The SDG 16 innovation challenge is an initiative to find creative solutions for SDG 16. The competition supports young men and women aged 15 – 35 years to develop ideas, build skills and connect with others working towards a shared goal of strengthening accountability, the rule of law and access to justice for all. SDG 16 is aimed at promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

How can we redesign the justice system to help the poor with access to justice? How can we support the voices of women in advancing the rule of law? How do we enhance corporate and government accountability? These are just some of the questions our program participants have been working on.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals lay out ambitious targets to guide global and national development policies to 2030, including Target 16.3’s promise to “ensure equal access to justice for all.”

An estimated 5 billion people have unmet justice needs globally, including people who cannot obtain justice for everyday problems, people who are excluded from the opportunity the law provides, and people who live in extreme conditions of injustice.

The SDG 16 innovation competition focuses on four thematic areas (or research questions). The program design is focused on human-centered activities which will focus on engaging participants actively to foster a more holistic understanding of issues around accountability, rule of law and access to justice. Each focus group will focus on a specific thematic area:

  • How can we redesign the justice system to serve the poor?

  • How can we make sure everyone is included in conversations about the future of the world?

  • How can we support the voices of women in the rule of law?

  • How can young people enhance corporate and government accountability?


Applicants can submit as individuals or teams, but Accountability Lab (AL) will encourage young people to work in small groups to identify key challenges and to brainstorm solutions. From the pool of applicants, the AL team will then identify the best 90 concepts, before inviting them to one of three, 3-day workshops to refine their concepts (at least 70% of selected ideas will be led by women). If a team concept is identified, AL will ask the team to send one lead representative to attend.

During these workshops, participants will discuss their proposed solutions to SDG 16 challenges. On the final day of the workshop, participants will present their refined interventions to a panel of judges and a live audience who will vote for their favorite interventions. Judges will then identify at least one winning concept for each of the problem statements.

Accountability Lab will offer at least three competition winners a place within its Accountability Incubator programme to help them grow their ideas over a period of one year, with laptops to support their project idea and engagements with external stakeholders.

The Lab will link the winners to other organizations and institutions working to address similar justice issues through friend-raiser events and networking events held on a quarterly basis.

To engage a broader audience in discussions on advancing SDG 16, Accountability Lab will also host a series of one-day debates. AL will encourage these participants to collaborate with the innovation challenge winners.