Image: Partners introduced to the Accelerator Lab Methodology

 

It is every development practitioner’s desire to quantify the impact of their interventions, to avoid the risk of their support falling into the category of what Zambian Economist Dambisa Moyo referred to as “Dead Aid”. Naturally, Governments also yearn to see their countries develop and progress. This is why strategic frameworks like Uganda’s National Development Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) exist. Of course, developing innovative and strategic interventions that are well aligned to these development frameworks is not enough. It requires strong will and commitment to implement interventions, monitor progress, reflect on lessons learned, re-strategize, and scale viable interventions further.

 

While innovation remains a crucial component of development, scaling these interventions remains a critical challenge in Africa, particularly in Uganda. Often promising interventions fail to gain traction and wider uptake, owing to a lack of knowledge and resources on how to manage this long and difficult process. Opportunities to learn, adapt and improve by drawing on the collective experience of others are still scarce, as is access to appropriate resources from government entities, donor funding mechanisms and community buy-in. This reality often inhibits the acceleration of promising solutions and their introduction, diffusion and integration into communities.

 

With this at the back of our mind, we have been harnessing the toolkit of sensing, exploring, testing and growing but also preparing to scale experiments as they progress through our pipeline.

Image: Multi-sectoral partners take part in interactive sessions during a sense making workshop

 

Scaling and learning together with ambassadors

 

As it is often said, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. We are undertaking this long and unpredictable journey of scale with optimism and taking one step at a time, engaging strategic partners who would act as ambassadors to scale the various experiments we have undertaken.

First, our work on reversing the deforestation challenge has culminated in a portfolio of multi-sectoral experiments with the potential to address pressing system-level challenges. Within this portfolio, we have developed:

A real-time data visualization platform to monitor forest cover in Uganda and strengthen governance of forests and related natural resources. From the onset, we have been working closely with the National Forest Authority (NFA) who have been pivotal in supporting the design and development of the platform. Now at the point of launch, we look back and take note of the fact that engaging these partners in the early stages of problem definition instilled a sense of co-ownership and is likely to result in effective utilization of the platform.

A rapid energy audit, implemented to understand energy trends, demand and supply dynamics of energy, and perceptions in Uganda to inform the design of energy-based experiments revealed a set of possible interventions. These include encouraging behavioral change, scaling-up the use of clean energy solutions in large institutions, scaling-up local production and use of efficient cooking and heating technologies, and structuring innovative financing to catalyze demand and supply of clean energy solutions. These experiments have pointed us to partners across multiple sectors and identified opportunities for collaboration. Initial discussions with United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), German International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) have underscored the contribution of stakeholder engagement to the success of experiments. Some partners have co-experimented with us, while others take the lead which translates into a smooth handover.

 

An e-commerce platform, launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support the livelihoods of informal micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). This platform was developed in partnership with Jumia Uganda to empower vulnerable groups in the informal trade sector such as women, youth and persons with disabilities by connecting them with niche markets, connecting rural farmers with urban markets, keeping supply chains for agricultural produce active, while contributing to the development of the digital economy. We continue to partner with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives and believe that learnings gathered from this experiment will inform the impending national strategy on e-commerce and encourage a holistic approach to e-commerce sector development in Uganda.

Image: Officials from National Forestry Authority articulate the current challenges with data

 

Reflecting on key learnings and the scaling models

 

Scaling Out: We have learned that once an experiment has proven itself and delivered results, there is a need to think about the complexity of replication. Some interventions work well in certain environments but may need to be revised before they are replicated in other regions.  This is evident in scaling-up the use of clean energy solutions, scaling-up local production and the use of efficient cooking, heating technologies and fuels in large institutions and urban households.

 

Scaling Up involves influencing policies. We are noticing the potential for experiments to influence government policies in Uganda, especially relating to the e-commerce policy in Uganda, the electricity tariff policy for energy consumption in large institutions, and even the standardization of clean cooking technologies in the renewable energy sector. Developing national policies and frameworks takes time, but data collected from experiments plays a vital role in this process.

 

Scaling Deep encompasses changing cultural mindsets, a longer-term process requiring a tailored approach and ongoing engagement with communities. Behavioral insight experiments that we are undertaking on the socio-cultural factors influencing communities to opt for wood fuel rather than clean energy are key in uncovering results at both the short term and long-term.

Image: The Queen of Buganda Kingdom Her Royal Highness Sylvia Naginda Luswata during a consultative workshop on the formulation of UNDP Uganda’s new Country Programme Document.

 

In conclusion, it is important to in-build scale from the onset of an experiment. An ecosystem map can be a helpful tool to identify partners in the desired space and determine their level of influence. The complexity of scaling has also pushed us to look beyond our usual partners and engage partners such as religious and cultural leaders, community leaders and other influencers for development. We have found these to play a significant role in restoring Ugandan forests and some of them have resources that could be harnessed to drive innovation.

Ultimately, tools for measuring the success of experiments must also be tailored to scaling solutions in the real world. Moving forward, we need to deepen our relationships with the private sector, civil society and donors to leverage additional resources and attract cornerstone scaling partners.

 

By Deborah Naatujuna, Head of Exploration; Hadijah Nabbale, Head of Solutions Mapping; and Berna Mugema, Head of Experimentation

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