As we all know the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing development challenges as well as created novel obstacles. In South Africa as the lockdown measures increased, the infection rate grew, and the economic impacts began to have dire consequences, at the UNDP Accelerator Lab we knew we had to reach vulnerable communities to support them with emergency relief measures. But how to do this during lockdown, in communities we had no existing relationships with, and with infections rising dangerously?
We began by bringing together diverse voices through an unusual collaboration between the private sector, NGOs, and UN agencies to design an intervention (these included Naspers Labs, iSpani, Capacitate, Afrika Tikkun, UNICEF and the UNDP Accelerator Lab).
What we knew: we needed to gather data on vulnerability, particularly regarding basic needs such as food security; we needed to deliver emergency relief to vulnerable households; we needed to support the most vulnerable sectors of society, including youth and women; and we needed to increase awareness of preventative measures to protect against Covid-19.
What we designed: a training programme for unemployed youth to become data collectors in their communities; an application for micro-task activation activities that was zero-rated (and could be used on feature phones); a framework for coordination, feedback and support; the use of a cloud-based transactional platform for the delivery of emergency relief vouchers; and relationships with key retailers for the redemption of these vouchers.
After a week of training, armed with their cell phones and PPEs, the youth set off on an exploration of their communities. Here are some of the lessons we learned along the way: