Moldova has talent- and MiLab knows how to use it!

26 Jan 2015

Check out our previous blogs on how MiLab is helping Moldova embed innovation Check out our previous blogs on how MiLab is helping Moldova embed innovation

As UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative in the Republic of Moldova, I saw my central role as helping the country accelerate its development path to deliver concrete results for all parts of the population.

The UN’s work focused on this goal at two levels: helping counterparts fast-track policy reforms, and enabling institutions to respond better to development challenges.

The UN’s presence in nearly 400 communities, gave invaluable insights into how many Moldovans live, whilst Moldova’s highly active participation in the national Post-2015 consultations showed clearly how they wish to live.

My two and a half years were more than enough to make me disagree fundamentally with the oft-said remark that “Moldova lacks capacity.”

I firmly believe the country has significant talents – across the ranks of its public sector, its NGOs, enlightened businesses, and in its communities.

What it still needs to consolidate, however, are the frameworks and mechanisms to use those capacities to the fullest.

This means overcoming hierarchies, stimulating greater cooperation across sectors, and fostering trust.

MiLab – Moldova’s first social innovation hub with its partners from Government, UNDPUK EmbassyMoldcell and Gas Natural Fenosa – is, in my view, precisely about this.

Offering a platform for exchange across public, private and not-for-profit actors, MiLab brings together demand – those interested to tackle societal issues, with supply – those who have potential knowhow, solutions and resources.

The very essence of innovation lies in failing forward: MiLab offers the opportunity to seek, experiment, prototype, adapt and scale up.

Housed in the E-Government Center with its ever-dynamic team, MiLab brings new technological solutions such as crowdsourcing, gaming, and mobile technologies. But as importantly, it brings new approaches from across the world.

Two core themes run through its work:

1. Empathy 

By putting the user of a given public service at the heart of its re-engineering, MiLab is accessing the best expertise money cannot buy – namely, advice from the person who knows what they want, and how to improve the delivery experience – all through design thinking.

2. Co-production

MiLab ‘s modus operandi stimulates the co-creation of solutions by both provider and user of a service. This is in line with cutting edge thinking on public administration reform – inter alia of my own alma mater, Warwick Business School: Networked governance structures are increasingly recognized as pivotal to efficient and responsive public administration. 

Concrete experiences in Moldova are the best way to tell the story:

At this stage of Moldova’s public administration reform, MiLab and the techniques it uses, offers the Government and local administrations ways to rethink and further modernize their core business.

But this goes much beyond public administration reform.

These techniques have the potential to shape how the country as a whole goes about its development.  

They can be actively used to engender trust within society, and between people and their state institutions. When members of the public were invited to participate in the above exercises, their reluctance – one might say disbelief – was palpable.

A major lesson emerging has been the power of being actively listened to – the creativity that is generated as a result – and the behavioural change that occurs in all parties when people are invited to drive and act as co-producers of their own development path.

By bringing more people more freely into the process, such techniques can automatically help overcome vertical structures that currently inhibit the use of Moldovan talents.

By stimulating greater cooperation across sectors and levels, greater empathy and trust of “the other” will also become an integral part of the outcome.

Ultimately, this is about deepening democracy to the benefit of all.

That is why I feel so passionate about MiLab, and why I will be following its progress closely even from afar.

I wish the Lab and Moldova every success!

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