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Research Guides

Innovation in the UN: Quick Guide

Innovation in the UN


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The Secretary-General has called for innovation – “doing different things and doing things differently” to cater to the rapidly changing and uncertain nature of the systems we operate in – across the United Nations.

While acknowledging innovation is complex, uncertain and somewhat disorderly, the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs’ Innovation Cell and the Dag Hammarskjöld Library have compiled an initial list of online resources on innovation methodology and theory to help instigate and inform new approaches based on evidence and lessons learned. Also included are tools and learning resources to catalyse experimentation and intelligent failure, with a focus on behavioural insights, design thinking and strategic foresight.

As an open resource, it is expected that the guide will be continually updated as those willing to “do” different things and things differently continue to push boundaries.

Innovation Theory and Methodology

UN Documents

UN Innovation Toolkit

Created by the UN for the UN in late 2019, the Innovation Toolkit is a resource aimed to inspire the UN system to “do different things and do things differently”. The toolkit is best experienced online, first by taking an “innovation” diagnostic test (available for the individual, as a team and organisation) which then takes the user to a particular area to foster innovation.

For more information and guidance:

UN Innovation Network

The UN Innovation Network (UNIN) is an informal, collaborative community of UN innovators interested in sharing their expertise and experience with others to promote and advance innovation within the UN System. The work of the UNIN is driven by the interests and needs of its members.

For innovation practitioners, the Network hosts regular knowledge sharing sessions to review and discuss the application of new innovation trends and how they can contribute to achieving the SDGs. It also helps Agencies share tools, resources and best practices for innovating in the UN.

The Network also engages with senior UN leaders and advises them on how to build structures to promote innovation, activate innovation partnerships and create a culture of innovation in their organisations.

The UN Innovation Network was founded in 2015 and is jointly chaired by UNICEF and WFP. UNIN is open to innovators from all UN Agencies and to date, representatives from over 65 entities in over 100 countries have joined the Network.


Dag Hammarskjöld Library

General Toolbox on Innovation Approaches

Behavioural Insight

Design Thinking

E-Learning and Online Courses



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