Getting unstuck, together.

Unstuck is an exploration journey of the UNDP that brings together public institutions, governments, investors, private companies and independent teams to work together on system and portfolio approaches to 21st-century crises.

From the food crisis & inflation to new conflicts & climate change – the compounding crises feel, and are, overwhelming. Baffled by the complexity, volume and urgency of global issues, modern society is stuck beyond belief.

A multiplicity of crises is converging on us with no end in sight, with most resources going to short-term relief and quick fixes that satisfy political expediency but often only perpetuate the status quo. Over and again we find that there are no shortcuts or silver-bullet solutions that can untangle the interlinked emergencies that the world is facing.

At the UNDP, we feel it’s time to start shaping a different way of thinking. We’re nurturing a network of like-minded system-focused doers who are willing to explore ways of reforming the current systems and habits that got us stuck in the first place.

With the generous support to the UNDP’s Innovation Facility by the Danish government, we’re designing Deep Demonstrations as a vehicle through which we engage with governments and partners around the world to explore opportunities for transformation by pursuing system and portfolio approaches.

We want to share our notes from the field and invite new organisations and teams across the globe to join us in search of new approaches to the unprecedented global issues we’re we’re all facing. We think that only through empathy, connection, local knowledge and grounded imagination, can new stories emerge.

Let’s explore together how systems and portfolios can help tackle complex development challenges.

Getting , together.

Briefings from the trenches

How does your institution make decisions when everything feels overwhelming? How does your team approach complex policy challenges? Unstuck briefings are a compilation of the first steps that organisations and teams like yours are taking to get things unstuck.

Getting cities unstuck

See both timeless inspirations and new ideas on how to consider urban transformation within its various contexts.

What is the future of work?

What does the future of work mean for different regions of the world? Get an overview of the new ways of working, and what impacts them.

Financing system change

Most development finance is biased towards single-point interventions and project-based finance. Read insights on why this approach is putting the brakes on real change, and why funding that supports systemic change is needed.

What makes tourism sustainable?

The pandemic stopped tourism in its tracks across the world. Now that it’s getting back on its feet, learn the options for starting over in a more invigorating and conscious way.

Notes from the field

A mosaic of stories: interviews with systemic doers, essays from their changing domains and field observations from our daily work.

“We tend to get lost in solving individual problems, one problem at a time. We tend to search ‘manageable problems’. But have we defined our goals correctly? Are we trying to maximise isolated parameters or to optimise the whole system?”

Daniel Wahl
Author and Systems Thinker

“The strategy of creating a multiplicity of options is relevant to all areas that our team is working on, especially urbanisation and employment in Nepal, which are both very complex issues. This kind of design-sprint approach can help us see connections and understand the complexity in a simplified way.”

Purnima Bajracharya
Head of Exploration, UNDP Nepal

“The more we tailor solutions by thinking of the needs of individual citizens, their age differences, and their economic necessities – the more equality we will bring. By saying ‘oh, we cater to all’, we may deepen the inequality gap because we stop truly addressing the differences between us.”

Claudia Lopez Hernandez
Mayor of Bogota, Colombia

“You have to continue to respond to a system that actually might not even exist in the manner that you understood a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to our learning-based system, with a constant input of data which is turned into information and knowledge, we are able to create a space where we can consistently reflect, and identify the big decisions that will enable a move forward.”

Kanika Verma
Development Alternatives, India

“Transformation is about adapting to change. If done well, it can be energising and empowering. The need to react to current crises has catalysed changes in our local government that we had previously found difficult to contemplate. Enabling the necessary shifts challenged and accelerated the digital connectivity and agility of our organisations.”

Wazha Tema
Ministry of Local Government
 and Rural Development, Botswana

“The systemic approach is about connecting multiple topics and/or sectors with multiple communities. But to truly make systemic changes we needed systemic funding. And if we want to avoid aid dependency, we’ll have to reform our tax system.”

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr
Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone

“The key for real change is going beyond silos and thinking in longer timeframes. And having governments that understand we need to innovate, to do pilots and trials, to practice trial and error, and to learn in the process – this is how we’ll be able to come up with the solutions for change that will really work.”

Diana Rodriguez Franco
Secretary of Women’s Issues, Bogota, Colombia

“We have to start thinking about first principles once again. We have to ask ourselves the questions: how do we want to live together, how do we want to move together, be healthy together, and to further our well-being together? Having that conversation is incredibly important. We need to start figuring out our portfolio of best practices, activating an ecosystem around open-ended conversations, and open-ended questions as well.”

Gabriella Goméz-Mont
Creative Adviser on City Shifts

“With the pandemic, cyclones and wars affecting Malawi, we need to scan the environment for trends that are likely to impact our economy, hence requiring the need to develop alternative scenarios to create adaptability and resilience. The sense-making capabilities will be central in defining growth and governance paradigm shifts to realise the country’s goals of graduating into a low middle-income economy and meeting most of the SDGs by 2030.”

Dr. Thomas Munthali
National Planning Commission 
of Malawi

“The traditional leadership that is telling others what to do, is replaced by interconnecting our work in a way that allows us a larger and deeper goal. That is how the whole system is changing, because we cannot achieve a city transformation goal without mobilising a large number of stakeholders and constituencies.”

Gorka Espiau
Agirre Lehendakaria Centre for Social and Political Studies, Bilbao, Spain

“Experience how people who are different from you live – just looking at differences does not teach us anything. It’s only when we let go and live by their rules, eat what they eat, that we really understand. New languages, new foods and new people all enrich us, and that diversity is what it means to be human.”

Daniel Everett
Linguist and Author, USA

“We can make short-term decisions and take limited stands by funding single-issue projects. Or we can invest together in shifting the systems that underpin development.”

Achim Steiner
UNDP Administrator

Connect with your peers around the world

Want to get unstuck, but unsure where to start? Connect with teams from other organisations and explore new approaches to complex policy challenges in urban transformation, governance, world of work, climate, poverty and more.

We’ll be happy to collaborate and jointly find ways to get unstuck.

Start at

    Tell us about yourself

    Your message

    Unstuck is an exploration journey of systems and portfolios in development, initiated by the UNDP’s Strategic Innovation Unit.

    This work is a result of collaboration between governments, investors, communities & peer organisations.


    Denmark’s generous support has enabled us to be at the very forefront of cutting-edge development. The Danish Government’s investment in the UNDP’s Innovation Facility created the space for governments, communities and other partners around the world to jointly explore how system and portfolio approaches could help engage with and tackle complex development challenges.

    More info

    Unstuck is one step of the way to transformative change.

    The UNDP’s strategic plan calls for moving beyond sectoral challenges to explore opportunities for transformative change. The unstuck initiative responds to this call by bringing together governments, public institutions, communities, independent teams and investors to explore how systems and portfolio approaches can help achieve that transformative change:

    Sustainable Finance

    Uniting countries to initiate systemic changes in public and private finance.

    Digital Development

    Using advancements in technology to deliver impact for communities.

    SDG Integration

    Implementing integrated solutions to respond to complex development challenges.

    More from the
    Strategic Innovation Unit

    Our Medium blog
    Visit Medium Blog
    Introductory videos
    Embracing complexity & system innovation

    Practitioners and thinkers working on system transformation discuss how change happens, how to build adaptive strategies and how to embrace the unknown.

    Innovation as if the future mattered: TEDx talk by EIT Climate-KIC CEO

    Dr. Kirsten Dunlop, committed to developing and implementing innovation to catalyse profound systemic change, addresses innovation.

    System innovation on purpose

    How do systems acquire a radically different purpose and how do system innovators go about developing a new purpose for an entire system?