SDG Action Campaign at the CTAUN Conference 2016: How to tie Education & Action for Achieving the SDGs

Written by Di Cao

On January 22nd, over 500 educators and students from around the world participated in the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations (CTAUN) 2016 annual conference to learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG Action Campaign was invited to showcase Humans of MY World data and stories, the World We Want platform, and the UNVR series.

In September 2015, delegates from 190 countries met at the UN headquarters in New York to agree on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to guide global development over the 15 years. The SDGs are the most inclusive and transparent goals for the world ever because the consultation process was truly human-centered: 10 million people all over the world have voted for their most passionate goals through the MY World 2015 Global Survey. In this world’s largest survey, “A Good Education” has been identified as the most popular priority among voters across region, gender, and age (See data: http://data.myworld2015.org/). With that said, worldwide educators and administrator are key partners of the SDGs.

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The conference acknowledged the significance of taking immediate actions. Anne-Marie Carlson, Chair of CTAUN 2016, said at the beginning of the conference:

“Knowledge and good intentions are not enough. It is vitally important that we act now to bring these issues to the fore in every school’s curriculum, so that, to our children, behaving responsibly and living sustainably will become simple common sense. ”

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The mission of the SDG Action Campaign is to empower people from various backgrounds with knowledge and tools to become actively involved in supporting the SDG implementation. At the CTAUN 2016 InfoFair, we brought a comprehensive yet easy-to-start SDG Implementation “manual” for 500 educators, administrators, and students around the world to inspire and help them to plan and make their own SDG actions. (click here to download) The one-page “manual” was welcomed by many of our guests:

We really want to know that as college students, what we can do for the SDGs, where can we get resources and how can we start?— Eayne Castillo, student of Pace University

I believed that many of my colleagues working in schools would find this very helpful.Ruth Nielsen, CTAUN

Ruth later shared with the SDG Action Campaign that we “certainly had the most innovative displays” – thanks Ruth! The SDG Action Campaign also showcased the well-known Virtual Reality films “Clouds Over Sidra” and “Waves of Grace” to the InfoFair. The strong emotions that brought by the films as well as the cutting edge VR technology enhanced people’s understanding of the most marginalized groups. Teachers and professors were eager to use this powerful empathy tool in their future class of SDGs; Students were inspired to organize VR screening events on campus to bring awareness of SDGs among youth.

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“This film brings in the truth and reality of Syrian refugees, which is all we need right now.”
— Aliya Bultrikova, Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the UN

“I plan to add SDG contents to my curriculum, and this (VR) will be an amazing experience that enriches the learning process.”
— Chris Rhodenbagh, teacher of Democracy Prep Public Schools

“I’m thrilled. I want all my students to watch this!”
—Dr. Kathryn Lawter, Advisory Council Chair of CTAUN

On the same day of CTAUN 2016, we welcomed a group of young delegates from University of International Business and Economics of China discussing SDGs and education with the Campaign. Tim Scott, policy advisor on Environment of UNDP, and Antje Watermann from UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific kindly joined the meeting and introduced the 17 global goals as well as the implementation process in China to the young delegates. The audiences were passionate about the MY World 2030 survey and highly interested in the innovative waste project initiated by UNDP China and Baidu.

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Alice Chen presents results of MY World 2015 survey and introduces MY World 2030 to young delegates from China.

In 2016 when the SDGs officially came into force, there really has been no better time than now for global educators to think deeply about how to take actions and to inspire the action of students, to ensure the successful implementation of the 17 goals in the next 15 years. To that end, CTAUN, which has been enthusiastically advocated for the SDGs, passionately addressed the 2030 global agenda in its 2016 annual conference with hundreds of educators and students. The all-day conference gave an explicit overview of the SDGs, discussed topics such as global food security, sustainable food production and consumption. It also addressed environment issues surrounding water, energy use and climate change. From the Campaign’s perspective, we are delighted by this opportunity to speak directly with educators in the field who are inspiring young minds on a daily basis. These young minds will one day become the leaders of tomorrow and the ones to transform the SDGs into reality over the next 15 years.

