Advisory Documents

Leveraging Innovation for Transformational Change

Leveraging Innovation for Transformational Change

Innovation is critical to achieving Global Environment Facility (GEF) objectives. It has been a consistent theme since the inception of the GEF, and the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) has identified multiple examples of innovation in GEF programming, with increasing emphasis in successive replenishment cycles. Under GEF-8, there is even more need for innovation, particularly innovations to solve systemic challenges and contribute to transformational change.

As STAP noted in its earlier guidance on the topic, the GEF would benefit from a more systematic approach to innovation. Such an approach would require being purposeful in decisions about the types of innovation needed to ensure that the GEF can achieve its strategic objectives: it is not enough to be innovative – that innovation needs to be channeled to overcome specific challenges for the achievement of GEBs and scaled to achieve global impact.

In this brief, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) outlines an approach to more purposeful decisions about the types of innovation needed to ensure that the GEF can achieve its strategic objectives.

This begins with five practices that, when applied sequentially, can help strengthen innovation across GEF programmes and projects: prioritize problems that most need solutions; align ambition to support interventions that can solve these important problems; embrace diversity, leveraging multiple innovation domains; design for scale to achieve impact; and ensure learning to minimize risk and accelerate change.

STAP also identifies four recommended priority actions that, if implemented as advised, can generate and embed incentives for innovation in GEF programming over the longer term: adopt a risk appetite framework, along with metrics for transformational change, which can be harnessed to support greater innovation and to encourage higher-risk and reward investments; use targeted funding windows strategically to support innovation, which can be harnessed to strengthen innovation by testing riskier but potentially higher impact solutions, as well as novel approaches to scaling; embed innovation priorities in the programme design cycle, which can help identify and select the innovations required at different phases of piloting, testing and scaling to support programme objectives; and build knowledge management systems that drive learning for innovation and transformation, which -if implemented correctly- will ensure that GEF investments are positioned at the cutting edge of innovation.