United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

SDG Accelerator for established SMEs

United Nations Development Program in Moldova (
United Nations / Multilateral body
)
    Description
    Intro

    The SDG Business Acceleration Pilot Program in Moldova was an innovation program for established SMEs. It provided a robust methodology, developed by UNDP Denmark with Deloitte contribution, supporting SMEs to identify and develop new business products or services which both: contribute to achievement of one or more SDG targets, and also help SMEs to pursue a more sustainable, profitable and forward-looking product/service portfolio. The combined business and technical support is a 5-stage innovation cycle, from idea generation to idea design and packaging for either rationalizing internal funding allocations and/or preparing for external investor pitches. The 1st Moldovan Pilot supported 5 SMEs from ICT sector and steel processing industry.

    Description

    The main objective of the program is to embed SDGs into the core of SME businesses activities in an emerging market environment. The long-term potential is to transform the business sector into a powerful alliance of the 2030 Agenda. The following questions facilitate private sector navigation through SDGS: • Which SDG challenges are relevant to the industry? • Which of these SDG challenges are critical to my company today and in the future? • Where is the biggest potential for innovation for my business? • Where could my company have the biggest impact? From our experience, each new business service/product was contributing to the achievement of at least 3 SDGs, from which several SDGs were spotted as transversal: SDG 5 -gender equality, SDG 12 – responsible production and consumption, SDG 17 – partnerships for the goals.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    SDGs are the core of idea generation for the new commercial product/service. SDG Business Opportunity Cards are guiding the ideation sessions. During the program, the new idea is subjected to intensive discussions, debate and market research as it is honed for ultimate market commercialization. Further SDG impact forecasting is contextualized with 3 indicators: 1) the primary SDG on which each new commercial product/service has a positive impact; 2) the secondary SDGs with a positive impact; 3) the SDG negative side effects of the new commercial product/service.

    Implementation methodologies

    The innovation program cycle has 5 main phases (framing, ideation, enriching, acceleration, integration) with upwards of four weeks between each while the company internalizes the business case with staff and optimizes it based on inputs from the various organizational verticals (Sales/marketing, HR/recruitment, strategic planning and finance) to leverage teamwork collaborations so the entire organization is in line with the project. Main overall activities are to: - Identify program focus and capacity (nr. of SMEs) to support, estimate resource needs; - Employ missing resources (gaps) to complement the available resources; - Adapt the methodology to the local context; - Organize competitive recruitment of SMEs; - Establish program phases timeline; - Implement the program; - Ensure oversight, monitoring, visibility, reporting and scale-up - Graduation visibility event. The minimum necessary resources to run a program cycle with 5 SMEs are: - 50,000 USD project budget for all phases to cover management, expertise, translation, organizational, communication and visibility costs. Participation fees from SMEs can be considered; - 3 to 5 people (part-time) involved in running the program: manager, business analyst, partnership and communication specialists, logistics and operation person. - 3 to 10 people involved from each participating SME. - Niche consultants, depending on the identified needs/gaps. - Promotional materials related to the SDGs for businesses. A program cycle is between 1–1,5 years, depending on the established priorities and the capacity of the participating SMEs, which have homework to do before each of the following phases, and also during the multi-day phases. Thus, a tight monitoring component is covered through homework checks, visibility events and materials.

    Results

    1. The SDG Business Accelerator program adapted and Piloted in Moldova; 2. Five new business products/services addressing various SDG targets were identified/developed: o Shared economy model jobshop for steel processing company, responsive to SDG 12 and SDG 17. o Solution targeting remittances’ costs, supporting SDG 10.C. o A B2B platform with secure document exchange functionality meant to facilitate business transactions in compliance with the e-Government strategy. Contribution to SDG 11, 12 and 17. o Mobile solution for real-time health monitoring of patients at risk of strokes. Contribution to SDG target 3.4. o A scalable, international open educational platform, promoting life-long learning. Contribution to SDG 4. 3. Employees from the participating SMEs knowledgeable about the SDGs and can integrate them into workflows and future brainstorms. 4. Turnkey program for SMEs is ready to be replicated, lessons learned from the first acceleration cycle are duly incorporated into the program.

    Factors and Constraints

    The insufficient capacity of SMEs to innovate, coupled with limited experience working with agile and lean innovation tools for business modeling, but also the possibility to contribute to national SDG achievements, engaged high interest of SMEs in the intensive acceleration program. A constrain to overcome in future program cycles involves finding ways to motivate participating SMEs to commit the needed time and attention to the program (including extensive homework assignments), which not all were ready to commit. Overall, the program is a proven method (intervention) to facilitate private sector engagement in delivering on the SDGs.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The innovative business design tools applied by SMEs remained available to the companies for use in their future business design processes. The participating teams learned about the SDGs and how they relate to the business sector’s goal of profit-making strategies, knowledge to be taken further in their work and integrated into other aspects of their future work. The (localized) program vision, methodology and toolkit is relevant to any country, sector, and type of business. This specific toolkit could be integrated into the national programs supporting SME development, innovation or digitalization. It could be coupled to seed-funding, grants or loans programs, with an SDG focus, which is a growing trend in the investment community. The value of the program is supporting SMEs to innovate, integrate SDGs at their core business and bring to the table sustainable products, while providing investors and banks with opportunities and clients that must meet new mandates for sustainability.

    COVID-19 Impact

    In our Pilot, we implemented 3 (out of 5) program phases remotely during Covid-19 period. Thus, we needed to adjust the whole work at least from the following perspectives: - Transfer the entire collaborative work online; - Take into consideration the immediate impact of lockdown on participating SMEs and provide differentiated support to each of them, depending on how Covid-19 impacted them. Given the pandemic, 3 out of 5 participating SMEs had to temporarily stop working on the new solution to focus on unexpected disruptions and related risks. The program is a great instrument for the SMEs to building back better as it provides tools that can be adapted to their existing operations to improve them and to focus more on sustainability in times of crisis.

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    Timeline
    30 October 2019 (start date)
    31 December 2020 (date of completion)
    Partners
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    SDGs
    Countries
    Republic of Moldova
    Republic of Moldova
    Contact Information

    Jana, Project Officer, MiLab