Jagriti Yatra 2015 – Train ride for a better world

Written by Sailesh Singhal

Ever wonder what can happen on an epic train ride across India to talk about the SDGs? Here’s your answer! I was a part of a Jagriti Yatra journey with 449 other young people to 12 destinations in India to share news on the SDGs and the World We Want. A Yatra takes us along the major challenges and help us shape our own ideas. It dives into the rich cultural heritage that our country is honored with and experience the shift in climate as the train proceeds from South to North. The Yatra is the germinating ground for ideas and exchange of culture. It is a place where individuals from different backgrounds come together and feel the responsibility of being the change. Fifteen years is what we have to create a better society and youth is the Only Catalyst. Yatra teaches us the best to way to contribute. Get down to the society and get our hands dirty!

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Journey with a Vision
Jagriti Yatra is a 15 days, 8000 km world’s largest national train journey, which takes selected youth to meet the role models who are developing unique solutions to India’s developmental challenges. It attracts 17,000 registrations through India and some parts of the world of which only 450 of the most qualified are selected for the journey. The train stops in 12 locations and youth delegates have the opportunity to personally meet exceptional change-makers who are transforming India.

Jagriti Yatra has been a transformational journey, which aimed for an equal representation of young women and men to achieve the Planet 50-50 by 2030. Jagriti Yatra had 40% girls and women representation in 2015. During my Yatra (Journey), I had been advocating for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the World We Want platform. Sustainable Development Goals need to be trickled down in the society through the youth body channels and it’s very important for youth to know about the SDGs. Unfortunately, a minority of us know about our vision of 2030. Thereby, it’s essential for us to show a clear vision of the next 15 years before we actually jump right into achieving the goals.

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Advocating about SDGs and World We Want 

Gender Equality is not a short-term goal. However, we need to start bringing a shift in the mentality of the people from today by talking about the equal opportunities.

Through the MY World 2015 Survey, we can see that of the 902,300 people who have voted in India, over 400,000 prioritized Equality between men and women, making Gender Equality the number 5 most prioritized issue in the survey.

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Young women and men are the carriers of our vision and we need to engage discussions with more young people. The role of young people is not only important as actors in attaining gender equality, but also as partners in creating a world that is equal if we want to achieve the goal of planet 50-50 by the year 2030. Campaigns such as HeForShe, MARD, #YouthForGenderEquality need strengthening as we move towards the SDGs.

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Founder of Innokul commits to Goal 5 vision

Life on the train is as busy as it gets! With a packed schedule of debates, presentations and conversations, and a blend of art, music and poetry, Yatris find themselves fully involved at all times. The Yatra sets out to be a life changing experience for us to catalyse that shift in mindset. Not only to you but through you, to millions of youth who are watching this expedition as it curves across this great and beautiful land of ours. When we hear how our inspiring role models have created their institutions surmounting all odds; when we hear of the stories of leadership and courage from our co-travellers, we discovered an India that waits to be unleashed. You are that dynamic spirit that will unleash a new society.

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Millennium Campaign Hosts Screening of Clouds Over Sidra for Woodside Intermediate School 125 in Queens

Syrian native and presenter Sinan watches Clouds Over Sidra before event

On 12 November Date, the UNMC and UN Visitors Center co-hosted a special workshop on refugees with eighth graders from the Woodside Intermediate School 125. Following a screening of Clouds Over Sidra, three young refugees in various statuses in their legal application processes spoke to the students about their personal experiences. 

The workshop was a part of the Teen Thursdays Program, a collaboration between the NYC Mayor’s Office, NYC Department of Education and the UN Department of Public Information’s Visitors Center. During an 8 week program, seventh and eighth grade students participate in workshops and tours at the UN to learn about and become engaged in the UN’s mission. This screening of Clouds Over Sidra was the first in a planned sequence of of workshops in partnership with the program. The Millennium Campaign hopes to further expand the program so Virtual Reality can be used as an educational tool in informing young people about critical issues underlined in the SDGs.

Clouds Over Sidra is the story of a 12 year old girl, Sidra, who is a Syrian living in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. The experience gave the students a glimpse into the daily life of Sidra: her favorite subjects in school, her family, her hopes for the future, and her desire to leave Za’atari and the Syrian conflict behind. Many of these students were the same age as Sidra at the time of filming. 

The eighth graders were joined by three young students from Salve Regina College: Sinan, Karma, and Uma who told their experiences as refugees seeking asylum from Syria and Nepal respectively. Sinan explained how the Syrian war interrupted his studies and how the United States presented the opportunity to finish them. Karma was in the US when the Earthquake struck Nepal, and now she is seeking temporary asylum. Uma’s family were originally refugees from Bhutan. Her heartfelt story touched on how the UN helped her family through tough living conditions in a Nepalese refugee camp, and guided them through asylum application in the US.

Students from Woodside Intermediate School 125 watch Clouds Over Sidra

The response from the children showed a maturity beyond their age. One student stated: “It’s really heartbreaking listening to [the stories of the Sidra and the other presenters] because, we worry about having the newest game when many people are worried about getting food to eat”. This is especially poignant as many of the students knew little about the Syrian conflict or other important issues underlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prior to the workshop.   

Clouds Over Sidra and Virtual Reality experiences like it were designed to support the Millennium Campaign’s efforts to draw attention to some of the world’s greatest challenges, allowing people living through them to tell their stories in their own words. Previously, the vast majority of screenings had been directed towards decision makers, many of whom are involved in the international community. This screening was considered pilot testing to find the best practices in using Virtual reality as a learning tool in the classroom. 

Data and Development – A Conversation with Peoples’ Voices Challenge Winner, Popily

Throughout the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the UN Millennium Campaign had the pleasure of hosting the Peoples’ Voices Challenge Award Ceremony at the We the Peoples Hub. The Peoples’ Voices Challenge Awards is a celebration of the work of the hundreds of partners at the United Nations who gave voice to those who don’t often get a say in global conversations.

Data visualization is not normally the first thing you would think of when talking about empowering marginalized communities, but Popily is not your average data analytics firm. Popily is a data science and visualization company that lets everyday, non-technical people figure what is important from their data and share it with anyone, anywhere. The Popily team used the millions of MY World survey results and thousands of Humans of MY World Facebook page posts to generate interactive data visualizations. The public can explore these visualizations on their website, so people can discover the stories in the data that they find most meaningful. We talked to Popily Co-Founder Vidya Spandana about the role data visualization and analytics plays in the Post-2015 Agenda.

Tell us about Popily, some of the things you work on, and your goals as an organization:

Popily is a data visualization and data science company, we let people put in their data and automatically generate thousands of visualizations so that they can walk through a data set instead of being confused by a giant spreadsheet of lots of numbers. [Popily] is really there to democratize data so that people who don’t have a background or experience in science or statistics can actually engage with it in a real way. Imagine being able to walk through a visual representation, instead of just looking at a piece of paper. The more people who can do that, the more empowered they can be to make decisions on what is actually happening.

For us data is a way to see the world in an observational way with some kind of reality to it, and so for more people to have the ability to access that the better we think so that we can make collective decisions together. That aligns perfectly with the work that the [UN Millennium Campaign] is doing with MY World.

What was it that made [Popily] decide that [The MY World Survey] would be a perfect pilot project for you guys to work on?

When [CEO Jonathan Morgan] brought [MY World] on for us we were really excited because the idea of actually getting information and data about peoples lives around the world really humanizes the whole date concept and really brings our tool to life. We would actually really like to step back and let the data and the voice of the people shine and this was the best opportunity to do that.

