Category Archives: United Nations

WANTED: 1000 Hackers to Help Change the World in 3 Days

Apply until 3 March 2017 to become a Sustainable Development Goal Entrepreneur!

Website:   http://www.connect2effect.com        Facebook, Twitter & Instagram:  @InfluxTrust.

From 10 to 12 March 2017, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Action Campaign, the Office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly and Influx Trust are teaming up to turn 1000 people in 9 cities around the world into SDG Entrepreneurs during the inaugural #Connect2Effect event, a 3-day global hackathon around the SDGs. Winners of the hackathon will be invited to present their work at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, NY USA.

In September 2015, 193 countries agreed to work together on a 15-year global plan to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all by 2030. This plan includes 17 Goals that serve as an urgent guiding masterplan to tackle the world’s greatest challenges and ensure that no one is left behind. Innovative individuals are urgently needed to join together with countries and partners to turn the bold and ambitious global plan into action. See the 17 SDGs here.

To rapidly generate an unprecedented level of innovation and collaboration around the SDGs, the 3-day #Connect2effect Global Hackathon will bring together these innovators with different skillsets ranging from marketing to programming to designing.

The event will produce a series of basic workable prototypes that can be further expanded after the event. The best ideas will be developed and supported through local incubation programmes, mentoring on crowdfunding platform. Winners will receive an invitation to pitch their ideas at the UN Headquarters in New York at the Science, Technology & Innovation Forum taking place at the UN Headquarters in NYC 15th – 17th of May.

Mitchell Toomey, Director of the UN SDG Action Campaign stresses the value of #Connect2Effect for the UN: “At the UN SDG Action Campaign, we consistently strive to find ways to reach new audiences to inform and inspire them about the SDGs. We also empower individuals to work together and serve as agents of change, honouring the best solutions in a variety of methods. We are eager to empower the best creative thinkers and problems solvers to help the UN and governments achieve their goals”.

H.E. Peter Thomson, President of the United Nations General Assembly, fully supports the #Connect2Effect initiative: “Each and every one of us has a critical role to play – as individuals role-modeling sustainable living, as innovators and creative thinkers conceiving new ideas, and as activists working with others to implement solutions to shape our world towards a sustainable future. I look forward to being inspired by the outcomes of the hackathon and to warmly welcome the winners to the United Nations“

The initiative is the first of an annual series which over time will create a sustained network of individuals who can mentor each other and work together to come up with the best ideas for achieving the SDGs, as Max Kallis, CEO of Influx Trust points out: “We are eager to support the UN by leveraging our network and expertise to come up with solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems.”

This year’s hackathon will bring together people in Manama, Bahrain, Lagos, Nigeria, Chandigargh, India, and Lisbon, Portugal to tackle industry innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), in London, U.K., and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to reduce inequalities (SDG 10) and in Bali, Indonesia, Geneva, Switzerland and New York City, USA to generate a shift towards more responsible consumption and production (SDG 12).

FACTS & FIGURES:

  • 1000 Entrepreneurs, thinkers and creatives working together across 9 global locations (Manama, Bali, Chandigarh, Geneva, Lagos, Lisbon, London, New York and Rio) on 5 continents.
  • 193 United Nation Member States
  • 17 Sustainable Development Goals to solve by 2030
  • 72 hours for teams to collaborate and help hack three of the SDGs.
  • 6 Headline Partners for #Connect2Effect 2017 to help our teams with the resources they need.
  • 3 SDGs to hack during #Connect2Effect
  • 1 Crowdfunding platform that will take an idea and put it in the market in a weekend.

ABOUT THE COLLABORATORS:

download
The Influx Trust
is a UK charity that fosters a community of individuals and businesses eager to share their knowledge and resources to support the UN’s priorities. @InfluxTrust

sdg action campaign final.png

The UN SDG Action Campaign is a global interagency initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General, with the mission of ensuring that everyone has the support, encouragement and capability to advocate and act to ensure the SDG agenda is brought to life. It recognises and celebrates the innovators, conveners and break-through actors who are transforming lives, tackling trade-offs and generating practical solutions to some of the world’s most intractable development problems. The Campaign is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the German Federal Government. @SDGAction

logo-without-tagline

The President of the General Assembly is an annually geographically rotating position voted for by representatives in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The President of the 71st and current session, H.E. Mr Peter Thomson from Fiji, presides over the General Assembly, one of the principal organs of the United Nations. Made up of all the 193 Member States of the UN, the General Assembly provides a forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the UN Charter. It meets in regular session intensively from September to December each year, and thereafter as required. @UN_PGA

