Photo: UNDP in Uruguay

Alientos de tradición, de un territorio paisano” Resounded in the speaker one early morning in spring as the Accelerator Lab, together with the Departmental Government of Treinta y Tres and the Municipality of Santa Clara, prepared the room to receive students between 15 and 18 years old to begin 10 hours of innovation.

The song is a tribute that a folkloric duo (Copla Alta) makes to their hometown: Santa Clara de Olimar. This town is located more than 300 kilometers away from the capital Montevideo and an hour and a half by car from the most important cities of the region. It was the place where we set out to demonstrate that ideas arise from collective thinking when addressing concrete problems, that traditional practices can (and should) be a source of innovation to face the complex challenges of sustainable development.

Through UNPD´s RFF (Rapid Financing Facility), a project is being implemented in Uruguay to contribute to the post-COVID-19 socioeconomic recovery using a portfolio approach in the Central Region in Uruguay. Within the participatory strategy for social cohesion of the project, we promoted this event to strengthen the resilience of Santa Clara, particularly its network of family gardens, promoting productivity, the inclusion of women and young people, and intergenerational exchange.

From a delivery system with solar energy to a georeferenced and collaborative platform of inputs and products, students at high school and agricultural schools proposed solutions to answer some of the following questions:

  • How to develop new systems for efficient water management and irrigation?
  • What can be done with the surplus production of the gardens?
  • How to improve the marketing of garden products?
  •  How to generate networks and new forms of management among family producers?


Photo: UNDP in Uruguay


Going through the five stages of design thinking (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, evaluate), one of the most important was to empathize, where family producers (mostly women and older adults) were invited to share the problems, they faced daily in their gardens. Promoting spaces like this, of intergenerational exchange, was one of the most significant learnings of the day to imagine more inclusive societies.

It was 10 hours of co-creation, workshops, mentoring, and inspiring talks of young Uruguayan ventures such as Redalco or Compost Ciudadano. After, the jury valued the contributions of the solutions developed by all the teams and particularly highlighted the project "collective management of rainwater". It generates a rainwater collection network on the roofs of Santa Clara houses that family producers can then use in their vegetable gardens. There were two other initiatives related to innovative commercialization of products that received a special distinction from the jury


Photo: UNDP in Uruguay


From the collective collection of water to a model of sustainable cooperative management between producers, young people proposed ideas that invited associativity and cohesion between producers and society. This appreciation became a strong message for the Accelerator Lab, inviting us to rethink the formats we propose and how to continue empathizing and working with future generations.

"Local solutions for local problems"

Generating intergenerational exchange and the collective construction of solutions to local problems -involving people in the entire process-, instead of promoting predetermined foreign designs allowed us to develop young people's skills to empathize with their close reality and recognize their ideas. Although innovation knows no borders, we learned that it could not ignore the territory from which it arises.

It was also part of the achievements to work together with local actors (the Departmental Government of Treinta y Tres, the Municipality of Santa Clara, the Agrarian School, and the High School), and join efforts with the Technological University, whose objective is to promote tertiary education access outside the capital city of Montevideo. So, we define success as generating capacities, alliances, and connections in the regions. In short, collectively collaborate “para que los que siembren, cosechen”.

Stay tuned to the following blogs from the UNDP Accelerator Lab to learn more about the results of the RFF implementation in Uruguay.

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