On the 20 April, Kristin Gutekunst, Executive Producer of the UN SDG Action Campaign and project lead on UNVR, and David Cravinho, Global Fundraising Specialist for UNICEF presented at the Virtual Reality Show in London. Joining top brands from creative, technology, hardware agencies, as well as government institutions and NGOS, the show provided an opportunity to present the UNVR system’s achievements, future strategy and establish the UNVR brand as an industry leader in using interactive experiences for social impact.
In this video, Kristin Gutekunst gives an overview on the various ways the United Nations system has been using VR to allow people to step into the shoes of people around the world – creating deep human connections and fighting preconceptions. She discusses the many ways the UN system has been testing these films; potential impact on fundraising, high level advocacy, and educational programs. She also give hints about some of the big plans in store.
David Cravinho provides best practices and lessons learned on the initial findings from UNICEF’s global project to incorporate VR into their fundraising strategy, and showcases some of the innovative ways UNICEF National Committees are using it in the field through face-to-face-fundraising.
The show was an arena for Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality professionals and enthusiasts to explore experiences, witness panels and meet the top brands and innovators working in the fields of social impact, education, automotive, gaming, medicine, amusement parks, space, etc.
For more information about the UNVR program, please visit www.UNVR.org
(Top image: UN colleagues & Young Leaders with Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of the Belgians / UNRIC)
Organised by the European Commission, the European Development Days (EDD) is Europe’s leading forum on development since 2006. The development community comes together every year to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. This year’s edition took place on 6-8 June, 2017 in Brussels.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals stand at the European Development Days included a wide range of exciting and innovative features such as the #SDGstudio, virtual reality films, touch-screens showcasing data visualizations and polling mechanisms on the SDGs, and a selfie photobooth to invite visitors to show their commitment and take action on the Goals.
The UN stand is organized by the UN SDG Action Campaign, the UN in Brussels (25 UN entities), UNECE and the World Bank. Occupying a central space at the European Development Days global village, the UN SDG stand is a convening space to engage thousands of visitors on the Sustainable Development Goals and showcase the efforts of the United Nations and its partners around the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
During the European Development Days:
Thousands of people visited the United Nations stand, with active participation of several hundreds per day (in total there were 8000 participants attending EDDs)
There were 35 #SDGStudio dialogues! 16 on Day 1 and 19 on Day 2.
The United Nations was involved in more than 50 out of the 120 EDD sessions
More than 90 UN colleagues were hosts at the UN Stand, inviting delegates and showcasing SDG innovation
Around 350 people took a selfie at the photobooth
The #SDGStudio was a new and exciting feature of the United Nations stand, which is a unique platform to generate informal and insightful inter-generational dialogues between young leaders and high-level officials from the United Nations, the European Commission and a wide range of other institutions present at the EDDs. The #SDGstudio was proud to host the following dialogues:
Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations & Suman Kumar, EDD Young Leader, Nepal
Role of Youth for the SDGs: Alexander De Croo, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium & Minister of Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, Telecom and Postal Services, Belgium & Esenam Amuzu, EDD Young Leader
Health and SDGs: Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General elect, WHO & Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety & Kalaba Nkonde, EDD Young Leader
Discussion on SDG Advocates and promoting the SDGs: Thomas Gass, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) & Laura Hildebrandt, Programme Specialist, UN SDG Action Campaign
Partnerships and the SDGs: Thomas Gass, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) & Leonardo Parraga, EDD Young Leader
What if policy discussions on refugees didn’t take place inside boardrooms or official chambers, but rather in a forum where refugees themselves could intervene and argue for programmes that made sense to them? What if policymakers could personally interact with displaced populations? Would our policies be different, and better? Would our responses to forced displacement change?
While we are a long way away from a fully consultative and inclusive decision-making process, we know that policy making does not occur in a vacuum but rather that discussions are often held in official and unofficial spaces. As such, the Secretariat of the OECD’s Temporary Working Group on Refugees and Migration invited its delegates to go beyond normative discussions and to experience the individual stories, personal interests and lived experiences of refugees at the “Refugee Realities Exhibition” on May 15.
With the support of the UN SDG Action Campaign, delegates and OECD staff were able to immerse themselves in the world of Sidra, a 12-year-old Syrian Refugee living in Za’tari refugee camp in Jordan.
Using headsets (provided by the UN SDG Action Campaign) to watch the movie Cloud over Sidra, participants noted that the authenticity of the experience deeply moved them. For many, this virtual experience was their first ‘visit’ to a refugee camp. Some noted that listening to Sidra’s voice was an important reminder of the hopes and desires of refugees, which are often lost in public narratives and may not always be present in policy spaces.