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Jayne & Misael | Kitsch.inc on behalf of Influx Trust | kitschinc.digital@gmail.com
Kristin Gutekunst | UN SDG Action Campaign | kristin.gutekunst@undp.org
Katharina Kandt | Office of the President of the UN General Assembly| kandt@un.org

img_9802

UNDP SDG Champions Ready to Roll Out MY World & Humans of MY World at the Country Level

IMG_9802.JPGWho would have thought that two little pandas named Qiqi and Dian Dian would be able to bring advocates from around the world, young and old, from different backgrounds, together in Chengdu, China for the Sustainable Development Goals? After a global search for the most interesting video submissions by regular people on why they think the SDGs are important, 17 outstanding SDG Champions were selected from Nigeria, Algeria, Jordan, Pakistan, China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, the Russian Federation, the U.K., France, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, and the U.S. The 17 SDG Champions traveled on January 9 2017 to Chengdu, China, the home of China’s Big Pandas, to learn about wildlife protection and the SDGs.

IMG_9781.JPGIMG_9787.JPG

The SDG Action Campaign was able to hold an interactive session to train the SDG Champions on MY World 2030 and Humans of MY World. The Campaign prepared SDG Toolkits, Humans of MY World toolkits to share with the SDG Champions, and they were each given a MY World 8 Million Report for additional information and as a gift from the Campaign. The newly published Building Bridges Humans of MY World book was also shared with the SDG Champions.

IMG_9785.JPGDuring the session, SDG Action Campaign representative gave each SDG Champion the opportunity to take a MY World 2030 survey. The Champions asked many questions on how to roll out the survey when they return to their country, and the SDG Action Campaign will be working with UN Country Teams in addition to the organizers, UNDP China and UNDP BERA, to ensure that the SDG Champions receive the support they need at the country-level.

IMG_9794.JPGWhen the SDG Champions learned more about the Humans of MY World, enthusiasm reached a new height. After learning about the SDGs for the past few days, each champion wanted to take something concrete away so that they can immediately influence their local communities, inspiring action for the SDGs. Many of the Champions saw MY World 2030 and especially Humans of MY World as natural avenues for advocacy. During a discussion on which SDGs are of immediate concern and why, Salma Nashef from Jordan highlighted the inter-connectivity of all the SDGs and shared that for her, the key SDG is Quality Education, as education is the foundation for changing people’s perceptions and advancing development. Nancy from the U.S., a social worker and educator, passionately told the story from her personal experience as a social worker, working with victims of sexual harassment. She pointed out Gender Equality and Peace, Justice and Security are extremely important for marginalized communities and victims.

IMG_9780.JPGDjamel M’Rah from Algeria expressed his readiness to take action in Algeria, and this notion was strongly shared by many of the SDG Champions. Even after a long day of events, the passion of the SDG Champions to make real changes back home was felt strongly as the discussion continued well into the evening. The SDG Action Campaign is excited to begin working with the 17 SDG Champions and to leverage existing networks to make sure they receive the necessary support to turn passion for the SDGs into advocacy action.

IMG_9774.JPGThe session was also filmed in virtual reality, more to follow on the launch of the SDG Champion Panda Film that features MY World 2030 and Humans of MY World!

During COP 22 – Youth for the SDGs in Marrakech

Translating the SDGs

The UN Youth Booth was among the exhibits located at the COP22 Blue Zone, where various event booths were being showcased for visiting participants during this year’s conference in Marrakech. The UN Youth Booth, by working with the SDG Action Campaign, showcased some of the various initiatives made to translate the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into local languages. Members from CSAYN Ethiopia and CSAYN Cameroon showcased various local youth-led initiatives of afforestation programs to raise awareness for the power of youth mobilization. The groups also explained the UN virtual reality programme, which helped to break the language barrier; this breakdown has proven to be an imperative objective for creating inclusive participation of local peoples, such as farmers and marginalized communities with less access to education.  This is an effort to leave no one behind in this global effort.

Reactions varied from emotional to excitement from people who watched the virtual reality films, but everyone thought the technology was a wonderful way to engage people from around the world in ongoing humanitarian issues, especially in places they would otherwise never experience.  Delegates who tried the virtual reality were extremely impressed with the innovations presented, and many said it’s the first time they had seen VR apart from online demonstrations.

Various surveys to gain insight of conference participants’ knowledge of and perspective on the SDGs were conducted at the UN Youth Booth. Youth delegates who took the “MY World 2030” survey gave their feedback as to what they think is the most crucial SDG. The survey went on successfully, and most delegates identified the following six goals as their top priorities:

  • SDG 13 :Climate Action
  • SDG 6: Clean Water
  • SDG 5:Gender Equality
  • SDG 3: Quality Education
  • SDG 4:Good Health and well-being

 

In Conversation with Mr. Ntiokam Divine from Cameron, on David Nabarro, the UN Special Advisor on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

It was a privilege speaking to Mr. Nabarro and he was so excited and proud to have  advocates pushing the 2030 Agenda for SD at all local, national and regional levels, and in local languages. He gave me guidelines on how to ensure no one is left behind in achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. He promised to personally support our efforts at country level as well.

In conversation with Youthink delegate from China:

This was a great opportunity to liaise with the youth delegation from China, and we were able to share presentations on tree planting activities carried out across Cameroon, Uganda and the Philippines by Ntiokam Divine, volunteers and the coordinators and founders of CSAYN. Later, we shared the VR experience with them, and the youth present were very supportive of planning for COP23 by coming up with similar innovations.

 

COP22 Civil Society Climate March

Various groups, mainly consisting of civil society participants present for COP22, gathered for a 3km climate march to show solidarity and voice common concerns on the effects of climate change and urge government action to be taken immediately. The Climate March was a significant accomplishment, especially for a lot of non-state actors and civil society groups in voicing their demands and reminding the world once more of the severity of the situation and the actions that decision makers should take and enforce. In conjunction with fellow youth and civil society activists, members from PACJA (Pan African Climate Justice Alliance) and the African Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) showed a high visibility and presence to represent and voice Africa’s demands on behalf of civic society and youth. At the forefront of the demands was the expressed need for implementation, action and enhanced commitment on the Paris Agreement by signatory parties.

divine-blog-4

Green Zone

The African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) hosted its side event panel discussion at the COP22 Green Zone on November 15th. The theme of the discussion was “Making Climate Finance Work for Youth in Africa.” The side event was productive in bringing African youth at the COP together and also to engage with other youth from Europe, Asia and North America for exchanging experiences and best practices. Among many highlights, a detailed brief from Mr. Ibraheem Ceesay (Chair of AYICC) focused on some of the major continental youth funding mechanisms and opportunities that already exist for young Africans to tap into. Abiy Shimelis (AYICC East Africa) – pointed out the importance of young people’s proactive role in following up climate finance within the local context of their country and seeking ways on how it can be an input for youth capacity building especially towards adaptation.

Blue Zone

A briefing session with the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa H.E Dr. Abdulla Hamdok took place alongside a team from AYICC and ACLYP.  The session was instrumental in consolidating the various ongoing activities, prospects and challenges during the COP22 on behalf of the African Group of Negotiators (as briefed by Dr. Seth Osafa), African Civil Society movement (as briefed by PACJA) and the African Youth (as briefed by AYICC).

divine blog 3.png

Register your interest for the Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development: 1-3 March, Bonn, Germany

gfoi_logo_color_1

WCCWHEN
1-3 March 2017

WHERE
World Conference Center, Bonn, Germany

ONLINE
GlobalFestivalofIdeas.org
@GlobalFestIdeas#GFI4SD

In September 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. We need a revolution in the way we think about international development if we are to deliver such an ambitious agenda by 2030. The Global Festival of Ideas plans to catalyse that revolution.

PlenaryJoin us for the Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development at the World Conference Center in Bonn from 1-3 March 2017, and be one of the first to become an active player in the world’s first ‘playable’ conference on the SDGs, exploring how they can be achieved. The Festival will bring together leading thinkers, policy-makers, civil society and activists, together with gaming experts and policy simulators.

