Hosted by:
UNDP & the Slovak Ministry of Finance

BOOST: Women Innovators | Europe and Central Asia

Submission deadline:
March 15 (Deadline extended)

Overview

As digitalization continues to dramatically reshape our economies, women face deepening inequalities and significant challenges in a number of fields, leaving them cut off from fully and actively participating in society. BOOST: Women Innovators aims to support changemakers in the region to harness innovation and technology to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women. 

When women and girls connect, get online, and pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers, they can boost their opportunities to thrive in the digital societies of today and tomorrow. Mobile phones and internet access and use can improve women’s safety and access to knowledge, services, and employment, while digital technologies and tools – from upskilling to financial inclusion – can provide women with novel ways to connect and meaningfully participate in society. What’s more, designing policies, services, and products with gender differences in mind can have a profound impact on women’s advancement and wellbeing. 

BOOST: Women Innovators is an open call for innovative and/or tech-driven ideas that can bring down structural barriers and have a lasting positive impact on the lives of women and girls in Europe and Central Asia. We invite women-led or owned startups, SMEs, social enterprises, non-profits, and academic institutions to apply for our BOOST regional acceleration program with innovative ideas that seek to bridge the gender divide in three key thematic areas. 

Over 20 innovating organizations will be selected to participate in the BOOST regional acceleration program, from which four will be awarded grants of USD $10,000 upon graduation. Apply by March 15 (deadline extended)!

*All references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of the Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

What we're looking for

  • Women and digital access and use: Innovations that help bridge the gender digital divide, enabling women and girls to equally access and use digital technologies – from creating affordable tech and enhancing digital literacy skills to tackling gender stereotypes.
     
  • Women in the digital economy and STEM:Innovations that help increase women’s active participation in digitally transformed economies and STEM or boost opportunities for women to be creators/drivers of innovation – for instance by leveraging the amplifying effect of emerging technologies, or by facilitating access to affordable finance.
     
  • Women in data: Innovations that can help close the gendered data gap, using gender-sensitive data – data specific to women – to improve research, policy, planning, design, monitoring in urban planning, transportation, manufacturing, and other fields.
  • Women in innovation and entrepreneurship: Tech-driven innovations in any market or focus area (from health and finance to education and energy).

Selection criteria

  • Viability and scalability: Innovations that have the potential to be implemented and scaled within or even beyond their respective geographical area of operations. 
  • Degree of innovation: Innovations that use cutting-edge technologies or innovative digital tools. 
  • Potential for impact: Innovations that can help bridge the gender digital divide by addressing one, two or all three thematic areas, and their underlying challenges.  
  • System transformation: Organizations that work to understand the systems in which they operate, and continuously re-assess and adapt their organizations and businesses to the context and markets.  
  • Management: Organizations must demonstrate that they have an adequate team in place, with clear roles and responsibilities, and the capacity to implement their innovations in 6–9 months. 

Timeline

February 1
Open call launch
March 15
Application deadline (extended)
May 5
Selection announcement
May 9 – July 28
BOOST impact acceleration program (online)
July 28
Graduation & Demo Day

Who can apply

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Type of applicant:
Academic institutions, Non-profits, SMEs, Social enterprises, Startups
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List of eligible countries:
Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo*, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan

Issues

ISSUE #1
Gender equality

Program

BOOST is an intensive 16-week online acceleration program that includes a series of training modules, workshops and individual mentoring sessions led by international experts, experienced in leadership, organizational and business development, digital transformation, and impact measurement and management.  

Participants learn how to implement impact-driven innovations tackling a defined development challenge, increase reach and impact of their organizations (non-profits and academic institutions), scale their business (start-ups and SMEs), attract alternative financing and other resources, integrate innovation, technology and social impact into their businesses or organizations, and establish and nurture partnerships. 

The BOOST acceleration program aims at strengthening impact-driven capabilities, improving business and digital skills, investment readiness, and soft skills. It enhances the organizations’ visibility and helps innovators access wider non-profit and business networks, and investors.  

BOOST Journey

1 Applications open until March 15
2 45 participants selected
3 Needs and digital maturity assessment
4 Module 1: Sensemaking
5 Module 2-4: Leadership, business development and entrepreneurship
6 Module 5: Learn to launch a crowdfunding campaign
7 Module 6: Behavioral insights
8 Mentorship sessions and getting pitch ready
9 Demo day – pitch in front of investors

Modules

MODULE 1: Sensemaking 

Sensemaking is a strategic tool that enables the generation of learnings, identifies connections between different actors, and results in systemic-level insights. BOOST participants are taken through a sensemaking exercise to gain a broader understanding of the ecosystem in which they operate, and what inherent yet unseen interconnections can be leveraged between different innovations within the cohort. The exercise helps to reveal what resources and capabilities each innovation is bringing to the common challenge, and nurtures partnerships between the participants throughout the program. 

MODULE 2: Business Development 

A step-by-step roadmap to building enduring business models, using best practices and input from successful entrepreneurs from across the globe. The module includes sessions around design thinking, value proposition, business model innovation, branding strategies, and more. 

MODULE 3: Digital Transformation 

The Digital Transformation module consists of a personalized journey through a series of workshops and mentorship guidance, helping organizations define, assess, and manage their digital strategy. The module helps participants establish a framework and assess their current approach to digital technology and how a digital strategy can transform their impact. 

MODULE 4: Impact Measurement and Management 

In this module, startups are supported with capacity and needs assessment, gap analysis and identification of impact vision and strategy. The assessment is followed by the design of a theory of change built on the ‘Business Lean Model’, and selection of relevant matrix and indicators toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

MODULE 5: Crowdfunding  

BOOST offers access to UNDP’s Crowdfunding Academy, which builds the capacities of participants to diversify their funding sources by designing and running crowdfunding campaigns. Through online lectures and hands-on exercises, participants learn how to create the key elements of a successful crowdfunding campaign so that they can launch their own.  

MODULE 6: Behavioral Insight 

This module introduces the participants to behavioral insights and its applications, looking at human behavior and the various cognitive and behavioral biases that drive this behavior. Theoretical material is complemented with real-world examples of how different institutions use behavioral insights to nudge individuals to make beneficial decisions for themselves and for the society. 

Apply today for the BOOST: Women Innovators program!
Join our growing network of changemakers across the region as we build resilience and shape our future.
Join the program

Key partners

Development Partners

 

Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic: BOOST: Women Innovators is financed through the Slovak Transformation Fund, a joint undertaking by UNDP Europe and Central Asia and the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, under the umbrella of SlovakAid.

 

The Slovak Transformation Fund supports the region to harness the potential of the data revolution, emerging technologies and other innovations to strengthen governance and accelerate sustainable development. Through citizen engagement, collaborative platforms, and the use of alternative finance, the Slovak Transformation Fund is a catalytic initiative, spearheading innovative approaches and reimagining development through systems transformation.

 

Knowledge Partners

 

Startup Grind: The world’s largest community of startups, founders, innovators, and creators. Its mission is to give startups everywhere the education and opportunities they need to build, grow, and scale.

 

STEM4ALL: A UNDP platform that uses knowledge and advocacy to advance gender equality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) across Europe and Central Asia.

 

ImpactAIM: The first impact venture accelerator in Armenia designed to leverage the unique global network and expertise of UNDP to scale impact of ventures targeting the Sustainable Development Goals.