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How does the innovation accelerator work?

The goal of the accelerator is to identify innovative solutions to challenges in UNFPA’s area of expertise. These challenges – at the grassroots level and high level – are identified by the UNFPA Country Offices together with government, civil society organizations, youth organizations, and other actors from the private sector.

The challenges are reviewed by a panel of experts. They select the ones with the potential for the greatest impact. These are published on a web platform.

The mentors are provided by UNFPA and industry experts. The right experts are matched with each challenge, forming a core mentoring panel. They issue a Call for Solutions, which lists the selection criteria for solutions.

The Mentoring Panel reviews and selects the candidates’ ideas. The panel also leads the training and mentorship programme.

UNFPA ensures it reaches grassroots innovators, including in hard-to-reach areas, by targeting innovation hubs in countries through youth-led organizational networks. Applications are submitted online.

The participants are given access to a physical venue, which is equipped with the facilities needed finalize prototypes that can be marketed or implemented. They are given training to build their capacity across various disciplines. Mentors help them develop their ideas and consolidate their business plans.

Acceleration cycles last up to six months, depending on the complexity of the challenge. Each cycle ends with a demo day, when the innovators pitch their solutions and showcase their prototypes to a jury made up of investors and potential implementers, such as government bodies. The jury selects one or more solutions to be tested through a pilot.

The innovators get the opportunity to source further funding for concept development, process implementation, and adoption of a concept into an organization. The implementing organization carries out the pilot in a real world context and, in collaboration with UNFPA, oversees its performance, and documents progress and impact.

Progress, including lessons learnt and results, is documented by UNFPA and shared with the general public, so that it can be used to inform future acceleration cycles.

What types of challenges are considered?

The challenges addressed through the Innovation Accelerator must be relevant to at least one of four areas:

  • Improve the supply of Family Planning (FP) and Sexual and Reproductive Health Services (SRHS);
  • Improve the demand for FP and SRHS;
  • Improve the quality of SRHS;
  • Improve data collection and management systems.

Innovation Accelerators are already underway in Kenya and Uganda (Rwanda and Tanzania to follow). Learn more about the cycles in these countries:

Kenya iAccelerator: the I.AM campaign