Get involved in interactive and immersive sessions that tackle the tough choices and trade-offs in this ambitious global agenda. Together we’ll chart new thinking on the world’s biggest development challenges and mobilise key partnerships and resources to drive action now and in the future.

bonnThe interactive event will feature:

  • High level plenary sessions, presentations, discussion and debates to share critical ideas, showcase success and hear from keynote speakers
  • Real time problem-solving through policy simulations and participatory games based on interactive technology, built by expert game designers
  • Innovation hubs that showcase the work of a wide variety of organisations

Together, we’ll explore some of the toughest challenges in international development along the following themes:

  • Disruptors to progress: Violence, movement of people, and responses
  • Inequality: Reducing inequalities, revisiting globalisation
  • Sustainability and growth: Water, food, energy and green growth

…as well as critical areas for action on the SDGs – including awareness-raising, citizen engagement and partnership and collaboration.

Follow this link to register your interest and find out more about the festival today!

EVENT ORGANISERS

eventorganisers

The United Nations SDG Action Campaign gives a first preview of the new Global Campaign Center in Bonn

Journalists experience United Nations Virtual Reality (unvr.org) at the Global Campaign Center of the UN SDG Action Campaign in Bonn. UNVR shows the human story behind development challenges, allowing people with the power to make a difference have a deeper understanding of their world. 15 December 2016. photothek / Ina Fassbender
Journalists experience United Nations Virtual Reality (unvr.org) at the Global Campaign Center of the UN SDG Action Campaign in Bonn. UNVR shows the human story behind development challenges, allowing people with the power to make a difference have a deeper understanding of their world. 15 December 2016. photothek / Ina Fassbender

BONN 15 December 2016 – The United Nations SDG Action Campaign, with the support of the Federal Government of Germany, offered a behind the scenes tour of the new Global Campaign Center in the historic Haus Carstanjen today.

The Global Campaign Center is a strategic hub to deliver the UN SDG Action Campaign’s mandate to inspire people’s action on the Sustainable Development Goals; connect and amplify stakeholder efforts; aggregate citizen-generated data; showcase impact; share best practices; and incubate and test out innovative efforts around SDG implementation. The Center will strengthen the United Nations in Bonn as a hub for global sustainability.

Anand Kantaria, Global Project Lead, conducts a live demo of the MY World 2030 survey (myworld2030.org) at the Global Campaign Center of the UN SDG Action Campaign in Bonn, 15 December 2016. photothek / Ina Fassbender
Anand Kantaria, Global Project Lead, conducts a live demo of the MY World 2030 survey (myworld2030.org) at the Global Campaign Center of the UN SDG Action Campaign in Bonn, 15 December 2016. photothek / Ina Fassbender

The interactive tour showcased the Campaign’s work including virtual reality film screenings, the new MY World 2030 survey to track progress of the SDGs, SDG photo exhibit and data analytics visualizations. Continue reading The United Nations SDG Action Campaign gives a first preview of the new Global Campaign Center in Bonn

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.

myworld

“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.”

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-5-34-47-pm

“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)

SDG Action Hub for UN Day 2016 at the European Parliament

On 18-20 October 2016, the UN SDG Action Campaign jointly with the UN Brussels Team facilitated the setting up and coordination of a SDG Action Hub in the European Parliament in Brussels to celebrate UN Day.

The SDG Action Hub provided a space for European Parliamentarians and other relevant decision-makers and experts to experience first hand innovative approaches to SDG communication and advocacy such as virtual reality films on SDG issues and the MY World survey which provides citizen generated data on SDG implementation and monitoring.

The UN SDG Action Campaign and the UN Brussels Team also interviewed members of the European Parliament and other visitors and capture their views on how to implement the Goals in Europe, as well as to discuss potential ways of collaboration to ensure public opinion in Europe is aware of the Goals and takes part in the implementation efforts. Visitors to the SDG Action Hub included:

  • Vice-President MEP Graf Lambsdorff (ALDE);
  • Chair of the DEVE Committee Linda McAvan (S&D);
  • Chair of the Environment Committee Giovanni La Via (EPP);
  • MEP Charles Goerens (ALDE);
  • MEP Elly Schlein (S&D);
  • MEP Arne Lietz (S&D);
  • MEP Liisa Jaakonsaari (S&D);
  • MEP Lefteris Christoforou (EPP);
  • MEP Ricardo Serrão Santos (S&D);
  • Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence Afzal Khan (S&D)
  • Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to UN SG on SDGs
  • Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the WTO

All aboard the Peace Boat! Guests champion the SDGs during the “Floating Festival for Sustainability”!

img_0959 img_0958On Thursday, October 20, over 600 people attended a grand exhibit aboard the Peace Boat. This “Floating Festival for Sustainability” marked the Peace Boat’s 92nd Global Voyage for Peace since the nonprofit was established in 1983, and the first time the ship has docked in New York in five years. It also marked the inauguration of the Global Goals logo on the boat.

