Do we know enough about the Sustainable Development Goals and in particular, the effects of "Climate change"? How can we respond to it? The UNDP YLP 6 in Iraq searched for an answer to this question.
In Iraq, there are many ideas and solutions that tackle climate change, but the main challenge is that they aren't identified and understood by the local community. There is a strong need for innovative solutions to tackle climate change especially considering Iraq’s status as one of the most-affected countries in the Arab region.
To address the above challenges, the "Youth Leadership Programme" have been working with young people from all Arab countries since 2015, using youth creativity to serve the communities, technology and innovation to make daily lifestyle changes to protect the environment like using a reusable bottles, minimizing energy usage, and Growing more plants at home.
This year, UNDP Iraq is planning to expand its work to support Climate change solutions with the UNDP's Environment, Energy and Climate Change (EECC) in Iraq, starting with a call for innovators through its Ideation Challenge for Climate Change, implemented through cooperation between Youth Leadership Programme and the Accelerator Lab. This initiative built the capacities of Youth Serving Organizations in using the Design Thinking Training Manual, analyzing climate change challenges, building the theme of Youth Leadership Programme (YLP6) for 2020, which is the climate change.
The initiative called for the analysis of climate change challenges and the ideation of potential local solutions using Human-centered design with a targeted audience from the active Youth Service Organizations (YSOs) in Iraq. Fifty-seven youth from 17 YSOs across Iraq have participated in the call for Innovation.
Engaging youth in the preservation of the environment is critical to changing their behavior and attitude, in addition to empowering them through education and capacity building. The goal is to establish an enabling environment where young people can contribute to building a sustainable future. The Call for Innovations followed the five stages of the Design thinking methodology to analyze the challenges and ideate for potential solutions.
The process provided a fresh perspective and helped to define the priorities of the Iraqi people in the climate change context. The challenge analysis phase led to identifying the four main challenges of climate change in Iraq:
The lack of youth interest in climate change issues;
The use of materials that cause pollution in energy production;
The accumulation of waste with no established methods of disposals and recycling; and
Lack of water, and the spread of desertification in some areas all over the country.
Reaching the ideation phase and finding an answer to the question "How do you know your idea is the next big thing?" takes two key characteristics: curiosity and innovation. Curiosity requires being innate about people, and the problems they face. Innovation is an expertise that can be developed as an individual or as a group, to find insights that lead to product development.
The ideation phase helped to establish a portfolio of solutions for climate change, and the challenge itself pioneered the development and implementation of six solutions for sustainable development (see graph below.)
What is clear through the 2030 Agenda is that sustainable development and tackling climate change go hand-in-hand.
We cannot ensure sustainable cities and communities without protecting them from storms or floods; and we cannot ensure children are healthy without addressing the changes in vector-borne diseases due to changing temperatures. The list goes on, and that’s why UNDP is prioritizing adapting and scaling innovative approaches to achieving the sustainable development goals – especially when it comes to climate action.
One of the key insights of the Call for Innovation is that all solutions were tech inspired, in response to the move to digitalization due to COVID19 pandemic. as Albert Einstein once said: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. Since these problems are complex and require innovation to tackle, and this is simply what ideation is all about, it helps us to ask the right questions and innovate because what one person deems to be a great idea might not be the same view shared by the market and targeted audience.