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The scale and breadth of market-based solutions to the broad development challenges we face today are currently insufficient to be considered as major drivers of social change. It is clear that to work effectively, market-based solutions require access to information and coordination of different stakeholders in order to provide necessary inputs to the markets.

The main thesis of the feasibility study is that “market-creating innovations” can not only create sustainable business models per se, but also catalyze broader change in the market, in the economy and in the society that enable access to products or services that were previously unavailable or unaffordable to large portions of society, especially refugees and least-developed country (LDC) populations. Market-creating innovations should be executed not by focusing on a particular solution, but by mobilizing different stakeholders to catalyse systems change.

The SDG Impact Accelerator aims to accelerate “systems entrepreneurs” for market-creating innovations, initially for refugee populations, and in turn for the LDCs. The systems entrepreneurs will not exclusively include the startups that work towards systems change, but also innovators that work through existing organizations, large for-profit companies, and their

This feasibility study was initiated by the Government of Turkey. Its first stage was jointly funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNDP.


Throughout history, Turkey has been the frontier between the East and the West, and now as an emerging donor – the 6th largest Official Development Assistance (ODA) donor among the OECD nations – it also acts as a frontier between the Global North and the Global South. Moreover, Turkey’s private sector is also active globally. For instance, Turkish Engineering-Procurement-Construction companies are the largest group after China among top 250 companies. In addition, Turkey hosts relevant international organizations, such as the newly established UN Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries. These are the key reasons that the SDG Impact Accelerator will be established in Turkey.

The SDG Impact Accelerator will be one of the pioneer global initiatives in line with UNDP’s “platform-based strategy” in its 2018-2021 Strategic Plan. The SDG Impact Accelerator will be based in Istanbul and will be at its core a global multistakeholder platform for knowledge sharing, empowerment and scaling.


The first target beneficiary of the SDG Impact Accelerator will be “displaced people under temporary protection” hosted in Turkey. Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Turkey has become the largest refugee-hosting nation in the world, with over 4 million displaced people including 3.6 million Syrians and a total spending of over 30 billion USD. In total the EU has committed €6bn to support refugee-focused programs in Turkey, the second tranche of which will be released soon. The objectives of the SDG Impact Accelerator largely coincide with the purposes of this EU program (FRIT-II) in terms of contributing to the livelihood opportunities of the refugees by developing innovative socio-economic development solutions.


The SDG Impact Accelerator will have the following key features:

  • It will adopt a “systems acceleration” approach. The full-fledged systems accelerator will include:

    • 1 – Systems Lab to provide access to insights and information, in particular through human-centred design techniques and systems tools, and a focus on specific grand challenges,

    • 2 – Accelerator with a cohort structure to bring different stakeholders together around specific grand challenges and provide challenge-focused – instead of generic – acceleration services towards systems change by utilizing lean enterprise methods

    • 3 – Impact Investment Fund to provide alumni with direct access to flexible funding to scale-up.

  • It will be uniquely positioned to connect global knowledge with beneficiaries in refugees and LDC populations through a hub in Turkey. The first year will focus on refugees in Turkey. In the following years, solutions will be scaled to refugee populations around the world and specific local applications will be developed in the LDCs by utilizing a “sister city network” and UNDP’s SDG Accelerator Labs.

  • It will be a learning organization with conventional impact key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as KPIs to measure value generation on a larger scale. The SDG Impact Accelerator’s continuous interaction with both the field and accelerator alumni will not only help to refine its acceleration model, but also contribute to the dialogue on the international humanitarian, economic development and peace agenda.

  • It will also feature participatory governance aligning the work of the Accelerator with the strategic objectives of its partners, including corporates, aid agencies, multilateral financial institutions, philanthropic foundations and impact investors.


The second phase of the study will commence in April 2019 and involve application of pilot projects. Funding will be provided by UNDP and Limak Holding, a Turkish infrastructure investor, amongst others. Two pilot projects have already been planned with the stakeholders. Two working groups involving the relevant Turkish Ministries and other solution partners will be formed to design and implement the pilot projects.

  • The first pilot will be on implementing a new non-sewage portable toilet design. This pilot will bring together, as “challenge owners”, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) team, which is working on non-sewage sanitation technologies, and Eczacibasi Vitra, a major sanitation systems manufacturer based in Turkey. The pilot project will run a challenge to invite systems entrepreneurs to combine both global and local technology and design, and test commercialization of user-friendly non-sewage toilet systems in seasonal agricultural worker camps. Significant portion of these workers are refugees.

  • The second pilot will be on developing new applications on a digital identification ecosystem to provide access to basic services and livelihood opportunities to a selected group of refugees and will be conducted in cooperation with UNDP. It will combat the challenges surrounding the lack of formal identification, allowing refugees to access services, job opportunities and provide employers information of expertise and accreditation.

The feasibility report and the progress achieved in the pilot phase as well as the full structure of the SDG Impact Accelerator will be announced at the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July and/or September in 2019 as well as at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in January 2020.

• Ussal Sahbaz (team leader)
• Alexandra Alden
• Dogan Taskent
• Filippo Addarii
• Indy Johar

• David Gautschi (Dean Emeritus, Fordham University)
• Gifford Pinchot III (President, Pinchot & Co)
• Magdalena Yesil (first investor & founding board
• Michael Free (Senior Advisor Emeritus, PATH)
• Steven Koltai (Advanced Leadership Fellow, Harvard

This report was primarily published by the UNDP Turkey in collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.