Crowd Sourcing the Next International Development Agenda

Ed note. This item, by UNDP’s Olav Kjørven first appeared in the Guardian and is reprinted here with permission. 

For the first time in history, the United Nations is engaging hundreds of thousands of people around the world in shaping an important global agenda: the next generation of anti-poverty goals.

We are breaking new ground by not only holding simultaneous conferences in almost 100 countries, but by using digital media and mobile phone technology to include as many individuals as possible in the debate on future global targets. This will build on the millennium development goals (MDGs), which have helped to reduce by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in the course of the past decade.

The web platforms in this global conversation, the World We Want 2015 website, where people collaboratively develop policy ideas on issues such as inequality, and the My World survey, where people vote for six out of 16 development priorities, are building active user-driven communities which crowdsource development solutions for critical global challenges.

As the world now has more mobile phones than toilets, we are also using both short message service (SMS) and interactive voice response (IVR) to engage the public. For example, in Uganda, in cooperation with U-report, a free, SMS-based citizen-reporting system, we captured the views of more than 17,000 young people in a survey about the development priorities in their communities. In India and Rwanda, we have established local language voice recognition systems for people to call in with their views.

To maximise the inclusivity of the process, we are making sure that people without access to the internet and mobile phones can also participate. To that end, we held workshops in the Amazon regions, in Ecuador and Peru, for villages which lack access to communication grids.

To date, almost half a million people have taken part in the ongoing global conversation, with three key issues emerging.

First, we must accelerate progress to achieve the MDGs by the end of 2015. Second, the future goals need to address challenges like sustainability, governance, security from violence and jobs. Finally, people want to participate, both in agenda-setting as well as monitoring progress toward the future development goals.

The wealth of data from the global conversation is feeding into the process of shaping the future development agenda that will be put in place after the MDGs target date in 2015.

The preliminary results are available in the Global Conversation Begins report, which I recently presented to the UN member states and to the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda.

During the UN general assembly in September 2013, the final report from the conversation will be delivered to the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and world leaders, who will ultimately negotiate the future development agenda and goals.

This is a new dimension in global policy-making: people all over the world are expressing their concerns about the present and their desires for the future. We are making this real-time and real-world intelligence available to negotiators and decision makers. This would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. It is now possible thanks to new technology.

I encourage you to be part of this historic project and help the UN member states include your priorities in the future global development targets by voting at

Olav Kjørven is the UN assistant secretary-general and director of bureau for development policy at UN development programme. Follow Olav on Twitter @olavkjorven