Working with Islamic Finance to achieve the SDGs: A win-win?

Photo: Fauzan Ijazah / UNDP Indonesia

  This blog series takes a look at the new landscape of financing for development, the focus of our upcoming Istanbul Development Dialogues , an annual a global development forum where policy-makers, business leaders, and experts discuss issues of our time. Islamic finance, a method of financial system which complies with sharia law and forbids charging interest, has become a growing source of funding for development. Because inclusion, women's empowerment, fairness, accountability and sustainability are embedded in its principles, if offers a natural connection with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNDP has been exploring ways to increase Islamic finance's impact by linking Indonesia and Turkey together, through UNDP Alternat...
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UNDP launches new initiative with mayors to boost solar energy

Mayors from eight countries have joined forces with UNDP on a new initiative to boost financing for solar energy.

  Lisbon, 18 March – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with mayors from eight countries - Moldova, Serbia, Georgia, Tajikistan, Croatia, Somalia, Lebanon and Portugal - today launched a new initiative to boost financing for solar energy in cities across the world. The Solar Mayors platform will connect cities around the topic of energy transition and production of solar energy in urban contexts. Functioning as an online community, the platform represents an opportunity for Mayors to learn about the latest trends in the industry, share best practices, and collectively promote citizen engagement. The platform encourages peer-to-peer learning and cooperation with the private sector and NGOs, two factors recognized ...
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Introducing crowdfunding as an impact investment tool to finance startups in Egypt

Supporting access to investment for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC), United Nations Development Programme in Egypt (UNDP Egypt) and the UNDP Alternative Finance Lab (AltFinLab) partnered together to foster crowdfunding in Egypt during the week of 3rd to the 7th February 2019. In 2017, $65 billion was raised on global crowdfunding platforms and there is an upward trend in developing countries in adopting crowdfunding as a source of finance. This is particularly interesting for Egyptian SMEs, as only 50% of SMEs in the formal sector currently engage with banks. Crowdfunding lowers barriers of access to finance and matches demand and supply of finance as it allows individuals to make contributions and investments directly to projects they are pass...
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Beyond bitcoin - Using blockchain to advance the SDGs


Imagine losing your legal identification and other official documents in a natural disaster, as thousands of Haitians did in the deadly 2010 earthquake. Without land title, rebuilding your home or business becomes impossible: Why invest in rebuilding at all when someone else can come along and claim your property? Imagine trying to register for school, open a bank account, secure health care or other benefits, marry, vote, get a passport, or travel without the ability to prove who you are. Around 1 billion people live in this situation today ( World Bank, 2018 ), many of them refugees, migrants, or children born in the poorest, most remote regions of the globe with little or no capacity to collect data and generate durable records. Blockcha...
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A fair deal for Ecuadorian cocoa farmers

Photo: Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Who can imagine Valentine's Day without bon-bons, or Easter without chocolate eggs? Yet generations-old cocoa farming businesses are on the verge of collapse in the Amazon because cocoa farmers don't receive fair pay for their work. Using blockchain technology, the United Nations Development Programme in Ecuador , AltFinLab and Amsterdam's FairChain Foundation are developing one of the world's first blockchain shared-value chocolate bars.     Best known as the technology behind cryptocurrencies, blockchain is still too new and cutting edge for many industries. However, as AltFinLab points out in its White Paper 'The Future is Decentralized ', blockchain can potentially revolutionize the food industry. Blockchain data cannot be man...
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Adopting a cedar tree brings diaspora money home

Lebanon's ancient and famous cedar forests are getting help from 21st century blockchain technology. Photo: UNDP Lebanon

  In 2018 the UNDP Innovation Facility issued a Call for Proposals to promote development through the innovative use of Artificial Intelligence, big data, behavioural insights and impact financing. A record of more than 195 proposals were received, and 29 winners chosen from 35 countries. UNDP Lebanon, UNDP AltFinLab and its partners won with a proposal which will help to reinvigorate the country's ancient cedar forests. The Syria crisis has placed a great strain on its immediate neighbour Lebanon. The country of just over six million has taken in more than a million refugees in the past seven years. Its infrastructure, public finances, and environment are suffering as a result, and Lebanon doesn't have the money to cope. According to ...
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The future is here: Supporting social innovation in Turkey


