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[en] UNDP starts a network of Accelerator Labs to boost Sustainable Development worldwide; opportunities for Fab Labs

Great opportunities for existing global fab lab network. Hiring started, deadlines around 24 February 2019.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has selected 60 countries where they want to establish an Accelerator Lab. Together they will form “the largest learning network in the field of Sustainable Development. The 60 teams will build on each others’ knowledge and learning on a weekly basis.

For the worldwide network of 1500+ fab labs, an initiative of the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT, the Accelerators network could become an interesting career opportunity for its students, staff and volunteers and an opportunity for intensive and fruitful cooperation at local lab level and between both networks.

UNDP already started a worldwide recruitment campaign for the management of the new Accelerator labs. They all have vacancies now for “Head of Exploration“, “Head of Experimentation” and “Head of Solutions Mapping“. The deadline for job applications is about 24 February 2019 and may vary by country.

The UNDP wants to increase the pace at which it helps realize solutions for Sustainable Development and therefore it opts for a radically different approach: a worldwide network of Accelerator labs. This is done on the basis of four principles, we quote:

  • Building on locally-sourced solutions, finding things that work and expanding on them
  • Rapid testing and iteration to implement what works and go beyond the obvious solutions
  • Combining the best understanding, ideas and expertise to generate collective knowledge
  • Accelerating progress by bringing expertise, creativity and collective intelligence to bear

The four principles mentioned above, perfectly match the fab labs. In fact fab labs are independent and only loosely connected to their network. Central node is the Fab Foundation that organizes every year the worldwide Fab Academy (already completed by hundreds of students), the annual international Fab conference (1000 attendants is no exception) and many sponsored projects and assignments. Since 2017, the Sustainable Development Goals are mentioned as a useful frame-of-reference to identify fab labs external objectives. A work-group with members from all continents stimulates them to determine their SDG-profile.

UNDP gives examples of people who might apply for the jobs they are offering. It thinks of:

  • former entrepreneurs, business development lead or partnerships lead for the position of “Head of Exploration”;
  • product lead, architect/industrial designer or strategy lead for “Head of Experimentation”
  • design researcher, journalist or ethnographic researcher for “Head of Solutions Mapping”.

table accelerator labs
Table – Countries with/without Accelerator lab and Fab Lab(s); sources: acceleratorlabs.undp.org and www.fablabs.io, retrieved 11Feb. 2019; almost all countries of the word (193) adopted the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

* Countries with Accelerator Lab AND Fab Lab(s): Algeria, Argentina, Benin, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Namibia, Pakistan, Palestine, Paraguay, Rwanda, Serbia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Vietnam

** Countries with Accelerator Lab WITHOUT Fab Lab(s): Angola, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Dominican Republic, Eswatini, Fiji, Iraq, Lao PDR, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, The Gambia, Timor Leste, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Zambia, Zimbabwe

60 Accelerator labs have been planned for 60 countries. 1500+ Fab labs are operational already in 118 countries. In 26 countries Accelerator lab and fab lab will co-exist, in 34 countries an Accelerator lab has been planned while a fab lab does not exist there yet.

UNDP is looking for people capable and excited about starting, designing, and managing projects, direct engagement with local communities and collaboration across global networks. These are exactly the competencies that the international fab lab network propagates and realizes.

To conclude: The UNDP initiative offers interesting opportunities for the existing fab labs and their network: opportunities for work for their students, volunteers and staff, partnerships in countries where both networks co-exist, and a huge challenge to realize such partnerships in the more than 34 countries that UNDP has identified, but which are still without fab lab.

Pieter van der Hijden
pvdh@sofos.nl consultant/volunteer Fab Lab Network

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