The SDG Action Campaign has a long history of working with the Peace Boat, having launched a partnership in 2009 to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Peace Boat previously hosted the Millennium Campaign logo, gave courses on the MDGs to passengers, and participated in the Stand Up Campaign among other activities. The Peace Boat has also been an early adopter of the MY World 2030 survey, helping to translate the ballot into Japanese, and collecting ballots both from passengers and people they meet during their journey. They presented the results of their first efforts in their recent report about the ship’s visit to Latin America – showing the enormous efforts and impact the boat is able to make on supporting the implementation of the SDGs.

The event occurred aboard the Peace Boat, providing guests with an intimate glimpse of life at sea. When guests first arrived, they were greeted with a tour of Peace Boat’s impressive ship. The foyer of the ship allowed guests to engage with the mission of the Peace Boat and with an exhibition of projects the peace boat is aligned with. Peace Boat, an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations, campaigns for the Sustainable Development Goals as it tours the globe each year. The UN SDG Action Campaign was present to drum up excitement about the SDGs and give participants the ability to engage with immersive content. Participants could take the MY World survey to voice their opinion on the importance and progress of the SDGs, take selfies highlighting their favorite SDGs and watch the virtual reality films of stories from around the world.

The World We Want team was also present, inviting guests to learn about their activities and to join the Policy Strategy Group. The World We Want is looking to continue doing WWW exhibitions around the world to promote the SDGs and civil society’s participation in UN activities. Other exhibits included the presentation of the Eco Ship, an entirely sustainable ship fueled by renewable energy sources that will retrieve the mission of the Peace Boat and promote climate action world-wide when in launches in 2020.

img_0953 img_8406

The main event of the evening began with live music and dance, followed by a series of speakers including H.E. Jan Eliasson (United Nations Deputy Secretary-General), H.E. Ahmed Sareer (Ambassador of the Maldives and Chairman of the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS)), Jeff Brez (Chief NGO Relations Advocacy and Special Events, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information), Yoshioka Tatsuya (Peace Boat Director) and Cora Weiss of the (President, Hague Appeal for Peace). The presentations were followed by an eco fashion show highlighting sustainable designs, and the SDGs chosen to be of highest import to each of the designers.

The presenters made appealing calls to action for all guests to get involved with the SDGs and in promoting peace. The Mr. Eliasson stressed the need to join forces and approach the SDGs in a collaborative manner, encouraging everyone to not be phased by the large task at hand, but rather to focus on small actions that add up: “nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something”. He stressed the need to empower and create space for youth and women as major actors in the fight for peace.

Mr. Tatsuya gave an energetic presentation about the new ship the Peace Boat is developing, which will soon be the most sustainable ship to ever set sail. It will include an on-board university for peace & sustainability, sport activities, and volunteer exchanges in local communities visited.

The evening also included a passionate appeal from a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing as part of a special partnership with the United Nations First Committee on Disarmament and International Security (UNODA). Five victims of both Nagasaki and Hiroshima, known as Hibakusha, are traveling with the Peace Boat to campaign against nuclear weapons, hoping to see a world without them in their lifetimes.

For more information on the Peace Boat, please visit: http://www.peaceboat-us.org/  

cuu3adrxyaenndo

Next Generation, Cross-Curricular Global Learning through Immersive Technology

Blog by Neesha N. Rahim, Co-Founder Level Up Village

The Level Up Village (LUV) team joined forces with the UN SDG Action Campaign, Shared_Studios, VIF, The Qatar Foundation International & P21 at the 2016 Global Ed Forum in Philadelphia in October. With the goal of providing an immersive, perspective-building experience for some of the best and brightest educators working to build global competency skills in K-12 students,  the experience provided a unique interpretation of “cross-curricular learning” and showed how global competency could be infused in all aspects of education.