  Many people around the world say they don't contribute to social causes for fear that their contributions will be wasted. So how is it that a board game on Kickstarter mangadom managed to collect over $12 million in funding , with almost 20,000 pledges? That's the beauty of crowdfunding: people from all walks of life supporting a cause they believe in. We at UNDP's AltFinLab campaigns understand that crowdfunding is about more than collecting money — that we achieve the best results when we apply the platform approach to crowdfunding . It helps us diversify funding, involve the right people, and mobilize experts from all walks of life. In Turkey, the situation is different. People do not engage with charity or donations as frequently...
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New technologies and finance to promote sustainable development in a changing world


Panama, August 31, 2018- With a financing gap of 2.5 billion dollars to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and two out of every six people in the world without access to a formal bank account, innovative financial mechanisms represent an alternative to close the financial gap and promote sustainable development. This is said by the team of experts in alternative finance of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Marina Petrović and Robert Pasicko. They run the Alternative Finance Lab (AltFin Lab), an initiative created in 2016 to explore and take advantage of new financial technologies and mechanisms to access investment. "Due to the increasingly changing world of today, governments, citizens and development actors must adap...
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How to turn development organizations in development platforms?


​ Hardly a day goes by in the development world without hearing the term "platform". Like in the business world, it's becoming harder for any development organization to provide a single service or product that will make broad impact. Airbnb doesn't build homes, it creates a network that brings together host and guest. Likewise, it's impossible to eradicate poverty – a complex phenomenon – without connecting different areas of expertise and partners across a wide range of thematic issues. And it's often the case that the people we're trying to pull out of poverty are closer to the problem and entitled to have a say about the solution. While building platforms doesn't happen overnight, it's highly likely you're already working in ways that r...
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Blockchain links Serbian diaspora and their families back home


With the arrival of the 4 th industrial revolution, new technologies will increasingly enable citizens to engage with governments, voice their opinions and coordinate their efforts. Because of the increasingly changing world of today, governments, citizens and development actors alike need to quickly adapt, get a better understanding of advanced technologies, and learn how they can best be used for the benefit of the society as a whole. The new UNDP's strategic approach is relying on innovation and experimentation to ensure that key development actors are able to use new technologies to drive the progress towards the achievement of the Agenda 2030 and the global Sustainable Development Goals . To be able to do so and help the governments of...
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There are risks in doing something new, but there might be even more risks in doing the old!


Impact bonds , one of the pay-for-success financial mechanisms bringing impact investors, private, public and third sector organizations together to solve social and development issues, have recently faced some criticism about their complex nature, which can lead to a long design phase and high related transaction costs. We, at UNDP Istanbul Hub and Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra , put our heads together and thought about the challenges around impact bonds. There was a mutual understanding that what comes to preventing and solving wicked societal problems, the impact is achieved together – the core idea and benefit of impact bonds. Sitra has been using co-creation as a mechanism to boost the design of social impact bonds (SIB) in Finland and...
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The Benefits of Crowd Urbanism


  The Benefits of Crowd Urbanism Based on lessons learned – some of which are mentioned below – crowdfunding can bridge the gap between top-down and bottom-up ways of thinking. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Alternative Finance Lab has been working and experimenting with crowdfunding now more than five years, by developing campaigns, workshops, booklets and observing how this new way of financing can help communities to become more resilient and empowered. Due to fiscal constraints governments are facing globally, conventional means of financing municipal projects are at risk, opening the floor for various alternative financing mechanisms. Crowdfunding mechanisms are one of the fastest growing: they can help leverage pub...
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The Future is Decentralised - Block chains, distributed ledgers & the future of sustainable development


UNDP AltFinLab partnered with Blockchain.com, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the World Economic Forum (WEF) to explore how block chain technology works, but also how it is already being used to pursue conventional ends. The culmination of that partnership is in the form of a white paper titled, The Future is Decentralised. We're excited to share how this technology has brought new levels of efficiency and effectiveness to the fields of development aid, supply chain management, renewable energy, economic growth, and several others. The potential of block chains to disrupt industrial sectors, commercial processes, governmental structures or economic systems seems to know no bounds. We suggest that the transformative power of block chain techn...
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UNDP Global Crowdfunding Academy in Bosnia and Herzegovina Rides on a Great Wave!


