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The Strategic Innovation Clinic Series 2022 is a series of conversations and hands on clinics with external experts and internal practitioners exploring different elements of a portfolio approach – moving beyond sectoral challenges for opportunities for transformative change.

Development in the Age of Change 

From Tactical to Strategic Innovation


The world is changing. Accelerating climate emergency, growing levels of inequality, declining trust and increasing attacks on the rules-based international order. The gap is growing between the interconnected, structural, and increasingly unpredictable challenges we are facing, and the way that governments and international development organizations operate.

The new UNDP Strategic Plan 2022-2025 recognizes this and calls for a new way of doing development. Strategic Innovation is one of the three enablers aiming to empower governments and communities to enhance the performance of entire systems, making them adaptive and resilient. It differs from incremental innovation in that it acknowledges that marginal improvements that remain within existing paradigms won’t be enough. After all, these are the unsustainable paradigms that got us in the current predicament in the first place. We need an alternative – and that cannot be the “move fast and break things” narrative coming from Silicon Valley. 

This alternative is what we have come to describe as the ‘portfolio approach’: deepening our understanding of the complex development challenges we work with, putting a premium on adaptation and learning (not only “delivery”) and going beyond the reductive logic of whittling many pilots down in the hope that a few that will scale. Empowering 100 million people to escape poverty or 500 million people to gain access to clean energy requires us to build not just new skills, but a new culture and ultimately a new business model: one that embraces complexity, actively manages risk, continually generates new policy options in the face of complexity and seeks to learn alongside delivering results. 

But how do we make the pivot at scale in the context of what remain a very projectised organization? How do we move beyond linear planning and logframes together with our partners and donors? How do we ultimately rethink our business model, not because we want to but because we have to, if we want to tackle today’s development challenges? We are organizing a series of discussions and hands-on clinics with external experts and internal practitioners to move “from theory to practice”: unpacking different elements of portfolio practice and what it all means for COs and regional programs.

We know that the shift “from projects to portfolios” comes with many questions – and healthy skepticism! The overall objective of the clinics is to put a spotlight on practice:  experiences from the ground both inside and outside of the organization that do not provide all the answers but a glimpse of what is possible. For each clinic, you are invited to bring your own challenge – and doubts! – to explore questions such as

  • How can we embed portfolio logic in Country Programme Documents (CPDs) and regional programmes?
  • Can we raise funds for entire portfolios (rather than individual projects)?
  • What does it mean to build a culture that thinks portfolios first (rather than project first)? 

Join us on this important journey!

? Visit the Strategic Innovation Clinic Series 2022 page to stay updated on all events and resources.

? Join the dedicated Miro board to see our learning journey!

? Explore the Sessions Schedule of upcoming events.

? For more information, please contact: ida.uusikyla@undp.org.

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