Thought leaders from around the world had the opportunity to immerse themselves virtually in the stunningly heartbreaking world of a Syrian refugee child named Sidra via Clouds Over Sidra. This set the stage to understanding what life is like in a Syrian refugee camp, adding depth and intimacy to an issue that many see only on the news.  Those who saw the film came away excited by the promises of VR, seeing the film and technology as an opportunity to effectively teach today’s digital natives about topics from the refugee crisis to the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

“Watching Clouds over Sidra in VR was an incredibly impactful experience,” said Connor Seidenschwarz of the Qatar Foundation International.  “Last summer I worked in a refugee camp in Lebanon, and the VR experience made me feel like I was right back there again.  I think this type of medium, along with the Shared_Studios portal and Level Up Village programs, will have a huge impact on anyone learning about refugee experience, especially in terms of what it can do to create humanize refugees.”

“I’ve worked in many countries, including in the developing world.  Yet this film drove home what life is really like for refugee children and made me see the differences and similarities between children here and there in a different light,” David Ross, Chief Strategy Officer at P21 said of the experience.

“Global education is the lens through which all teaching and learning should occur. Virtual exchanges, collaborative projects, and immersive VR experiences like Clouds over Sidra are critical elements for delivering quality education to all,” said David Young CEO of VIF, an organization that works districts and schools to develop global-ready teachers and students.

After watching the film, participants walked into a gold colored, sparkling Shared_Studios Portal tent where they connected in real time through full-body video conference with groups in Iraq, Pakistan and Nicaragua.  These live interactions pulled the world of each of these groups even closer, breaking down the wall of self consciousness that we often see via modes like Skype.  Through this opportunity, educators explored how students might be able to play and engage meaningfully with peers from around the world.    

Boys who fled the ISIS takeover of Mosul two years ago and are living in Harsham Camp for internally displaced Iraqis in the city of Erbil spoke directly to conference participants via the Erbil Portal, curated by UNICEF Iraq.  Amidst more serious conversations, one US educator spontaneously played a game of rock, paper, scissors with the children who taught her the Arabic words for the game.  The young Iraqi boys then taught a group of three women in the US a local dance.

Lindsay Mackenzie, communications specialist with UNICEF Iraq, explained that connecting with people around the world serves to build perspective and open the world for children in the camp, while giving voice to those who do not feel heard. Moreover, these opportunities represent hope and a moment of respite from otherwise harrowing situations.

Participants also connected in real time with educators and students from Level Up Village’s Global Partner programs in Pakistan and Nicaragua. iEarn Pakistan, led by Farah Kamal, has done incredible work in building global competency and tech skills in Pakistani students, often against seemingly insurmountable odds.  

“It was thrilling to stand right in front of my counterparts at the GEF 2016 and talk. We have the same hopes and aspirations – to have our students grow and thrive in a peaceful world,”  said Farah Kamal, Executive Director of iEarn Pakistan.   

Global Ed Forum participants interacted in real time with Level Up Village global partners NicaPhoto Nicaragua and iEARN Pakistan

At NicaPhoto in Nicaragua, Ronnie Maher has provided quality education, nutrition and other social services to hundreds of students who live in homes that were only recently wired for electricity.  Via Level Up Village programs, students in each location have engaged in one-to-one STEAM (STEM + arts) collaborations with students at schools in the US.

“The impact of Level Up Village programs on our kids is great, beginning with learning to use a computer, learning to form their own ideas, and to ask questions,” said Ronnie Maher, Founder & Executive Director of NicaPhoto. “The video letters and one-to-one connections help them to be less shy as they learn to express themselves. The project-based, small class environment is a unique opportunity that can have a big impact on learning here in Nicaragua.”

At the conference, we also demonstrated how Level Up Village’s social media-inspired platform facilitates the exchange of asynchronous video letters and project collaboration across the globe. In our courses, students in the US are paired one-on-one with partner students from around the world to learn cutting-edge STEAM skills and apply them to real-world problems, In addition, they collaborate on shared project files and exchange information about about each other’s daily lives and cultures through a guided exchange of video letters. The result is meaningful global collaboration and an enhanced understanding of the world – at a personal level.

