“What is of the greatest importance in war is extraordinary speed: one cannot afford to neglect opportunity.” The advice of Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu still holds thousands of years later in tackling some of the world’s biggest problems.

Today, opportunities for tackling climate change and poverty are aplenty. But governments often can’t move fast enough. The United Nations Development Programme launched a global network of Accelerator Labs to test cutting-edge approaches, launch new projects and find solutions quickly.

The labs use foresight, behavioural insights, AI and real-time data to help nations towards the UN’s sustainable development goals. In this special report, we spoke with five women leading these efforts to find out what keeps them inspired.

Meet the interviewees

Ana Grijalva, Head of Exploration, UNDP Ecuador Accelerator Lab

Basma Saeed, Head of Solutions Mapping, UNDP Accelerator Lab Sudan

Hodan Abdullahi, Head of Exploration, UNDP Somalia Accelerator Lab

Swetha Kolluri, Head of Experimentation, UNDP India Accelerator Lab

Zainab Kakal, Head of Experimentation, UNDP Accelerator Lab Pacific

Illustrations by Joy Lim.