met accordingly. It may be possible to reach a decision as part of the initial feasibility study for the known gaps but other, unknown, gaps may be needed to perform more requirement analysis and technical investigation before a technical option can be chosen.

Thomas Legrand

Thank you for opening the space for this important conversation. I believe the 2020 Human Development Report is a wonderful opportunity to deepen our reflection on human development through its emphasis on human agency and the need for a cultural (values) evolution: ‚Äúnothing short of a wholesale shift in mindsets, translated into reality by policy, is needed to navigate the brave new world of the Anthropocene, to ensure that all people flourish while easing planetary pressures‚ÄĚ. I think we even need to go beyond the views developed in the report by recognizing that:

  • Human agency is not only about power structures but also about inner capacities. See for example the inner development goals, or the potential role of spiritual practices such as mindfulness in building human agency.
  • Cultural/value change should not/cannot only be considered with regards to our relationship with nature. Building on Sophia Robele's comment (‚Äúthe question of how stewardship of nature is interconnected with stewardship of other people‚ÄĚ), I would even say that, as the core message of spiritual traditions is our fundamental oneness, the relations with ourselves, nature and one another go inherently together and there are already some scientific evidence suggesting such a view (cf. relationship between intrinsic/extrinsic orientational motivations and prosocial/proenvironmental attitudes and behaviors; ¬†the importance of social relationships and nature exposure for well-being). Cultural change is usually broader because different values are nested/evolve together according to the most recognized scientists studying the evolution of values (Inglehart, Schwartz).

I would like to build on some of the important ideas shared by:

  • Adriana Dinu and Ximena Rios regarding how to inspire a critical mass of humans to change the system and with what language.
  • Sophia Robele regarding the role of philosophical traditions and religions in shaping norms, and our definition of progress and development (‚Äúnot only on material progress, but also on the spiritual capacities and systematic processes for strengthening the relational infrastructure for change (cooperation, belonging, unity, love, etc.)‚ÄĚ

…And share the vision I develop in my upcoming book "Politics of Being. Wisdom and Science for a New Development Paradigm". In this book, I offer the rationale, a conceptual framework and a concrete actionable public policies (with mainly already existing examples) agenda in many sectors for a new development paradigm emphasizing "being" instead of "having". I think this vision can inspire and speak to people (choosing the adequate language / mix of science and wisdom perspective in different context, adapting it to the culture and the different visions of being and the good life), and contribute to our debate around the HDR 2020 and the questions of human agency and values.

This reflection tries to answer two fundamental questions:

  • What would a wisdom-based approach to politics look like?

If our systemic crisis is linked to an imbalance between our technological power (and the complexity it brought to our world) and our wisdom, it seems even more relevant to come back to this fundamental question. The wisdom based approach to development is captured in this sentence from the Earth charter (2000) : ‚Äúwhen basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more‚ÄĚ. The increasing focus on ‚Äúbeing‚ÄĚ is consistent with the evolution of values at the global level from materialist to post-materialist values and, more generally, from survival to self-expression values (Inglehart 2018). It also echoes the view of Elinor Ostrom, who is probably the most respected scholar in the field of institutional analysis. In her lecture for the reception of her Nobel prize in economics in 2009 (first woman ever!), summarized the most important lesson she drew from fifty years of research: ‚ÄúDesigning institutions to force (or nudge) entirely self-interested individuals to achieve better outcomes has been the major goal posited by policy analysts for governments to accomplish for much of the past half century. Extensive empirical research leads me to argue that instead, a core goal of public policy should be to facilitate the development of institutions that bring out the best in humans.‚ÄĚ I call this wisdom-based approach to politics that places being (self-fulfillment, expressing our best and truest selves, we can also call it ‚Äúeudaimonia‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúhuman flourishing‚ÄĚ as in the HDR 2020) as its main objective and means ‚Äúthe politics of being‚ÄĚ.

  • How can we tap into science to support our collective conscious evolution ?

I have mapped the different streams irrigating the politics of being, in the scientific and political/development fields. I found they arguably represent ‚Äúthe best in humans‚ÄĚ and are all emphasized by wisdom traditions. They show us the way for the cultural evolution we need by proposing actionable policies and even already foster this evolution by offering new scientific answers shaping new worldviews (such as the fact that there is no difference of nature between humans and non-human beings only a difference of degree, contrary to what has been emphasized in western philosophy):

  • ‚Äúunderstanding‚ÄĚ: our capacity to think in terms of systems and complexity (interconnection)
  • ‚Äúlife‚ÄĚ and our capacities to harmonize our institutions with its logic and principles (e.g. circular bioeconomy, UNGA resolution on harmony with nature, buen vivir / vivir bien, ecological civilization, etc.)
  • ‚Äúhappiness‚ÄĚ (e.g. Gross National Happiness)
  • ‚Äúempathy‚ÄĚ / ‚Äúcompassion‚ÄĚ / ‚Äúcare‚ÄĚ (e.g. compassionate cities)
  • ‚Äúpeace‚ÄĚ (e.g. UNGA resolution on culture of peace)
  • ‚ÄúMindfulness‚ÄĚ (e.g. UK Mindful nation)
  • Etc.

I hope this bold approach can be useful to our discussion!

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