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The “Demo Day” of Turkey’s first-ever international impact acceleration programme “SDG Impact Accelerator” led by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and supported by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Eczacıbaşı Holding and Limak Holding was held in Istanbul on 13 September 2019.
9 startups from 8 countries which participated in the SDG Impact Accelerator programme presented their technological solutions and plans for Turkey on digital ID and clean water and sanitation for refugees and disadvantaged groups. Two of the startups, change:WATER LABS and Gravity.Earth-Sertifier-Mark Labs consortium gained the opportunity to participate in the side event organised by Turkey and UNDP during the United Nations General Assembly SDG Summit on 23-25 September in New York.
SDG Impact Accelerator, a public-private partnership to accelerate startups that work towards SDG-relevant solutions, has held its Demo Day in Istanbul on September 13, 2019. Initiated by UNDP and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, SDG Impact Accelerator has Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WFP, Eczacıbaşı Holding and Limak Holding as its founding partners.
9 startups from Turkey, the Netherlands, USA, Jordan, Palestine, India, Kenya and Rwanda presented their products developed during the 3-month accelerator program to a select audience of international impact investors as well as potential private and public partners. The startups focused on solutions for refugee populations – 4 startups in livelihood opportunities and Digital ID area, and 5 startups in water and sanitation area.
Mustafa Osman Turan, Deputy Director General for Multilateral Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, stated: “Turkey hosts the largest refugee population globally. Our foreign policy reflects the enterprising spirit and humanitarian values of our nation. By bringing entrepreneurs from around the world that develop humanitarian solutions for refugees for an intense program to work with their users and partners in Turkey, SDG Impact Accelerator has set a global benchmark for concrete projects to progress towards achieving SDGs.”
Seher Arıner, UNDP Turkey Assistant Resident Representative (Programme) said: “As UNDP Turkey, we always focus on helping the most disadvantaged with the mission of leaving no one behind. We can achieve SDGs by 2030 only if we work together. Therefore, we think that this initiative bringing all of us together is very valuable on the way to achieving Global Goals. As UNDP, we are ready to continue giving all the support we can to the teams to make their impact greater. This is what we aim to achieve with the new vision of UNDP, which we call NextGenerationUNDP. Performing better, faster and creating impact at a larger scale, with innovative solutions to the biggest problems of our time.”
Asif Abbas, co-financing lead of Middle East Relations at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said, “One of our focus areas is improving people’s health globally through innovative solutions. SDG Impact Accelerator has provided us an opportunity to work together with startups working on portable sanitation solutions, and Eczacıbaşı Holding, a significant sanitation systems manufacturer in the Middle East, to develop innovations like waste-evaporating toilets, portable toilet bags, smart and eco-friendly toilets and natural filters for water purification that will not only work in local context but also has potential to scale globally.”
Nils Grede, WFP Turkey Country Director & Representative said, “Too often we consider refugees a burden. If we want to achieve the SDGs by 2030, we need to believe and invest in their potential – because they already do and can contribute even more to their host societies until the situation in their home countries hopefully allows them to return. WFP is proud to support this initiative and we hope it can create a scalable solution to some of the problems many refugees face in Turkey and elsewhere.”
Ebru Özdemir, Limak Foundation-Chair said, “I definitely believe SDG Impact Accelerator will enhance our country’s role in global humanitarian innovation and reinforce Turkey’s contribution to global SDG Agenda. I hope Limak’s participation, as a partner, will encourage more private sector companies to take action towards global development agenda.”
Gravity.Earth-Sertifier-Mark Labs consortium from the Digital ID challenge, and change:WATER LABS from the Non-sewage Portable Toilet and Sanitation Systems challenge will attend the UN General Assembly in New York City to present to potential global customers and partners at a side event to be held on 23 September 2019.
Johannes Ebert, founder of Gravity.Earth, the startup from the Digital ID category which will present its solution at the UN General Assembly side event said, “The SDG Impact Accelerator has been an amazing learning experience for us and our fellow startups. The time we spent with refugees, the SDGia partners and the many implementing partners that work on the field were invaluable in coming up with a solution that addresses many of the challenges the humanitarian operation and the refugees face in Turkey and around the world. We are really excited to present our ideas at the UN General Assembly and learn more from the people we will meet there.”
Dr. Diana Yousef from change:WATER LABS said, “The experience of participating in the SDG Impact Accelerator has been very powerful for our team. Through this Accelerator, we really got to be in touch with the problem in a very real way! Seeing up-close the people whom we hope to empower with our solution also had a profound impact on our work and energized our dedication. Also, getting to know this cohort of other startups inspired us and we are looking forward to potential future collaborations with these amazing innovators. We are so grateful to the Accelerator Partners and excited to leverage this powerful platform they have created to help improve the lives of refugees and vulnerable populations in Turkey and globally.”
The 25 startups have joined the pilot cohort of SDG Impact Accelerator from 14 different countries including Turkey, Germany, Belgium, Senegal, Kenya, Rwanda, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, Palestine, Jordan, Colombia, Hungary and India. The SDG Impact Accelerator will add new partners from private sector and international organizations in the upcoming months.
Through this programme Turkey has provided the testbed to address the needs of refugees with creativity of entrepreneurs and possibilities of technology. The long-term ambition is to share this acceleration model with the other countries facing the same challenge and help 70m displaced people all over the world.