An accelerator lab to find solutions to modern-day challenges was launched by the UN Development Programme in Riyadh on Wednesday.
Adam Bouloukos, who is the UNDP’s resident representative in the Kingdom, said the accelerator lab was launched because ideas and innovation were needed to respond to the government’s changes and its new agenda.
“The nature of our work here is at a quite high policy level, which is part of the reason we launched this accelerator lab, because we need better ideas, more creative ideas, and innovation to respond to the government’s changes and its new agenda,” he told Arab News. “We have in our team three experts. We're looking at different elements of research analysis and experimentation to help us better formulate projects and programs with the goal. All of our projects are in partnership with the government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This program is unusual in UNDP because it's a large learning network.”
He said the accelerator lab initiative was in 91 locations and supported 115 countries, with the aim of finding solutions to developmental challenges and responding to them rapidly and at scale.
The Saudi Accelerator Lab has three core members: Layan Al-Saud, who is the head of solutions mapping, Saud Al-Fassam, head of exploration, and Abdulrahman Al-Ghamdi, who is head of experimentation.
Al-Saud’s role is to immerse deeply in communities, identify local solutions, and bridge bottom-up solutions with policy design. Al-Fassam’s responsibility is to shed light on emerging trends, use data science to identify patterns, and make a case for change. Al-Ghamdi's job is to build portfolios of social or environmental solutions, strengthen solutions, and learn through experimentation.
Al-Saud said that Saudi Arabia was still missing a sense of real community engagement. “Sometimes we tend to think that we always want to get something from a global best practice, rather than looking at what the local solutions are and how we can work on that to amplify it. So, one size does not fit all in terms of innovation.
“What we are trying to do is to hear more from our global counterparts around what they're doing and gain inspiration from that, but not copy-paste what's happening. We tried to see locally what the issues are and work on that as well.”
Bouloukos said the initiative was coming to Saudi Arabia at the right time.
“Look at what's happening in Saudi Arabia, the place is booming with ideas. Some of that is politically driven in the sense that you have strong leadership, but you also have the opening of the country generally, tourism, young people with a voice, a growing civil society, nonprofit sector, and academic institutions.
“I feel like I'm here at the right moment, where the changes are becoming very tangible, and I’m happy to contribute. I can only do this and support the government if I have innovative ideas and creative opportunities.”