The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

A different approach to development

The challenges of today require an innovative approach to solving problems – to ensure a better future for all.

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In Kenya, water scarcity has long been an issue for some areas of the country, with 16 million people lacking access to safe water. In Mombasa, for example, water shortage is a constant concern.

Situated in southern Kenya along the Indian Ocean, Mombasa is home to the country's main port – and a population of 1.2 million people. An inadequate supply of freshwater, an ageing and leaky pipeline, and water lost to theft means there's not enough water to meet people's needs.

Mombasa gets around 30,000 cubic metres of water per day – but demand is around 200,000 cubic metres per day. This water shortage is a problem shared by other neighbouring coastal towns.

Many communities in countries around the world are facing similar challenges – and more.

  • Water access

    Around the world, one in four people – around 2 billion people – don't have access to safe drinking water. In parts of Sudan, for example, water scarcity is common – and reliable access to safe, clean drinking water has long been a problem. Here, a girl drinks water from a tap installed as part of a UNOPS-implemented project.

  • Sanitation

    Nearly half of the global population – around 3.6 billion people – lack safe sanitation. In many places, for example, limited space makes building waste processing facilities a challenge. Here, a man burns human waste that's been collected and dried, as part of a pilot programme in Cox’s Bazar.

  • Hygiene

    Globally, 3 out of 10 people – or 2.3 billion people – lack basic hygiene services. In Dennery North on the island of Saint Lucia, for example, cases of water-borne diseases like bilharzia and other stomach-related illnesses have been reported – and occur at higher rates compared to the rest of the country. Here, a schoolboy washes his hands at a tap installed as part of a project implemented by UNOPS on behalf of the government of Saint Lucia.

Climate change. Conflict. Limited access to natural resources. Issues like these are too complex for one entity, organization or person to handle on their own.

Meeting these challenges head-on requires bold, innovative ideas. And it requires non-governmental organizations and the public and private sectors working together to combine their expertise, finding the best solutions for the issues we all face.

UNOPS S3i Innovation Centres are helping do just that – bringing together a diverse range of innovators, entrepreneurs, corporations, researchers and government representatives to provide creative ideas and solutions needed to advance the 2030 Agenda and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Centres support innovation by building local communities and networks to harness expertise, knowledge and technology. The community model seeks to tap into the unique perspectives and contextual knowledge of each S3i Innovation Centre location and to develop and coordinate events and activities to inspire, activate and support the growth of new ideas.

Innovating for the future

To build a sustainable, resilient and inclusive future for all, business as usual in the development sector won't work – thinking outside the box is required.

Innovation will play a critical role in helping communities respond to some of the world’s biggest challenges. S3i’s innovation activities support start-ups and entrepreneurs to develop the bold ideas and solutions needed to tackle real problems – from improving access to water to mitigating the impacts of climate change.

"To solve the challenges we are facing today we need innovation, we need to come up with new ways to handle our daily lives," says Jonas Svensson, Head of Global Innovation and Technology at UNOPS S3i.

With support from UNOPS S3i and Sony Design Center Europe, industrial design students from Lund University recently explored ways to address a common development challenge: water shortage.

The students developed different ideas for tackling the water shortage issue in Mombasa, with experts from UNOPS S3i and Sony coaching them along the way to ensure that their solutions best meet people's needs.

The world is changing fast and we need to adapt quickly too. We need to be innovative in our design processes."

Phostine Wekesa - Associate Engineer, UNOPS Kenya

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