Students in 20+ countries connect and collaborate using Level Up Village’s mobile-friendly Global Communications Platform in courses such as Global Inventors (3D printing). This type of innovative global STEAM collaboration with real-world applications teaches important 21st Century skills and creates meaningful personal connections

Participants at the Global Ed Forum experienced firsthand how a variety of exciting new technologies are proving to be game-changers in the field of global education. We look forward to further opportunities to collaborate with VIF, P21, The Qatar Foundation International, Shared_Studios and the UN SDG Action Campaign to move global education forward. In the next few years, we expect many more schools in the US and around the world will access the tools they need to bring the world into their classroom and the impact will be profound. Students will be able to develop social awareness, empathy and global competency in unprecedented ways, providing them with the framework they need to become compassionate leaders of tomorrow.

** Special thanks to GEF 2016 organizer Brandon Wiley & Dave Potter of VIF for making this experience possible.

About Level Up Village: A social enterprise based in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, Level Up Village (LUV) delivers pioneering Global STEAM (STEM + Arts) enrichment courses that promote design thinking and one-to-one collaboration on real-world problems between K-9 students in the U.S. and partner students in developing countries. Launched in 2012, LUV runs courses during school, after-school and in the summer at more than 150 U.S. schools, with 30+ Global Partner organizations in more than 20 countries.  For more information, visit at levelupvillage.com or find us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter @LevelUpVillage.

img_2447

Immersive exhibition brings delegates closer than ever to refugees, displaced, and migrants during UNGA

The 71st regular session of the United Nations General Assembly met this past September, which also coincided with the High Level Meeting on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants. In an effort to raise the voices are those most in danger of being left behind, the UN SDG Action Campaign brought two immersive technology experiences to the UN Secretariat Building, highlighting some of the most complex global challenges the UN faces. The particular focus on refugees, displaced people, and migrants allowed diplomats direct access and a deeper understanding of their everyday realities.

Above: Haider al Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq speaking to Waleed, a young boy displaced from Mosul by violence now living in the Harsham IDP Camp. Below: Ewan MacGregor, Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF poses with Mirna, young girl he met on his last visit to the Camp in Erbil.

The United Nations Virtual Reality film series and Portals immersive experiences enables people to access locations and situations they would otherwise never experience, providing context for some of the most complex issues the UN is striving to mitigate. By doing so, the Campaign hopes it will help transform understanding of critical global issues that must be addressed in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals into a medium that is instantly empathetic and universally relatable.

Throughout the course of the week, Delegates were able to watch several films on the newly launched UNVR app (available at http://www.UNVR.org) about the everyday realities of refugees. Filmed in the Zaatari Camp in Jordan, Clouds Over Sidra recounts the new normal for a young girl from Syria, and Born Into Exile by UNFPA highlights the importance of providing safe births for mothers, revealing the amazing statistic that zero mothers have been lost at the camp. Beyond the Lake recounts the harrowing experience of a woman escaping violence in Burundi who is able to start a new life in the DRC through the support of UN Women safe spaces. UNOCHA also previewed Home, a new film documenting the UN Secretary-General’s humanitarian tour, highlighting the plight of refugees living in Lebanon, Syria and the DRC.

Delegates further had the opportunity to have full-body conversations with individuals living these realities, in real time, through the UN Portal, curated by the CampaignShared_Studios, and Bridges of Understanding. It is part of an international project with countless locations around the world by Shared_Studios. The UN Portal connected to the Harsham IDP Camp in Erbil, curated by UNICEF  Iraq, allowing delegates to speak to young Iraqis displaced by fighting in Mosul. It also connected to a refugee resettlement home outside of Berlin, where delegates could speak to people from Chad, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria in varying stages of asylum seeking, and to young people at the University of Kabul in Afghanistan with Turquoise Mountain Institute. In the afternoons, the UN Portal connected to Mexico City with an NGO called Proyecto Habesha that is supporting Syrian refugees in coordinates higher education degrees in Mexico.

This exhibition was made possible through the political support of the Government of the Netherlands, the Government of Germany, the Government of Iraq, and the UN Department of Information.

The Campaign also shared the space with UNICEF’s Time Machine, an installation that  translating childhood memories from data into unique sound – giving visitors and delegates attending the UNGA an opportunity to understand the data on children currently available and areas that fall short.