The Case for Change

The world is changing fast, and with it the demands on the United Nations. The 2030 Agenda calls upon all stakeholders - the UN included - to transform the way they work. The Secretary-General’s reforms require all three pillars of the UN to change the way they do business. Looking at the future, the UN will need continually to adapt its posture and approach to remain relevant in the increasingly volatile environments where it operates. But is the UN system ready for change?

Who we are

The UN Lab for Organizational Change and Knowledge (UNLOCK) is a programme of the UN System Staff College that seeks to promote a culture of change and innovation in the UN system. In partnership with UNDP’s Management Consulting Team (MCT), UNLOCK provides learning and advisory services on change management to UN system entities.

UNLOCK builds on the College’s 15+ years of training and learning experience, UNDP/MCT’s 10+ years of consulting services and 500+ client engagements, as well as an extensive network of change management practitioners from within and outside the UN system.

What we do

UNLOCK is a lab: we focus on those UN staff and entities who are ready for change, and support them by serving as an incubator of ideas and a platform for collaboration across four work streams:

Advisory | we provide change management advisory services to UN entities to support teams and whole organizations on their change processes
Learning | we deliver learning programmes to UN staff at all levels to build capacity to lead, manage and cope with change
Case Studies | we author case studies to share best practices and lessons learnt on driving change and innovation in the UN
Networks | we build and nurture networks of change agents across the UN system to share knowledge and foster collaboration for change.

How we are funded

We are funded through a mix of donor grants and fees from our learning and advisory services. Our donors so far are the Governments of Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.

Supporting the Secretary-General's Reforms

The Secretary-General has launched far-reaching reform efforts of the UN development system, the peace and security pillar, and management of the UN Secretariat, as well as new strategies to achieve gender parity, end sexual exploitation and abuse, and strengthen counter-terrorism structures.

While the details of the reforms are still being worked out, it is already evident that implementing them will require launching a series of complex change management processes.

Yet there is currently limited professional expertise in change management within the UN system. This risks hampering implementation of the reforms.

UNLOCK has launched a project targeting UN staff who will play a leading role in driving implementation of the Secretary-General’s reforms, that aims to strengthen their capacity to design and implement change management processes to roll out the reforms. 

This will be achieved by:

  1. Strengthening their knowledge and skills with respect to change management, with a particular emphasis on approaches that have worked in the UN context;
  2. Providing them with advisory services on change management as they go about implementing the reforms; and
  3. Building and nurturing a network and a community of practice among these ‘change agents’ to ensure that there is unity of purpose across reform streams and that best practices are shared across the UN system.

By ensuring that UN staff who lead implementation of the reforms are adept at managing change processes, the project will contribute to the successful implementation of the reforms.

Beyond the reforms, the project will build a cadre of UN staff who are adept at managing change – a critical skill that will be increasingly required in the years ahead, as the UN will have continually to adapt its posture and approach to remain relevant in the increasingly volatile environments where it operates.

More info

Briefing Note