    The Day of Big Waves in February in Banja Luka. What? Yes, we have the first successful crowdfunding campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina by "Talas" magazine team. Talas means wave! The campaign name was "Swim upstream" or #PlivajUzvodno. There is no ocean in Banja Luka to make waves or to swim, but Talas magazine team has done their job! They started a quarterly print magazine back in June 2016, determined to write only positive stories about great, productive, proactive and enthusiastic people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those stories deserve to be told and inspire other people to strive in making a positive change, starting a business, creating jobs, doing good for themselves and for the community. They went into a crowdfundin...
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Growing argan trees and beekeeping in Morocco – and how can crowdfunding help?


Argan trees are so much more than just trees in rural Morocco. In many cases they are the only income for local indigenous women. Argan nuts are being turned into Argan oil that is being praised by cosmetic industry for its anti-aging and conditioning properties for skin and hair. Since the beauty-cult started some 20 years ago, over 200 women's Argan oil cooperatives have been organized for collecting nuts and turning them in to "desert gold" and sold worldwide. However, most of them lack cash for expanding their businesses beyond just simple collecting nuts as conservative funding is not easily assessable for local cooperatives and farmers. Many villages throughout the Argan forest area lack the proper funding needed to open production fa...
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Can blockchain help us better assist refugees and migrants in transit?


Technology can both empower and disempower. At a recent workshop on blockchain , we landed a challenge: how can we use it to facilitate refugee integration? I am an immediate misfit in the dynamic multiverse of people speaking in code. But at this USAID event led by the UNDP Alternative Finance Lab and AID:Tech , I wasn't the only one. My team, half tree-huggers and half tech gurus, started our brainstorming with this question: what do we have in common? The answer was a strong sense of identity. That fragile sense of self, inflated when our boss pats us on the back and shattered when somebody "swipes left". Displaced people often struggle with identity loss. It isn't just about that "blood and soil" sense of belongingness that disappears w...
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Crowdfunding in UNDP – guidance for project managers


After 7 academies, 40 campaigns, and more than 400 people educated on new financial technologies and mechanisms, we have decided to share a part of our knowledge through this guidance. If you are a forward-looking innovator excited about improving your work and the work of your institution and partners, this guide can help. The following document is divided into tips and questions for planning, launching and managing a crowdfunding campaign. Through four sections of this guide, we introduce you with Things you need to consider before launching a crowdfunding campaign and What to consider for a successful launch . In the third and fourth section, we have prepared useful tips about Managing an ongoing crowdfunding campaign and Wrapping up you...
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Rethinking Road Safety – Investing to Save People’s Lives


Every few months, I go to pay condolences to families who lost their loved ones in traffic accidents or visit an acquaintance in hospital due to an injury they suffered in a car crash. I am pretty sure I am not alone in that. Montenegro is one of the countries with the highest number of persons killed in traffic accidents in Europe. In 2016 alone, there were more than 5,200 traffic accidents, with 65 persons killed and another 2,500 lightly or seriously injured. Although we all hate putting a price tag on a human life, the economic case for preventing accidents is just as important as the moral one. Studies show that every human life lost in a traffic accident costs our country about half a million EUR . This includes legal and medical expe...
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10 Steps to Successful Crowdfunding


  The spirit of gotong royong is taught to children from a very young age at schools all over Indonesia. It is the Indonesian brand of volunteerism, or communal work—where members of a community gather to accomplish a task. Traditionally, the task could be to fix a neighbor's home, or build a road or a bridge. Today, especially in urban areas, such community work is hard to find. But it does not mean the spirit of gotong royong is gone. The communal culture stays with modern Indonesians. In spite of busy lifestyles, they continue to help others through philanthropy. A study found that philanthropic support in Indonesia totals $600 million per month. Young and tech-savvy Indonesians use the internet for their philanthropic activities—gi...
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CROWDFUNDING ACADEMY UKRAINE 2017


Crowdfunding Academy in Ukraine is a three months project dedicated to entrepreneurs from conflict-affected areas in Donbas. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to rally all available resources to help improve the livelihoods of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities throughout Ukraine.  Experts from UNDP Alternative Finance Lab and Terra Hub NGO, who created the concept of Crowdfunding Academy, as well as trainers from the leading Ukrainian online crowdfunding platform "Spilnokosht" are helping entrepreneurs raise funding for their businesses using online tools and innovative methodologies. To be admitted to the Crowdfunding Academy, participants had to describe their business idea and specify the required investm...
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