Innovation Specialist, Pretoria, South Africa

Organization: UNDP - United Nations Development Programme

Country: South Africa

City: Pretoria

Office: UNDP in Pretoria, South Africa

Closing date: Thursday, 6 April 2023


Description of assignment title: Innovation Specialist

Assignment country: South Africa

Expected start date: 05/01/2023

Sustainable Development Goal: 13. Climate action

Volunteer category: National UN Volunteer Specialist

DoA reserved for persons with disabilities: No

Host entity: UNDP

Type: Onsite

Duration: 6 months (with possibility of extension)

Number of assignments: 1

Duty stations: Pretoria


Mission and objectives

As the United Nations lead agency on international development, UNDP works in 170 countries and territories to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. We help countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities, and to build resilience to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Our work is concentrated in three focus areas; sustainable development, democratic governance and peace building, and climate and disaster resilience. UNDP’s mandate is to end poverty, build democratic governance, rule of law, and inclusive institutions. We advocate for change, and connect countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life.


A planetary emergency and the pandemic have depleted the world’s natural resources and widened poverty and inequality. Up to one billion people could be living in extreme poverty by 2030 unless a decisive push is made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The new Strategic Plan 2022-2025 of the United Nations Development Programme describes how UNDP intends to work together with its partners to deliver what is required in such extraordinary times. The Strategic Plan is grounded in UNDP’s continued commitment to eradicating poverty, accompanying countries in their pathways towards the SDGs and working towards the Paris Agreement. It envisions bold goals, making a difference to millions of lives, including through tackling multidimensional poverty, energy access, elections participation and development financing. It explains how UNDP will develop its six signature solutions powered by digitalisation, innovation and development financing - for greater impact. The UNDP Strategic Plan embraces the complexity of development and commits the organization to helping countries find faster, more durable solutions to achieve Agenda 2030. Important development trends like urbanization, climate change, and rising inequalities pose significant challenges on our path to achieve the 2030 agenda. UNDP has begun incubating a number of strategic initiatives aimed at ensuring UNDP is ‚fit for purpose‘ to deliver a new generation of solutions in line with the challenges the world faces. One such key strategic initiatives is the UNDP Accelerator Lab Network which operates as part of UNDP’s sustainable development offering. UNDP is building the largest and fastest learning global network on development challenges and has already set up 91 labs serving 115 countries, embedded within UNDP’s global architecture and country platforms. UNDP uses the power of the crowd - collective intelligence, machine learning, and distributed decision making to support partners to understand problems, develop new solutions, promote more inclusive decision making, and provide better oversight of what is done. The Accelerator Labs identify grassroots solutions and taps into unusual data sources and stretches their potential to accelerate development. Techniques such as design thinking, prototyping, solution mapping, etc., are employed to create a portfolio of solutions that address priorities development challenges. In South Africa, the triple threat of unemployment, inequality and poverty remain the key focus of the country office. The Accelerator labs apply experimentation (testing) of identified solutions by working closely with government and private sector partners in order to grow this as a mode of operating to reduce costs of large-scale public and private sector reforms. Experimentation helps us learn whether assumptions are accurate before deploying solutions at scale, especially in the rapidly evolving contexts that often dominate development progress. This UNV assignment will form part of UNDP South Africa’s Accelerator Lab initiative. More information about the Accelerator Labs can be found here:

Task description

Within delegated authority and under the supervision of the Head of Exploration or his/her designated mandated representative(s), the UNV Innovation Specialist will: Provide project co-ordination support to the Accelerator Lab:

Assist with financial and procurement procedures, such as creating and submitting purchase orders, invoices, payment forms, etc.;
Co-ordinate across operational teams to ensure project tasks are actioned within the required deadlines;
Oversee and co-ordinate team travel arrangements and travel work plans/agenda;
Communicate project details, outcomes, and plans with partners/stakeholders and help coordinate multi-project work plans. Support the design, development and implementation of innovation projects within the Accelerator Lab:

Project Design: Engage key government and private sector stakeholders, affected communities and other related parties, as well as undertake research and the required consultations to craft project concept notes and project documents, together with the Lab team;
Project Implementation: draft Terms of References for procurement tasks; draft partnership agreements, such as Memorandums of understanding, letters of agreement, etc., co-ordinate project steering committees, manage project communication;
Assisting with research, solutions mapping and experimentation;
Design research and knowledge products, including communication pieces such as blogs and articles;
Participate in Global Accelerator Lab engagements, such as global calls, experimentation, exploration and solution mapping meetings;
Assist with country office sense making exercises which seeks to improve the focus and impact of country office projects. General Support:

Support Digital X - Use of digital platforms to implement 2 Green Challenges with youth nationally;
Japan SDG Challenge to pilot seaweed cultivation techniques in the Western Cape;
Designing scaling models to pilot ocean innovations with the private sector;
Collective intelligence data collection and analysis on the Just Energy Transition;
Restoring Landscapes in South Africa with nature-based solutions;
Renewable Energy Innovation Challenge;
Developing funding proposal for the GEF8 International Waters submission;
Empowering youth enterprises through Innovation - a joint project with the Department of Science and Innovation.

Other general duties as the need arises

Eligibility criteria

Age: 27 - 80


Candidate must be a national or legal resident of the country of assignment.


Required experience

3 years of experience in National Innovation programmes;
Experience within UNDP, other international development organization or the UN system will serve as an advantage;
Sound knowledge of the National system of innovation in South Africa, and previous partnerships within the Innovation ecosystem in South Africa, will be advantageous.

Excellent oral and written skills; excellent drafting, formulation, reporting skills;
Accuracy and professionalism in document production and editing;
Excellent interpersonal skills; culturally and socially sensitive; ability to work inclusively and collaboratively with a range of partners, including grassroots community members, religious and youth organizations, and authorities at different levels; familiarity with tools and approaches of communications for development;
Ability to work and adapt professionally and effectively in a challenging environment; ability to work effectively in a multicultural team of international and national personnel;
Solid overall computer literacy, including proficiency in various MS Office applications (Excel, Word, etc.) and email/internet; familiarity with database management; and office technology equipment;
Self-motivated, ability to work with minimum supervision; ability to work with tight deadlines;
Working knowledge of any other official South African language will serve as an advantage;
Desirable: valid national driver’s license

Area(s) of expertise

Development programmes, Natural and life sciences

Driving license



English, Level: Fluent, Required

Required education level

Bachelor degree or equivalent in International Relations, Development Studies, Economics, Statistics, Sociology, Science and Engineering, Project Management, or related field.

Competencies and values

Professionalism; Integrity; Teamwork and respect for diversity; Commitment to continuous learning; Planning and organizing; Communication; Genuine commitment towards the principles of voluntary engagement.

Other information

Living conditions and remarks

The Republic of South Africa is a large country of nine provinces with different climates, races, languages, creeds, cultures, religions and human activity. The landscape is also diverse, with mountains, plains, farmlands, bushveld scrub and arid deserts, each of the many different parts supporting its own distinctive plant and animal life. The country’s multi-cultural and multi-lingual society fuses to make this "Rainbow Nation" a rich and rewarding experience for you as a United Nations official and as a visitor. Pretoria is the duty station for most UN staff. Pretoria, also called Tshwane, is the administrative capital of South Africa. Founded in 1855, its metropolitan area is in excess of 900 square kilometers. Pretoria is located in Gauteng province, the smallest of South Africa’s nine provinces in area but the largest in population. As this is a national UN Volunteer assignment, the UN Volunteer will be responsible for arranging his/her own housing and other living essentials.

Inclusivity statement

United Nations Volunteers is an equal opportunity programme that welcomes applications from qualified professionals. We are committed to achieving diversity in terms of gender, care protected characteristics. As part of their adherence to the values of UNV, all UN Volunteers commit themselves to combat any form of discrimination, and to promoting respect for human rights and individual dignity, without distinction of a person’s race, sex, gender identity, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy, age, language, social origin or other status.

Note on Covid-19 vaccination requirements

Selected candidates for certain occupational groups may be subject to inoculation (vaccination) requirements, including against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) in line with the applicable host entity policy

Link to the organization’s job posting: