Youth Entrepreneurs take center stage with Road to Nairobi 2016 Project at GPEDC

At the end of November, a diverse group of stakeholders met in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss critical issues at the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation’s second High Level Meeting. Building upon months of grass roots organization in the lead up, Building Bridges Foundation, with partners UN SDG Action Campaign and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ensured the ideas and opinions of young people had a special role at the conference.

For young people, by young people, the project highlighted the entrepreneurial solutions of 80 young entrepreneurs in eight countries. Their stories were shared on the Humans of MY World blog, in blog posts, in exhibitions, and in a final report that was presented to important delegates at the HLM2.

The project, Road to Nairobi 2016 has empowered young entrepreneurs across Eastern and Southern Africa to share their experiences, challenges, and ideas for local solutions to tackling the SDGs. The Building Bridges team departed South Africa in August with the mission of revealing the challenges and priorities of young entrepreneurs in eight countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. The team named a national Building Bridges Ambassador in each country who supported the local coordination on the ground. This included an open call for submissions of ongoing business solutions to addressing the SDGs in both rural and urban settings. The best were chosen to first compete to become the national winner in their country, and then were flown to Nairobi to compete in the global competition. The journey also included national youth forums with policy makers to discuss the results, where MY World 2015 results helped frame the discussions.

The youth entrepreneur’s stories were profiled on the Humans of MY World photo-narrative blog along with an identification of their most important SDG. Banners were printed for an exhibition at the conference, which also included UNVR demonstrations, selfie booths, Humans of MY World voting, previews of the publications created to support the project, the actual bus which was driven across the continent, and the ability to interact with the young people involved in the project.

Two side events were organized around the Building Bridges project. Firstly, the team presented the preliminary findings of an in-depth evaluation report of the project to Ms. Liliane Ploumen, co-Chair of the GPEDC and Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, who stressed the need to include young people in the decision making process:  “Too often we talk about young people without having them in the room.”

Ms. Sicily Kariuki, the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs of the Republic of Kenya stated “We must invest in youth so that they attain skills and nurture a culture of entrepreneurship.”

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The team also presented a draft of their report of the Humans of MY World – the storytelling project done in collaboration with the SDG Action Campaign. Mr. Seing Falu Njie, Regional Director for Africa, reinforced the UN SDG Action Campaign’s commitment to facilitating and ensuring people around the world have a means to voice their opinion through their diversity of projects, such as MY World 2030 and partnerships.

The second event presented the opportunity for 3 of the young Building Bridges ambassadors and others from the region to compete in the “Get In the Ring Competition,” occurring in Africa for the first time. The event mimics a boxing match, placing two competitors in the ring for lightning elimination pitch rounds until one is crowned champion. Unfortunately, the Building Bridges representatives didn’t get the gold this time, but it was a revealing lesson about capacity building with young entrepreneurs from the region for the next project.

The final report about the project will be released at the Global Festival of Ideas in March, 2017.

 

Malawi's Future is in the Hands of the Youth Entrepreneurs

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-5-34-34-pmMalawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and its economy is worsening. Malawians are struggling to earn enough money to feed their families and two years of poor harvests means that people are hungry. There’s no welfare state, so earning a living is vital for survival.

To make matters worse, Malawi also faces a serious youth unemployment crisis and the highest working poverty rate in the world. According to a report of the National Statistical Office and ILO, in 2013 only 11.3% of the working population was in formal employment, and the figures for those under 35 are worse.

A large part of the population is left to fend for themselves with over 54% being self-employed. But what are the lived realities? The Building Bridges Foundation team discovered on the road in Malawi that there is hope for the landlocked “Warm Heart of Africa”.

The Road to Nairobi 2016 bus traveled around Malawi to meet 10 youth entrepreneurs working in a range of sectors in order to learn from their challenges and to get a better understanding of their experiences as entrepreneurs in one of the world’s most disadvantaged countries.

We met youth involved in fashion, improved seeds generation, water pipe construction and much more. These entrepreneurs proved to be change makers in Malawi who are not just creating employment for themselves, but also for others despite all the challenges they face.

Extensive power cuts, little education, corruption, lack of access to funding as well as scarcity of incubators and mentorship programs all hinder growth and sustainability. In the MY World survey, young Malawians expressed that education, healthcare, better job opportunities, affordable and nutritious food and access to clean water and sanitation are their top five concerns. The Malawian youth entrepreneurs we met were not only concerned with earning their own living, but especially with changing society and Malawi’s situation.

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“My vision is to give a future to those most in doubt and nurture them so that they do not merely become another statistic of African hardship and suffering,” said 15-year old Tawile. She expresses her feelings and hopes for the future through fashion and aims to unite Africa.

Other entrepreneurs are focusing on the challenges faced by Malawian girls such as child marriage, lack of education and sexual abuse. “Women are nurturing and can use that ability to take care of the economic situation in their home, community and country. They need to be empowered and inspired.”

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“The future of each and every nation is in the youth and entrepreneurship is the best way to go,” said Alexious. Young Malawian entrepreneurs should be empowered and supported as they are providing solutions for the country. To ensure youth are not discouraged and continue to change their circumstances, it’s important to understand the lived experiences. The Road to Nairobi team spoke to youth entrepreneurs in Malawi and asked what changes they would like to see:

  • Tadala T: Provide resources, information and opportunities on a merit basis, not because of who you know or what political affiliations you have.
  • Dumisani: Change the mindset of young people and the syndrome of dependency.
  • Ahmed: There needs to a better information system accessible everywhere where people can find all information related to entrepreneurship.
  • Alexious: Entrepreneurship should be part of the curriculum. It should be supported so that the youth are empowered.

Author: Charles Lipenga (Youth Ambassador Road to Nairobi project). Edited by: Annemarelle van Schayik (Research Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation) & Samantha Ndiwalana (Project Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation)

Championing Youth Entrepreneurship in Mozambique with Building Bridges

img_2571The Road to Nairobi 2016 Project, with the support of the local World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper Hub, traveled around the greater Maputo area to meet 10 youth entrepreneurs working in a variety of sectors, in order to learn from their challenges and to get a better understanding of their lived experiences. The ventures discovered ranged from a tech startup working on information asymmetry in the labor market, to a design firm which transforms waste into materials for interior design. These individual stories are featured on the Humans of MY World photo-narrative blog.

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The path of an entrepreneur in Mozambique can be difficult and trying at times; a few of the entrepreneurs we met noted how the economic climate is having an impact on their businesses. Even so, some young people are choosing entrepreneurship as an alternative to looking for a job, where they are confronted by a youth unemployment rate estimated at around 80%. The young people who are resilient enough to try youth entrepreneurship need support, role models and an enabling environment. 

Frederico Peres Da Silva, co-founder of a tech startup in Maputo, recognizes the importance of entrepreneurial role models: “If you are in the [United] States, a CEO understands the value of mentoring a startup. You know why? Because he’s heard of Facebook, he’s heard of Snapchat, he’s heard of WhatsApp. He goes, ‘Oh, what if this is the next Facebook?’ To change that perception in Mozambique you need to have a couple of references in the market. You need to have your champions.”

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Graca Machel, SDG Advocate speaks at the Mozambican Building Bridges Forum

Young Mozambicans that have taken to the MY World global survey prioritize good education as one of the key areas where  they hope to see positive improvement. The youth entrepreneurs we met further discussed the current education system and their experiences with it.  However, they are not only focused on education in general, but see the importance of having practical skills and experience in the workplace as the key to success in their entrepreneurial journey.

Lack of technological infrastructure and resources are other challenges to educational access and entrepreneurship in Mozambique. Frederico is using technology to help young unemployed Mozambicans access the job opportunities through their phones.

img_2754Where gaps and challenges exist, young people in Mozambique are stepping up to empowering each other and themselves. Marlene de Souza found that young people were unable to communicate and translate their knowledge into action in the workplace. She started a company which offers training to university students on skills such as how to successfully enter the job market and how to communicate with “attitude,” so that these students can bridge the gap between the academic and labor market.

Diogo Lucas started a business to help SMEs access finance and gave them the tools to mature into sustainable businesses. According to Diogo, this is something SMEs really need: “There are opportunities for small businesses but they’re not developing because there is not enough support, there’s not enough money. Bank finance is hard to come by with all these challenges. When I was travelling across the country I realized that it’s not because they have bad businesses. It’s because people don’t have the skills or the ability to access capital that can help them grow and develop.”

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Sázia Souza runs a company which offers tech solutions to companies and private individuals. Twice a month, she and her team trains children on how to use computers. When asked about her passion for technology and education, Sázia said: “Mozambique has a problem when it comes to using technology. People are not prepared for the future. Technology is growing too fast. When you go to some schools, they don’t even have computer lessons. Even the teachers don’t know how to use the computers.”

Youth entrepreneurs in Mozambique are working to carve a bright future for themselves. They are working together and with other young people to support skills development while growing a culture of entrepreneurship. To help them on this path, it is important to understand the Mozambican context as well as the lived experiences of rural and urban young Mozambicans in order to empower them for success. The Road to Nairobi team spoke to youth entrepreneurs and asked them what changes they would like to see to support youth entrepreneurship in Mozambique:

  • Lineu: More young people need to have the courage to start for themselves. I started with nothing and almost 100% of the people didn’t believe in me.
  • Claudio: When you register a business, you are sent from one place to another. The process will be better when everything is in one place. It should take less time and require fewer documents.
  • Wilton: Government must create conditions for young entrepreneurs to develop businesses. Especially fiscal policy because currently, police doesn’t differentiate between being a young entrepreneur or an old entrepreneur.
  • Sides: We need more incubators with people who have been trained to support youth entrepreneurs.

Authors: Samantha Ndiwalana (Project Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation) and Annemarelle van Schayik (Research Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation).

Building Bridges Road to Nairobi meets youth entrepreneurs across South Africa

The Building Bridges Foundation has completed traveling through South Africa, its first country on the Road to Nairobi. With its mission to foster youth-led solutions at the grassroots level in order to contribute towards the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the team met with over a hundred youth entrepreneurs across the country. The Foundation’s seeks to learn from grassroots youth entrepreneurs to to understand their day-to-day challenges and how these entrepreneurs have thus far managed to overcome them. 

Samantha Ndiwalana, Building Bridges Project Manager, and Annemarelle van Schayik, Building Bridges Research Manager, report back on the team’s journey through South Africa.


IMG_20160906_142901.jpgThe Building Bridges core team in front of their bus

“African problems, need African solutions” – some South African youth have taken this approach to heart and are fighting for a better future every day. In South Africa there are more than 19 million young people between the ages of 15 and 34 (as defined by South Africa’s National Youth Policy), that is 42% of the population.

Strikingly, among the 9.8 million youth in South Africa’s labour force only 6.2 million were employed and more than 3.6 million youth were unemployed in 2015, with unemployment being especially high for those residing in rural areas. However, most people cannot afford to be unemployed due to the lack of significant safety nets and the responsibility to care for their families.

IMG_20160907_175928.jpgThe Building Bridges team visiting a young poultry farmer in Vredeford

Today’s South African youth were born in the last years of, or just after, Apartheid. Since then regardless of race, color or gender all youth should have the same access to resources and opportunities in theory. However, the lived reality is that black South Africans struggle more than white South Africans, not necessarily solely because of race, but also because of a different upbringing and exposure from a young age.

According to one black youth entrepreneur, “white people have more social capital. At home you can talk about having a business and your parents can introduce you to people who can help you. Most black people don’t have that.”

14053918_1766289320279392_1969452852959175315_o.jpgThe Building Bridges team meets the young entrepreneur behind Sisanda Energy Lab

The MY World global survey led by the UN SDG Action Campaign shows that in South Africa most people want “A good education”. In the past years, thousands of youth have gone onto the streets to stop university tuition fee increases and instead are demanding free education. In a country where many black South Africans are the first of their generation to enter university, keeping up with fees and other university expenses is a challenge. Many drop out before graduating due to “financial exclusion”. Still, a future without a university diploma is seen as one of insecurity and poverty.

South African youth’s priority is not only education, they are also concerned with being taught the skills that will enable them to succeed. “We don’t learn practical skills. There is no talk about running a business up till high school. How can we take care of ourselves?”, remarked one youth.

Youth who drop out of university or do not continue after high school should have learned skills to create a better life for themselves than their parents had. Youth are the future and they all should be given the tools to contribute to a better future for themselves, their communities and South Africa as a whole.

Entrepreneurial innovations should be encouraged from a young age. Schools play a fundamental role in this. A white-collar job is not the only path to success and wealth. As skills training goes underutilized, there are opportunities for individuals with, for example, artisan, technical, electronic or plumbing training. There are many self-employment opportunities in these fields. In fact, South Africa is in need of local entrepreneurs who can create sustainable businesses.

13975260_1765539727021018_91416547130337434_o.jpgThe team meets with youth entrepreneurs in Kwaggafontein

South African youth have great potential to innovate, to change, to create solutions. Of course, being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, but those who have the passion and the drive can potentially learn the skills. Their success is not just on the individual level. It carries through their communities and their nation as they employ other youth.

Youth entrepreneurs not only address issues of decent employment opportunities, but also other striking local problems. Youth are drivers of innovation. On their journey through South Africa the Building Bridges team met, among others, innovative youth who are working on hydroponic farming, an interactive, but informative game about energy and how to handle, a cheaper medical insurance solution for uninsured South Africans.

Youth entrepreneurs are the future. But before changes can be made, we need to understand what the lived experiences of South African youth are and what can be done to enable them to succeed.

IMG_20160907_175938.jpgA Building Bridges event with various youth entrepreneurs in Kwaggafontein, Mpumalanga

Besides a pressing lack of business education from a young age and role models, many black youth entrepreneurs found the access to business registration lacking. We were told time after time that the decentralized government system is confusing and that the entrepreneurs wasted time being sent back and forth from office to office. Others were unemployed and had difficulty paying the needed business registration fees.

One youth entrepreneur stated, “there are a lot of young people who have ideas; they’re really strong ideas that are so powerful. The problem is, you are unemployed, but you’ve been told to open a bank account it is R500 (US$35.28), you’ve been told that to register a company it’s R400(US$28.22), your certificates that you needed, your BEE and your other certificates are quite expensive. And you are unemployed.”

Those that succeeded then found it difficult to get the startup capital needed. They were seen as risks by the banks and government funding was often unavailable for their type of business. However, besides lacking capital, many entrepreneurs also face negative feedback from their communities. Whole families depend on their income. Brothers’ tuition fees, sisters’ mobile data, and of course there needs to be food on the table. Working from 8 to 5 means a stable income and is the desired path by the wider community. All odds are against the young South African entrepreneur to succeed.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 14.27.37.pngYouth entrepreneurs from South Africa

So what can be done? Building Bridges asked the youth entrepreneurs themselves. After all they are the experts:

  • Innocentia: “We need to change how things are run. The government offices should guide entrepreneurs. They should be people who are passionate, who care.”
  • Joyce: “The government can subsidize [registration costs]. It is expensive for an unemployed person to pay and there are a lot of procedures.”
  • Xola: “We need an entrepreneurial culture, a critical mass. We need more black entrepreneurial heroes. Youth need to be able to identify with people who are like them.”
  • Vusumuzi: “Banks can create a different loan system. They should invest in the youth.”
  • Major: “We need practical things when going to programs and incubators. The people presenting don’t understand what we go through. They are not entrepreneurs. We should learn from entrepreneurs.”

 

Building Bridges the Road to Nairobi launches on International Youth Day

Road to nairobi-logo (2)The Building Bridges Foundation’s Road to Nairobi 2016 project kicked off on International Youth Day, 12 August 2016, in Johannesburg and at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The Building Bridges Foundation is a not-for-profit organization established in the Netherlands. The mission is to foster youth-led solutions at the grassroots level in order to contribute towards the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In their first project last year, the Foundation collected the opinions and priorities from young people by bike riding from Amsterdam to Cape Town in an effort to include youth voices in the development of the Sustainable Development Agenda.

In this second phase, the Road to Nairobi 2016a team of Dutch and South African youth will travel by bus from Johannesburg to Nairobi, meeting 80 inspirational and innovative youth entrepreneurs from all industries and walks of life in eight countries. In each country, these real life case studies of the challenges youth entrepreneurs face will be presented to government officials, CEOs, foreign ambassadors, representatives of the UN and the media during a youth summit in the capital. The project co-creates solutions that promote youth employment and aims to inspire African and global leaders by showcasing how young people are making a difference, and how their work can be further promoted to help achieve the SDGs by 2030. The results will be presented at the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) in Nairobi in December.

Building Bridges bus, which will carry the team and youth entrepreneurs to the Second High-Level Meeting of the GPEDC in Nairobi

“Young people often have the best out of the box solutions for difficult problems. So if we want a better life for unemployed young Africans, who else to ask then young African entrepreneurs.” said Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen. She continued, “they show that starting your own business empowers and creates jobs and income. The Road to Nairobi brings these smart youngsters together with politicians and business leaders who are eager for innovative and smart solutions. To reach the Sustainable Development Goals, young people are key.” Minister Ploumen supports the project in her role as co-chair of the GPEDC.

Through a series of multi-stakeholder events at the local and national levels, the project will help facilitate the co-creation of solutions and actions to promote youth employment in their respective countries. “We believe that only by working together with all stakeholders, can we achieve a more just, sustainable and equal world by 2030,” says Jilt van Schayik, co-founder of the Building Bridges Foundation. “Youth are traditionally seen as a problem, but we believe they are the solution. There are many youth entrepreneurs with innovative businesses solutions to overcome local challenges. We need to listen to their ideas, and help them grow to scale to create real impact for people on the ground.”

The Project was launched in South Africa in the Diepsloot Township jointly with the Building Bridges Team and the Dutch Embassy in South Africa. Focus on youth entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas, the launch included a panel discussion, about the enabling factors for innovative entrepreneurship and the necessary steps that will allow South African entrepreneurs to benefit from increased globalization.

IMG_2163The Road to Nairobi launch in Johannesburg with the Building Bridges team and the Dutch Ambassador in South Africa, H.E. Marisa Gerards

In addition to the project’s launch in South Africa, the project was ceremoniously launched at the SDGs exhibition in the United Nations Visitors Lobby by H.E. Mr. Karel van Oosterom, the Netherlands Permanent Representative to the UN and the UN SDG Action Campaign. The Ambassador toured the exhibition, seeing the enormous influence the first phase of Building Bridges had in collecting people’s voices to support the development of the SDGs. HE van Oosterom then viewed the current platforms for action, taking the MY World 2030 Survey reading the Humans if MY World stories and experiencing UN Virtual Reality. The visit concluded with a live video chat with the Building Bridges Team in South Africa, providing words of encouragement for their journey to foster youth employment on the African continent.

IMG_0051.jpgThe Road to Nairobi launch at the UN HQ with the Netherlands Permanent Representative to the UN, H.E. Karel van Oosterom

The Ambassador, his son as well as a team from the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the UN and the SDG Action Campaign wrote their good wishes to the Building Bridges Team on the large sized exhibition blackboard. In a statement on the occasion of the virtual launch in New York the Ambassador said, “youth must have a central role in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. We hope projects like this inspire other youth to step up and help realize the Sustainable Development Goals.”

IMG_20160812_121005Ambassador Karel van Oosterom’s good wishes to Jilt van Schayik, co-founder of the Building Bridges Foundation, and part of the Road to Nairobi team

Kristin Gutekunst, UN SDG Action Campaign Project Manager, remarked, “we are excited to be partnering with the Building Bridges Foundation and the Government of the Netherlands to continue SDG momentum in this new phase of the Building Bridges project. Young people are integral to making the SDGs a reality for all by 2030. The MY World 2015 Survey identified Better job opportunities as one of the main priorities for youth globally. Advancing youth entrepreneurship through this project and bringing people’s voices to the United Nations will support us in achieving the SDGs.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 17.29.40The Road to Nairobi’s route across 8 countries

The Building Bridges team operates with the idea there is a gap between between local and international policymakers and the challenges faced by young people at the grassroots level. Simultaneously in New York, Building Bridges Representative and UN SDG Action Campaign Youth Advocate Jonas Lossau introduced the Road to Nairobi 2016 project and how it contributes to ‘17 SDGs in Action’ at the UN Headquarters on International Youth Day. Samantha Ndiwalana, a Building Bridges Project Manager, added, “the project is a way for young people to get together, to learn from each other, to share their solutions and to inspire each other. It is time for real action, not empty words.”

To create real changes, the Building Bridges team together with the most inspiring youth entrepreneurs will present their data and suggest solutions at the Second High-Level Meeting of the GPEDC in Nairobi.

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Peoples' Voices from around the world celebrated in SDGs Exhibition in UN Visitors Lobby

Since its launch on the 18th of July, the SDGs: A People-powered Agenda – Leave No One Behind exhibition at the United Nations Headquarters has drawn excited crowds of visitors and high-level delegations from around the world.

IMG_20160808_115212.jpgH.E. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, visits the SDGs exhibition 

During the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), H.E. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and co-chair of the United Nations Secretary-General’s SDG Advocacy Group, was one of the first to visit the exhibition together with the Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations, Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen. Both expressed their commitment to making the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a reality for all on the exhibitions large size blackboard. H.E. Erna Solberg wrote that she will continue to advocate for “Quality Education for All”, while H.E. Geir O. Pedersen committed to “Take Action against Inequality”.

IMG_20160718_110241.jpgH.E. Geir O. Pedersen, Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN, writing his commitment to the SDGs on exhibition blackboard 

The HLPF is central platform of the United Nations for the follow-up and review of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. It provided political leadership, guidance and recommendations on the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and follow-up; keep track of progress of the SDGs; spur coherent policies informed by evidence, science and country experiences; as well as addressing new and emerging issues. In addition to visiting the SDGs exhibition, H.E. Erna Solberg delivered the opening key-note speech at the start of the Ministerial Segment of the HLPF on 18 July and presented Norway’s voluntary national reviews on its progress of delivering the Sustainable Development Goals on the 19th.

IMG_20160804_171540.jpgJCI members at the exhibition’s selfie station

Taking up the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s challenge that “youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels,” members of Junior Chamber International’s (JCI) visited the SDGs exhibition during the JCI Annual Global Partnership Summit. Held July 25 to 28 in New York City, the summit offered international leaders and JCI members the chance to visit the exhibition and experience its interactive selfie stations, take surveysand engage with the important challenges and opportunities that the SDGs present to youth globally.

IMG_20160729_111157 (1).jpgYoung students read the stories of Humans of MY World (www.facebook.com/homy2015)

Moreover, groups of national and international students have been particularly drawn to the exhibition’s touch screens hosting the MY World 2030 Survey (www.myworld2030.org), the High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment’s special MY World 2030 Empower Women Thematic Survey (www.empowerwomen.myworld2030.org) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Impossible Choices humanitarian challenge (www.impossiblechoices.org).

IMG_20160808_115129.jpgVisitor taking the MY World 2030 Survey on exhibition touchscreen 

The UN Virtual Reality film series, which allows visitors to immersively experience the life of some of the world’s most vulnerable using high-tech 3D VR headsets has been a major visitor attraction since the opening of the exhibition. Visitors have been touched by the human stories of the Syrian refugee crisis, the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and the effects of conflict in the Gaza Strip in the VR films Clouds Over Sidra, Waves of Grace and My Mother’s Wing (www.unvr.org).

IMG_20160729_104940 (1).jpgStudents watch United Nations Virtual Reality at exhibition 

Watching the movies and experiencing global issues up close has had a profound effect on visitors, many of whom have tried virtual reality technology for the first time. Especially touched was a group of students from LaGuardia Community College, NYC, who had scheduled a special visit to the virtual reality station. After visiting the exhibition with around 30 students the teacher wrote to the SDG Action Campaign to describe what a strong tool for the creation of empathy UNVR had been for the students:

“I just want to thank you for making the extra headsets available for my students last Friday. They were very impressed with the films. My students recently wrote an essay about whether or not the United States should take in Syrian refugees. Most of my students (who are all immigrants) said no, we shouldn’t let them in because there could be dangerous terrorists among them. One student stayed after class and argued with me about this, insisting that all Syrians are terrorists. After this particular student saw your film and experienced what it was like to be in a refugee camp, he told me he wants to rewrite his essay. We have been reading about refugee situations all during the term, we’ve seen film clips from the news, and we’ve watched Hotel Rwanda, and still most students wanted to keep refugees out. Your film changed that for some of them, which is very powerful. So thank you!”

The interactive SDGs exhibition will continue to be open until 4 September 2016.

HOW TO VISIT

The exhibition is open to the general public during official UN visiting hours:

  • Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
  • Saturday & Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
  • All visitors must exit the building by 5:30pm.
  • Virtual Reality screenings at the exhibition: Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm.

The entrance is at 46th Street and 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Visitors without an official UN Pass will have to first obtain a guest pass at the screening station on 46th and 1st across the street from the UN. Be sure to bring a photo ID.

If your delegation or mission would like to schedule a special exhibition tour, please kindly contact Kristin Gutekunst at kristin.gutekunst@undp.org (9143303774).

 

Humans of MY World is now in Rio!

RIo.jpgCountdown to Rio with the Humans of MY World!

With the arrival of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the world’s eyes are focused on Rio de Janeiro, the “marvelous city.” Known for its good vibes, warmth and joy, Rio de Janeiro is home to many local characters with inspiring stories to tell, whether in line at the bank, on the road or at happy-hour after work.

To honor the people of Rio in the lead up to the Olympics, Roberta Thomaz, member of the RIO+ Centre team set off for the streets of Rio to capture the peoples’ energy, creativity and hope in their attempt to live more sustainably. The RIO+ World Centre for Sustainable Development, a legacy of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), was set up to keep the commitment to sustainable development alive in both action and ideas. A partnership between the Government of Brasil and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) based in downtown Rio, every day they inspire and inform policies and practices that lead to greater social, environmental and economic justice in an attempt to transform the urban daily life, artistic and social of Rio’s population.

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All photos by Roberta Thomas

Join the 10 day countdown as we share the hopes and dreams of some of the local people of Rio by following the Humans of MY World on Facebook!

 

SDGs: A People-powered Agenda – Leave No One Behind

The SDGs Exhibition Launches July 18 at the United Nations!

Throughout the post-2015 process and following a call to action from the United Nations Secretary-General in 2012, over ten million people shared their hopes and dreams with the UN to help shape the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As we enter the era of Agenda 2030, the challenge now is to show that the SDGs are in fact achievable through partnership and action from everyone everywhere.  Will YOU become a part of this movement to build a better world?

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INTRODUCTION

The exhibition recounts how millions of ordinary people have ensured the Sustainable Development Goals are a bold and ambitious agenda through the most inclusive and transparent process the UN has ever seen. It also provides some concrete examples of the actions people can take now to help their governments with the implementation of the SDGs by 2030.

We need YOU to help ensure the SDGs become widely known and to ensure that as the Agenda 2030 is implemented, and NO ONE IS LEFT BEHIND.

The exhibition was curated, designed and produced by the UN SDG Action Campaign on behalf of the UN Development Group (UNDG), in partnership with: the Federal Government of Germany, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

It features voluntary input and stories from millions of people around the world through data visualizations, photographs, videos, virtual reality. It also allows interactive ways to share your opinion, make your commitment and explore how to take action on the SDGs.

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HOW TO VISIT

The exhibition is open to the general public during official UN visiting hours, 418 July 18 – 7 September 2016,

Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Saturday & Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
All visitors must exit the building by 5:30pm

The entrance is at 46th Street and 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Visitors without an official UN Pass will have to first obtain a guest pass at the screening station on 46th and 1st across the street from the UN. Be sure to bring a photo ID.

If your delegation or mission would like to schedule a special exhibition tour, please kindly contact Alice Chen at alice.chen@undp.org (6096510945)

FEATURED CONTENT

MDGs to SDGs

MyWorld-29Learn about the process that led us from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals with a special emphasis on peoples’ voices. By using cutting edge technology and data visualizations, the voices of over 10 million people, especially the voices of the most vulnerable populations, are told through the following initiatives:

  • MY World 2015 Survey – over 10 million people, most of them youth, have told the UN their top six of sixteen priorities for a better world, data that has fed into the post-2015 agenda
  • World We Want – a knowledge platform hosting documentation, and data visualizations including those from online, national and thematic civil society consultations
  • Humans of MY World – a photo exhibition telling the stories of MY World voters around the world
  • Virtual Reality – immerse yourself in the life of some of the world’s most vulnerable using high-tech 3D VR headset

Action to Engagement Arena

MyWorld-53The action and engagement arena allows visitors to “get their hands dirty” and take action for furthering the SDGs: right here, right now! These are some of the ways to take action:

  • MY World Survey2030 – Modeled after the first phase of MY World, this citizen satisfaction survey will monitor Global Goal progress and allow further specialization at a local level
  • Women’s Economic Empowerment– tell us what you think would help to empower women economically by filling out our survey
  • Own Your Voice– Virtually “Meet” six young women from around the world who are using their voice to change the world, they are the Youtube Change Ambassadors!
  • Commitment Corner – How will you help achieve the SDGs by 2030? Make your commitment on our SDGs blackboard and take a selfie, tag us @SDGAction

There’s more, but you’ll have to come see for yourself. Visit the SDGs Exhibition before September 7th 2016 and see what actions you can take for the SDGs!

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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.

2015-09-17 16.41.04Director of the UNMC Mitchell Toomey and Secretary General of China NGO Network for International Exchanges You Jianhua

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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