What does this mean for Popily to win [Most Innovative Visualization] right now?

It’s extremely exciting for us, we launched officially about two or three months ago so it’s very new for us and to be able to announce partnership with the United Nations, to explore people’s data that actually has meaning has us over the moon. This is an opportunity that we’ve really been able to leverage and open up new opportunities around democratizing data. What were are more excited about is to bring data in the hands of regular people and whatever tools they need to be able to explore it.

What are some of the ways that people can actually use Popily?

 Sure! You would just go to Popily.com and then there you can sign up to either upload your own data sets and explore it or there are loads of public data sets – including the MY World data set – that you can explore yourselves.

What are some of the finding you saw in the [MY World] data?

 There were so many things that were really exciting. Just getting to actually look at what is in there has been sort of like a treasure that you can open up and see. One of the things that was really interesting is how education is such a priority across gender, age, and country… I also thought that is was interesting how in certain countries the younger generation… its better to reach them via paper balloting as opposed to any kind of web or mobile tools, and I would have never expected that.

What do you have planned for the future?

 There’s a lot actually! We’ve been partnering with companies and organizations, especially governments and city governments, to be able to explore data that citizens would care about. So helping organizers put the data in a shape that they can make some decision on and then put it back out in the hands of regular people is really fun and is exactly what we got to do.

We the People’s Hub China Moment

By Di Cao-Youth Advocate of UN Millennium Campaign

During the 70th UN General Assembly, the UN Millennium Campaign (UNMC) together with our important partners from Chinese civil society organized a series of events to further engage Chinese NGOs in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With one-fifth of the world’s population, China has achieved the Millennium Development Goals in seven development indicators ahead of time, including poverty reduction, halving the hungry population, universal primary education, eliminating gender discrimination in primary and secondary education, reducing under-five mortality, tuberculosis and malaria prevention and control, safe drinking water and basic sanitation facilities. The direction of China’s future development endeavors and the degree of its commitment to global public goods will have a significant impact on the entire international community.

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On September 18th, 2015, UNMC supported the China NGO Network for International Exchange (CNIE), the China All-Women Entrepreneurs (CAWE), and the China Great Wall Society (CGWS), in organizing “Balance and Sustainability: Chinese Civil Organizations Support Global Development Agenda” Roundtable in the UN Headquarters in New York City. Guests from the UN, government, private sector, and civil society from around the world attended the meeting. Keynote speakers from various professions shared their experiences and inspiring ideas about the SDGs: Mr. Yang Xiaoping, Vice President of Charoen Pokphand Group, talked about the innovation PPP model in developing modern agriculture; Mr. Huang Haoming, Vice Chairman, Executive Director of China Association for NGO Cooperation (CANGO), shared his research on activating the role of NGO in helping government to achieve poverty reduction goals. Chinese civil society has been actively involved in the implementation of the MDGs in the past. As the SDGs are about to launch at the time, a new proposal of Chinese civil organizations on the implementation of the post-2015 global development agenda was presented during the GA.

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Attendees of “Balance and Sustainability: Chinese Civil Organizations Support Global Development Agenda” Roundtable 

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Following the roundtable, UNMC welcomed the Chinese delegation to hold a moment in the We the Peoples’ Hub to present significant achievements of China implementing the MDGs such as climate change and affordable energy from the NGO’s perspective. This moment also served as a platform for conversation between the UN and Chinese civil society on SDGs as well as the moving forward partnership.

