Making innovation work for decent work

The ILO 8.7 Accelerator Lab launches vision for innovation, knowledge sharing and scaling up

The ILO 8.7 Accelerator Lab gathers a group of innovators from different countries and projects of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work branch to apply the ILO Strategy on Knowledge and Innovation to the work of the branch.

News | 28 March 2024


The United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) Antonio Gutierres clearly articulated, “Innovation is about being much more effective and at the scale that is necessary to benefit the people the United Nations serves”.

In 2023, the ILO launched its Strategy on Knowledge and Innovation which is centred around four strategic priorities: (i) strengthening internal capacity for knowledge management and innovation across the ILO’s organizational structure; (ii) fostering innovative policies, products and services for the achievement of decent work and social justice; (iii) developing partnerships to support innovation in the world of work; and (iv) reinforcing a culture of knowledge and innovation.

With both child labour and forced labour on the increase, both in terms of prevalence and absolute number, the UNSG’s call to become better equipped to adapt to the challenges facing the world today and to better support the Member States in their pursuit of the SDGs is indeed imperative.

Whether it be novel ideas that are piloted or successful pilots that are scaled up, the 8.7 Accelerator Lab is driving a paradigm shift in the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch. In an effort to turn these worrying trends around and get back on track towards achieving Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Accelerator Lab initiative is simultaneously innovating at both the intervention level through the activities carried out through its projects and the system level by supporting activities that foster innovation in the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch (FUNDAMENTALS).

How we got here

The 8.7 Accelerator Lab was launched in 2021 in response to the increase in the global estimates of child labour from 152 million to 160 million children. It is the first initiative of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch that looks at optimizing both what we do to support constituents and partners to reach SDG Target 8.7 and how we do it. In other words, the Accelerator Lab aims at piloting, identifying and scaling up innovative solutions to end human rights abuses at work globally (intervention level) while also piloting, identifying and scaling up innovative solutions to make our internal processes more effective (system level).

At the intervention level, the 8.7 Accelerator Lab aims to optimise the effectiveness of development cooperation interventions by embracing six acceleration factors that form the core of the programme. One of these factors identified is leveraging on innovation because progress needs and feeds on new ideas and scaling up effective approaches to new contexts. Another interrelated acceleration factor is creating and sharing knowledge. The key difference between invention and innovation is whether or not the innovative solution is made available at scale to improve people’s lives. Every good practice on child labour or forced labour either invented or identified by the ILO should be known and available to all our projects in the Branch. That is where the “system-level” comes in:
  • The flexible funding mechanism of the Accelerator Lab’s Multi-Partner Fund allows for adaptive and responsive management whereby new pilots can be carried out with ease and scaled up where needed.
  • The harmonised approach to project management and monitoring and evaluation among the projects within the Accelerator Lab initiative breaks down silos and facilitates knowledge sharing and makes it easier to identify and respond to opportunities and gaps.
  • Remember the quote, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”? The Accelerator Lab is also innovating the way in which Development Cooperation projects are designed. The “Mapping of Development Cooperation Projects” and the “Country Selection Matrix” are two tools that allow for a more data-driven approach to selecting and designing interventions. Contexts with both high prevalence of child labour and/or forced labour and indicators of an enabling environment will no longer be overlooked.

Design thinking workshop

In December 2023, the 8.7 Accelerator Lab organised a Design Thinking Workshop on innovation, knowledge sharing and scaling up in collaboration with the ITCILO Innovation Lab. A selection of innovators from the FUNDAMENTALS gathered from various countries around the world to:
  1. Define the various categories of innovation relevant to Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and identify potential innovative solutions needed to reverse the increase in child labour and forced labour
  2. Explore traditional and non-traditional knowledge-sharing systems
  3. Reinforce the strategy for scaling up innovative solutions
The end goal is to boost innovation across the five Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in an integrated manner.

The network of innovators is now putting the tools identified into practice and promoting the enabling environment throughout the branch.

So, what’s next?

The vision for innovation of the 8.7 Accelerator Lab is centred around three pillars and promising activities have been envisaged under each one:
  1. Improved targeting of innovative solutions – this will be done by supporting concrete innovative projects/ideas within projects or across projects in the Branch;
  2. Innovative and integrated knowledge sharing systems – the Network is in the process of defining an Integrated and adaptable Knowledge Sharing System on FPRW to ensure that we innovate based on learnings from other projects;
  3. Evidence-based systems for scaling up – the Network is in the process of creating and Evidence-Based Tool for Scaling Up which fosters learning and ensures room for failures
For this to work, we need an enabling environment. At the 8.7 Accelerator Lab we believe that by supporting system level change at the branch level, we can ensure that all of our colleagues’ and partners’ inventions can be scaled up to become true innovations that work for decent work.