Our Perspective

      • More Action-Oriented Development?

        28 Oct 2014


        By Patrick Haverman -  I read recently in a Dutch newspaper a story about the latest management book to be published: “Hell Week” by Erik Bertrand Larssen from Norway. The practices described in the book aim to make your life hell for one week and by doing so learn new things and gain new insights. Curious as I am I bought the book and started my own hell week, getting up every day at 5am and going to sleep at 10pm - except for Thursday night when there wasn’t any sleep at all… Every day has a theme: Monday’s is ‘break your habit’, Tuesday is ‘focus’, Wednesday is ‘time management’, Thursday is ‘out of the comfort zone’, Friday you can have ‘rest and recuperation’ and Saturday ‘internal dialogue’ with Sunday being given over to ‘perspective’. The fact that every day has a theme can put you to thinking seriously for 24 hours about a topic. Seeing as it’s a bit of theory and then actual practice for a whole 24 hours, this is much longer than any chapter in a management book! It also includes all the normal stuff: eat healthily, move, do sports, move again! Of course you have heard this  Read More

      • Training as if China isn’t a Country

        09 Oct 2014

        One continent, many countries: Credit: 玖巧仔, 2009

        By Hannah Ryder -  Africa isn’t a country.  It’s an obvious statement but a while back, even American Vice President Joe Bidden forgot it when he said: “There's no reason the nation of Africa cannot and should not join the ranks of the world's most prosperous nations”. Having worked in development for over ten years now, I think recognizing the wealth of diversity across the African continent - different languages, cultures, economics – is key.  There is no way you can understand the different problems facing the continent – and required solutions – unless you recognize its wealth of diversity. But working in China I now have the complete opposite problem: I now have to remind myself that while China is indeed a country, its scale and experience is not like that of any other country. China is almost a continent. For example, by 2015, China is projected to have 3000 kilometers of urban rail networks, and by 2020, 5000. That’s half the size of East Africa’s entire rail network – urban and rural, let alone just in cities.  Over the next 10-12 years, the population of rural to urban migrants within China is forecast to be almost the size of  Read More

      • UNDP China - Walk the Walk on Climate Change Mitigation

        07 Oct 2014


        By Patrick Haverman - Protecting the environment is one of UNDP China’s priority areas.  We have an impressive project portfolio ranging from climate change mitigation and adaptation, to biodiversity protection and green consumption.  Our Green Consumption campaign video for world environmental day was seen by millions of people. We are truly committed to our planet and environment!  UNDP China is proud to proclaim that we aren’t just talking the talk about our projects, but are actively walking the walk! UNDP China has an active and committed voluntary-based Green Team, and has recently implemented an array of green consumption and energy reduction (climate change mitigation) initiatives including recycling (paper, plastic, printer-cartridge), proper waste disposal (CLF bulbs, batteries), LED lamp replacement, solar panel installation, and provision of green transportation – bicycles!  UNDP China is in the process of installing 30kWh rooftop solar panel systems, which will reduce its current fossil-fuel based electricity demand by more than 40% from 70kWh.  We are the first among the diplomatic communities to take such initiative, and plan to share our success story to motivate more green actions.    For most offices, lighting is the second highest energy consuming equipment next to the HVAC (heating-ventilation-cooling) system.  This summer,  Read More

      • The Same, but Different

        18 Sep 2014

        How to get a McDonalds in Beijing? Get on a bike! Photo: Augapfel, 2007

        By Hannah Ryder - I’m entering into my fourth week here in Beijing, and one of the experiments I tried last weekend was to order a takeaway. I was tired from a very hectic week of meetings – that was my excuse anyway!  But it turns out the process of getting a takeaway in Beijing is quite different from getting a takeaway in London or Nairobi – two other big cities I’ve lived in.  In London or Nairobi in order to get a takeaway you usually need to phone the restaurant directly, and if they don’t offer a takeaway service then you either have to collect the food yourself or you have to try another restaurant.  In contrast, here in Beijing, restaurants don’t generally offer takeaway services themselves. Instead, customers need to phone – and pay – a special company set up simply for the purpose of takeaway to pick up the order and deliver it to your home.  That’s right in the language of economists Chinese restaurants effectively “outsource” their takeaway services.  But it’s the same outcome or result wherever you live – a lovely takeaway delivered to your door, but just a different process.  Thinking about it as an  Read More

      • As Print Media Fades: All Eyes on Social Media

        18 Sep 2014


        By Yumna Rathore - Every morning I wake up to the sounds of my iPhone. With instant news updates from every corner of the world, my phone with its various social media apps is my primary news source. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, or Google Alerts, I know exactly what I need to know about any given problem or country the minute I wake up. Every week I see a stack of newspapers and magazines on my doorstep that are later recycled. I pick up the newspaper and toss it into a news rack, where it stays untouched the entire week.  I think we all can agree that gone are those days where we drink our morning tea while reading the morning newspaper. Gone are those days where we actually wait to watch the 10 o’clock news. While the demise of print media and spread of social media may seem like a great leap forward, very few understand the risk of social media today. Specific newspapers certainly have their own biases and perspectives, but social media outlets can often be even more bias and inaccurate than our traditional news source! I saw a picture of a wounded child go viral  Read More

      • A Ride to Prospect

        04 Sep 2014


        By Carsten Germer -   Do you like the smell of a new car? Do you like the look of a new car? Well do you like cars? I do not particularly like cars. Cars is something that get you from point A to B, keeps you dry when it rains and most importantly it provides you with your private space where you can sing along to old pop tunes unnoticed while moving along the endless network of roads now covering our cities. As you might have guessed, I do not know much (or care much) about cars their make, their 0-100 km stat’s and similar things which normally get a car enthusiast up of their seats. I nonetheless was quite excited when I opened the door to the exhibition model, which was about to started its tour around China. One reason why I was excited was that I normally drive stick shift so getting into a car with automatic gearshift was a bit of a conceptual challenge (which lasted less than five seconds). However, the real excitement was that I was about to enter the realm of driving a fuel cell vehicle – it all seems a bit futuristic. The  Read More

      • Defying Stereotypes in China

        29 Aug 2014

        Photo: Curtis Gregory Perry, 2014

        By Hannah Ryder - A few days ago I arrived in Beijing to begin a new job as deputy country director for UNDP China.  In this job, I’ll be heading a team that advises the Chinese government and other Chinese counterparts such as businesses how to cooperate effectively with other countries and further develop their international positions on issues such as climate change and what comes after the Millennium Development Goals. It’s my first week so I’m obviously still learning a lot about what my job will entail, but one thing is crystal clear… It will involve defying stereotypes. The mere mention of China tends to invoke a lot of stereotypes. For example, typical blogs by people who visit China for the first time, from America to Jamaica – are often about how different Chinese food and culture is.  The stereotype of Kenyans coming to China – such as myself – is that we’re coming to do business.  And the stereotype of people coming to China who have worked in OECD aid agencies – again like myself – is that we are here to tell Chinese counterparts how to deliver aid "properly". But China is a country that defies stereotypes.  For  Read More

      • How to Make A Media Campaign Reaching out over 200 Million

        29 Jul 2014


        By Zhang Wei -    We’ve had a very successful year so far here at UNDP China and I'd like to share some particularly exciting news surrounding one of our media initiatives.  We launched a short animation entitled ‘Green’ on all major online platforms in China on World Environment Day this year. This was the culmination of a project over a year in the making and it really paid off. We carefully planned it all, booking certain high-profile individuals months in advance (including Helen Clark and pianist/UN Peace Messenger Lang Lang) and carefully orchestrating a recording and animation schedule to coincide with W.E.D. The result of this effort was the best ever media campaign undertaken by UNDP China. On June 5th 2014 our video went live on all the major online portals. There was a link on the main Baidu (2nd largest search engine in the world) search page for 24 hours, on video sharing site Iqiyi (biggest video site in China) as well as the online arm of Bloomsberg amongst others. Due to this, the video managed to receive over 223,000,000 individual impressions at a market value of more than 10,000,000 RMB (1.7 million$) – far greater than any other  Read More

      • A Case Study of the Innovation Process - Baidu

        14 Jul 2014


        By Patrick Haverman - The creation and implementation of new ideas can be an arduous task. With projects subject to revisions and changes, the process behind finding the New is tough and, like a good detective story, can often take unexpected twists and turns. Flexibility and imagination are certainly required as the initial spark quite often bears little resemblance to the finished product, but perseverance is paramount to success, as the following story illustrates. About a year ago we at the UNDP China came up with the idea of partnering with Baidu, China’s largest internet service provider. In recent years Baidu has been actively mobilizing resources to pursue the public good and due to this overlap with UNDP’s sphere of operations we decided to initiate contact to discuss what innovative technological ideas could be generated. After first contact we eventually got together for the initial meeting. Talking with our counterparts made us aware of the massive scope of Baidu’s reach, from search engine to online encyclopaedia to music, images, video and mapping services. Our first idea was to conceive, prototype and eventually develop a disaster management utility, namely mapping and providing information on the nearest emergency shelters – a potential life-saver  Read More

      • Scale up the Scaling-Up in China

        17 Dec 2013


        By Li Xi - In late October, when I agreed that I would go on a trip to the Indian Country Office for a ‘Scaling Up Innovation Clinic’ scheduled for November 26–27 in Delhi, I was particularly excited about this news – but a minor detail had been omitted in all the excitement: what on earth is “scaling-up”??? I immediately thought of the flowchart, ‘RETHINKING PROJECT DESIGN’ presented by Giulio Quaggiotto, in which “Scale Up” comes up in the last phase after “Finding & Reflecting” and “Prototyping”. Speaking of Giulio, an European gentleman who paid a one-week visit to the China Country Office together with RBAP knowledge guru David Galipeau, the two of them really planted the notion of “Innovative Thinking” in our office via an inspiring presentation to all staff on how to challenge basic assumptions, look for inspiration from new areas and not be afraid to experiment or even fail. This was followed by meetings with each team in the office and with several key partners. The great mission on innovation in China has not ceased after their departure – led by the Deputy Country Director Patrick Haverman, a small group of people teamed up and devoted a portion  Read More