2015-09-27 11.41.06Director of the UNMC Mitchell Toomey and guest speakers from Chinese civil society in We the People Hub

2015-09-27 12.54.46Youth advocates from YouThink

To bring a human perspective to the development agenda of China, UNMC showcased Humans of MY World in China, which featured the voices of various vulnerable communities and marginalized individuals in the country, including low-income groups, migrant workers, children and youth. During the China Moment, these stories were exhibited to a global audience through multi-media tools. The stories are also available on https://twitter.com/myworld2015

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Celebrating 1.6 Million MY World Votes from Mexico City

By Di Cao – Global Youth Advocate at the UN Millennium Campaign

Answering the United Nations Secretary-General’s call, MY World was developed with one clear goal in mind —to reach out to people all over the world— and ask them: “What would make your life better?” As an integral part of the UN’s “global conversation” initiative, MY World gave people across the world a platform and the tools to raise their voices and tell the United Nations what is important to them. By engaging 8.5 million people in the global survey, MY World has proven that people want to be involved in defining their government’s priorities, and they are already actively working to make change in their communities. It has also proven that governments are interested in what their people prioritize and are willing to integrate their opinions into their public planning.

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(MY World Youth Ambassadors in Mexico City)

Mexico was responsible for 23% of the 8.5 million votes collected globally. The great success came from the massive mobilization of youth across the country, and in Mexico City in particular with the Mexico City Youth Institute. Mexico City had the highest number of people participate out of any city with 1.6 million votes. The city-wide initiative not only helped the government see priorities at the local government, setting the stage for the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but it also had a positive impact on the local policy making and funding decisions made by the Mexico City government.

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(Mayor of Mexico City Dr. Miguel Ángel Mancera at the launch event of MY World Survey)

“The MY World survey recovers that democratic spirit of listening and taking into account the perspectives of young people who with their perseverance, talent and creativity have contributed to make of our city. The survey results allowed us to approach the priorities of 1.6 million people, it represents the most important youth public opinion consultation that has been realized in the country.”

——Miguel Ángel, Mayor of Mexico City
“MY World Mexico City Executive Report”

Recognizing this significant achievement, the UN Millennium Campaign and INJUVE DF launched the “MY World Mexico City Executive Report” on November 9th, 2015 at the UN Headquarters. INJUVE DF presented the report to the UN as well as the general public through live streaming. Maria Fernanda Olvera Cabrera, Director of INJUVE DF, shared the agency’s experiences in inspiring 3,000 youth ambassadors to collect millions of votes:

“Local, common people are receiving services from the government, therefore the government needs to know people’s priorities,” she said. “We inspired 3,000 youth ambassadors and created an educational program to teach them how to collect the votes; furthermore, we provided young ambassadors with small scholarships, which supported them to be completely devoted to the MY World survey for 3 months.”

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(Maria Fernanda Olvera Cabrera, Mexico City Executive Report in UN Headquarters)

1.6 million voices had a great impact on the local policymaking. Although Mexico City offers universal healthcare, the result of MY World survey highlighted the need for greater mental health services for young people, causing INJUVE to investigate with a more robust survey, focusing on emotions. In response, the government now offers free services for emotional health care and risk reduction for young people. “It is a long lasting experience and inspiration of empowering youth for the future,” said Mitchell Toomey, the Director of the UNMC.

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(Youth Ambassadors were collecting votes in Mexico City)

H.E. Mr. Zinsou, the Ambassador of Benin to the United Nations, joined the Executive report to celebrate 1.6 million Mexican voices. Ravi Karkara, the World We Want Policy Strategy Group Co-chair, praised the survey of Mexico City as “an great example of how to ensure inclusiveness for people-centered policy”.

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(L-R: Director of INJUVE DF Maria Fernanda Olvera Cabrera, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Benin to the United Nations H.E.Mr. Jean-Francis R. Zinsou,  Director of the UNMC Mitchell Toomey,World We Want Policy Strategy Group Co-chair Ravi Karkara)

Phasing in the new SDGs, the upcoming MY World 2030 survey will move forward to a more customized and localized platform with continued monitoring of SDG progress. INJUVE DF proposed a specific survey for young people to provide empirical evidence to inform youth-related policies in capital cities across the world.

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