UNDP Moldova SDG Accelerator navigates pandemic
International business expert Tom Ruddy shares insights of his work, as part of the Sweden-funded SDG Accelerator Program, run by UNDP Moldova.
Even in the best of times and circumstances, Moldova presents its entrepreneurs with wide ranging challenges and barriers to progress. Despite this, there are many success stories and a seemingly never ending flow of enterprising start-ups rising to their market challenges on the path to prosperity. UNDP in Moldova is engaging with such business leaders who stop at nothing to reach for their dreams across all industries and sectors to help with their operational sustainability and vital international outreach.
Moldova was selected as the pilot country location for the SDG pilot business accelerator to formulate a replicable model for other emerging and transition economies to learn from.
Little could they have known that their hard-won successful investments to date would be put to the ultimate challenge as a global healthcare crisis bore down on their fragile economy and companies.
With seed funding from Sweden, the SDG Accelerator pilot was designed in 2018 in Denmark, in partnership with innovation ecosystem experts from Deloitte Consulting and a select group of Danish SMEs. Not long after, UNDP Moldova sought to recruit five active and profitable SMEs who were willing to embark on the path to develop new products or services specifically addressing the SDGs, projects that the Accelerator was later able to support, mentor and showcase in other countries, namely Bosnia-Herzegovina followed by Ukraine. The competitive selection process yielded the following five Moldovan SMEs which were in their own sectors true market and technology leaders with international ambitions but lacking resources or know-how in certain core areas.
Inox Plus (https://www.inoxplus.md)
Enterprise Business Solutions (https://ebs-integrator.com)
DAS Solutions (https://dassolutions.eu)
This was the start to an exciting pilot experiment in evidence-based economic development to demonstrate that the private sector has an instrumental and even vital role to play in creating a sustainable economy, country and planet and by doing so, it becomes both profitable and socio-economically impactful.
Then came the coronavirus.
We were working by this time with the five companies to develop business cases for a new product/service when the pandemic erupted into the marketplace. Over the course of the next two months, as the crisis unfolded and our companies changed their working situation (four of them are ICT which is an industry conducive to remote work, but one, Inox Plus, is a steel fabrication and sales company) we are having to reexamine the approach as well as the projects.
The good news is the SDG Accelerator methodology involves taking a new business concept and matching it with experts who can quite literally dissect it to look at the smallest components and then to work with the company management team to reconstruct the initiative by optimizing it’s alignment to the SDG primary and secondary targets.
So it is fundamentally a process of conceptualization, construction, creative destruction and redesign — not unlike what a global pandemic might impose on legacy businesses. No better time to change then when chaos engulfs!
We are currently in the modification stages called the Enrichment Phase of the acceleration methodology created by Deloitte, so the timing of these converging events works well if resources are available and that’s where the unexpected challenge arises.
The recruitment phase of the SDG Pilot Accelerator specifically required applicants to be active, profitable SMEs with a headcount of more than 25 employees. Now, however, resources and personnel, as well as market demand and even the working environment are in disarray. The companies are closer than ever to work with change as a business model and possibly restructure the business cases already developed pre-pandemic.
The pilot is currently being put to the test and a reinvigorated approach to business and economic development is already coming into fruition. New case studies and a more frugal and proactive class of entrepreneurs will flow from this attempt to pair the SDGs with private sector businesses and entrepreneurs to chart new paths and make new rules and recommendations for future generations to survive in an ever changing world.
The SDG Business Accelerator for SMES was launched in 2019 by UNDP Moldova, in partnership with UNDP Denmark, with the financial support of the Sweden, and aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises in Moldova to harness business opportunities deriving from the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The program follows the operation model of the Danish SDG Accelerator that has had supported over 35 SMEs in developing new SDG-related business products or services since 2018. More info here.