[Version shortened due to space limitations. See full management response in the attached document]
Management would like to thank the IEAS team for their comprehensive evaluation on UN Women's approach to innovation. The evaluation systematically captures many of the issues and shortcomings of the overall organizational approach to innovation since 2017. It also provides a useful assessment of some innovation initiatives that have been considered promising but require a serious review and stock-taking of effectiveness before further expansion. The recommendations are well received and well taken.
Overall, we consider this a good timing to learn from and apply the insightful findings of this evaluation. UN Women’s Strategic Plan 2022-2025 offers several opportunities to integrate digital transformation and social innovation as a cross-cutting lever to help us deliver on our normative, programmatic and coordination work. Innovation and technology can play a key role in accelerating results across the Strategic Plan’s seven Systemic Outcomes, including on social norms change.
We acknowledge that UN Women has not invested in a systematic approach to innovation or in the human and financial resources and organizational structures necessary to provide a cohesive framework across the organization. Innovation efforts have been sporadic and often driven by individuals, a few interested offices or donor priorities. We will invest in driving clarity on UN Women’s comparative advantage in technology & innovation, alongside the appropriate organizational structure that brings together country, regional offices and headquarters under a clear responsibility framework address the recommendations of the IEAS team. We will develop systems to capture lessons learned and generate evidence-based guidance for UN Women offices grappling with designing and implementing innovation solutions, including through digital technology.
We recognize the critical need to advance a common and actionable definition of ‘innovation’, and how that is differentiated from ‘digital technology’ and integrated within a strategy that clarifies UN Women’s approach to both of these often overlapping yet distinct areas of work. Further, we recognize the value of advancing a concrete strategy, clarifying UN Women’s strategic advantage and concrete priorities, alongside an accountability framework aligned with our Strategic Plan. While we acknowledge the importance of social innovation initiatives highlighted by the evaluation, the rapid development and ubiquity of digital technologies in every aspect of socio-political and economic life, make it paramount for UN Women to clarify our role, both to capitalize on and address the risks brought by the digital revolution. We align with the IAES Evaluation findings on the potential role that UN Women can play to focus on incubating innovative solutions, and on influencing other actors to adopt and scale up the solutions that present the greatest opportunities for impact at scale. Consequently, the innovation & technology strategy will clarify the long-term, strategic partnerships that would be best poised (including from the private sector) to complement our role to generate solutions for gender equality and scale up.
Undergoing digital transformation entails the use of digital technologies to respond to gender equality challenges, in service of efficiencies, higher impact and scale. It also requires organizational culture shifts around strategy, human resources, internal processes, programming and partnerships, and adopting non-linear, iterative, co-creative and human-centered approaches. This way, the organization will be able to avoid the challenges observed in the Buy from Women and Building Blocks/Cash for Work projects.
We note the momentous opportunity that the upcoming 67th CSW in 2023 will bring, its priority theme being on “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” We believe this will allow UN Women to consolidate its position in the gender and innovation space and strengthen the knowledge base on gender-responsive innovation and technology. UN Women can also leverage existing partnerships and platforms in service of this purpose, including the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation.
True innovation and transformational change requires the capabilities to modify processes, systems and collective mindsets. This necessitates a whole-of-organization effort, starting from a clear leadership commitment and direction. PPID looks forward to engaging with different parts of the house in implementing this evaluation’s recommendations so that we can do things differently and leverage innovation and digital technology to drive more impactful results across our Strategic Plan.