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How the UNOPS Possibilities programme is empowering MSMEs

  • Published on January 17, 2018
The UNOPS Possibilities (UP) Programme aims to enhance the diversity of the UNOPS supplier base. More than just a traditional supplier diversity programme, UP is about enabling diverse suppliers to explore and unlock their potential to do business with UNOPS. The programme focuses on local micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), women and youth-owned businesses, and other diverse suppliers, such as those businesses owned by special interest groups (e.g. people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQI community, racialized and indigenous groups). UP is composed mainly of three initiatives – the UP Forum, UP Portal and UP Toolbox, in addition to guidelines, partnerships and data analysis and reporting tools. These initiatives focus on building the capacity of diverse suppliers through various customised engagements. These include awareness campaigns, virtual and face to face events, as well as free tailored advice and support through online resources. These engagements help to provide suppliers with a better understanding about how todo business with UNOPS.
UP focuses on leveraging the potential of local MSMEs and other diverse businesses. The programme builds mainly on three initiatives: the UP Forums, the UP Portal and the UP Toolbox. The UP Portal provides the opportunity for MSMEs to showcase their solutions and increase their visibility among UNOPS procurement officials. The UP Forums are capacity building events that aim to strengthen and inspire businesses to be successful and learn how to work with the UNOPS. The UP Toolbox consists of useful resources on UNOPS policies, tools, training and initiatives that can help businesses become familiar with the requirements that UNOPS suppliers must fulfill. The main goal of the UP forums is to give MSMEs, women, youth or other diverse businesses an opportunity to part-take in a free capacity building event. These participants receive hands-on training on procurement and how to be an entrepreneur, including the following key learning topics: How to be a successful entrepreneur, Public procurement basics, How to register as a vendor on UNGM, How to do business with UNOPS, Sustainable development and sustainable procurement. These inspirational in-person and online events bring together multiple stakeholders including current and potential suppliers, local NGOs, chambers of commerce, associations that support NGOs, government and successful entrepreneurs. Between 2016 - 2020 UNOPS has held 7 UP Forum events in Jordan, Ethiopia, Brazil Myanmar, Ghana, Argentina, and suppliers for the Peace and Security industry based in New York. From these events, over 550 vendors (80% WOBs and YOBs) have participated and received hands-on training in procurement and what is needed to become a vendor for UNOPS and the UN. The average positive satisfaction rate has been registered for 92% of the participants, seeing a consistent increase in bids submitted successfully for UNOPS tenders. "I have attended many workshops of this kind before, but this one is different: I never imagined I could ever do business with the UN, but now I have the insights on how to do it." Quote from a participant in Ethiopia. In addition, several UP participants submitted offers to UNOPS projects for the first time after attending an UP Forum, and some were awarded contracts, including a micro-sized supplier from Ghana which was awarded a contract for interpretation services worth $23,504. The UP Portal is a free and easy to use portal available on the UNOPS website, reserved for MSME and other diverse suppliers. The portal facilitates the connection of diverse suppliers and entrepreneurs with sustainable solutions, to procurement officials at UNOPS. The portal requires that MSMEs provide a short description of their product or service, their sustainability features, and its relevance to UNOPS by answering a few questions on a form embedded to our website. While there is no commitment to buy, the UP Portal increases the visibility of sustainable solutions and diverse suppliers internally within. The accepted submissions are categorised into two different repositories hosted in an interactive dashboard that can be easily filtered by procurement category, country and supplier type. The first repository includes innovative sustainable solutions, the second one (launched in 2020) that includes all other relevant solutions for UNOPS. This enables procurement officials to get a better understanding of the market, and possibly invite relevant suppliers to pre-bidding meetings. From 2016 to 2020 UNOPS received over 450 submissions on the UP Portal (73% from diverse suppliers) and to date 22 (5 of which from WOBs) have been accepted and included in the repository of solutions that are available to UNOPS Procurement officials. The UP Toolbox consists of useful resources on how to do business with UNOPS by giving an overview of UNOPS policies, training resources (e.g. the “Doing Business with UNOPS” online course), tools, and initiatives that UNOPS suppliers must be familiar with to be able to bid for UNOPS tenders. The UP Toolbox is coupled with a Diagnostic-Self Assessment Questionnaire. The output of this questionnaire provides a diagnosis of the suppliers readiness to bid on UNOPS tenders and points them towards the resources in the UP Toolbox that are relevant to improve their options to be successful on UNOPS tenders. The UP Toolbox was launched in Q1 2021 with additional components planned for release over the year. So far, over 1300 MSMEs (104 of which were WOBs) have completed the “Doing Business with UNOPS'' online course. By providing targeted and customised development opportunities to small and diverse businesses UNOPS not only supports the organisation’s internal sustainable procurement efforts (and additional benefits such as enhancing value for money, enhanced competition, and improved supply chain continuity and resilience), but also the strengthening of the local markets. Currently 90% of UNOPS tenders are awarded to MSMEs and 9% to Women-Owned Businesses, hence the work of UP is particularly relevant. As such, in the context of the current global scenario caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, by working with local diverse suppliers, UNOPS increases its efforts of indirectly supporting the economic recovery of the local markets while also sustaining the communities that we serve. If you are a micro, small, or medium-sized enterprise please visit the website: Contact information: If you have any questions about the UNOPS Possibilities please email:​
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