The exhibition also included photographs by Paris-based organization Action Emploi Réfugiés and Refugee Economics, a Canadian-based photography project. Alongside the virtual experience, the photographs also highlighted the strength of refugees in rebuilding their lives and showcased their creativity when working towards self-reliance. Co-sponsored by the Canadian Mission to the OECD, the exhibition also underscored the importance of facilitating access to productive opportunities for forcibly displaced populations by safeguarding individual rights and recognising refugee needs and aspirations.
“Forced displacement is a development challenge that requires new forms of assistance and responses that go beyond current approaches” explained Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director of the Development Cooperation Directorate at the OECD, during the opening of the exhibition. “By engaging in a thoughtful discussion on refugee realities, we hope to encourage programming that is human-centred”
The Temporary Working on Refugees and Migration was established by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) to support the capacity of DAC members to deliver whole-of-government solutions in developing countries of origin, transit and destination, with a particular focus on delivering better quality results on the ground. The DAC is a unique international forum of many of the largest funders of aid and an important stakeholder in shaping standards and conditions of aid. As such, the group will deliver on its aim by August 2017 with the development of a “Guidance on Development Assistance in Situations of Forced Displacement.”
In May each year, the European Institutions celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the European Union. Entertaining, informative activities are organised throughout Europe and beyond. This is an opportunity for citizens to learn about the day-to-day work of the institutions, as well as the broader issues, challenges and benefits of the European Union for its 508 million citizens. This year the European institutions opened to the public on Saturday May 6th in Brussels and Sunday May 14th in Strasbourg.
The EU Humanitarian Aid stand welcomed visitors to immerse themselves in the world of humanitarian aid and civil protection. The stand was a replica of the Emergency Response Coordination Centre, a state of the art hub where duty officers follow potentially emerging crises 24/7 with satellite images. Visitors got a chance to talk to a real duty officer. Over 12.000 visitors came to the Berlaymont building and many of them came to the stand.
The stand featured a virtual reality classroom, featuring some United Nations Virtual Reality films showing the warzone in Gaza in 2014 (My Mother’s Wing), or the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan where Sidra, a 12-year-old girl, will be your guide (Clouds Over Sidra). Children took part in a giant world map game, where they found out about where in the world EU Humanitarian Aid operates.
People were watching the films in their entirety, from beginning to end. “Awesome”, “Impressive”, “Powerful” were the adjectives used by visitors to describe the experience. Some of them, after having watched one movie came back to view the others films. The response was so high that a queue started to snake around the stand.
Images: European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
Have you ever had the chance to go scuba diving with whales? How about hanging out with penguins in Antarctica? Have you heard the personal stories of those working on the front lines of ecological activism, such as scientists and indigenous people?
Would being exposed to these experiences help you to become a stronger and more informed advocate about the ocean, or SDG 14, Life Under Water?
To support the Governments of Fiji and Sweden in their mission to inspire advocacy and action for SDG 14 during the Ocean Conference, 5-9 June, UNVR curated a playlist of some of the best in 360’ video and interactive virtual reality to transport viewers to the coasts and deep waters of the sea, bathing them in the sights and sounds of the ocean.
“We have two and a half years’ experience organizing VR exhibitions that transport policy makers into the development challenges the SDGs are seeking to alleviate, especially at UN forums. This is the first time we have brought together multiple VR experiences that coalesce focus on one SDG, in this case SDG14: Life Under Water. The diversity of issues covered provide visitors with a broader context, a choice of issues they can champion, and actions they can take.” said Kristin Gutekunst, Executive Producer of UNVR for the UN SDG Action Campaign.
Curated and produced by the UN SDG Action Campaign, the exhibition is powered by Samsung and includes content collaboration with the Permanent Mission of France, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and through the generous permission of many VR Creators.
Professionals developing world class innovation discuss the real potential of virtual reality and new media and the challenges that lay ahead: How do we make sure it brings a positive impact to global issues.? How can we bring it to everyone and really use it to help the people who need it the most?
Friedrich Kurz, General Manager Social Innovation, Deutsche Telekom, Marisol Grandon, CEO of Untold Stories, Kristin Gutekunst, Executive Producer of UNVR, UN SDG Action Campaign, Wilfried Runde, Head of Innovation Projects at Deutsche Welle join the discussion at the SDG Live Stage of the Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development.
To convey the stories of the most vulnerable people in the world and bring them home to the decision makers and global citizens around the world, pushing the bounds of empathy, the UN SDG Action Campaign has coordinated the United Nations Virtual Reality Series since 2015.
Bridges of Understanding Annual Gala, 12 December: New York
Bridges of Understanding is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, nonpolitical organization established in 2007 to enhance positive relations between the United States and Arab World through one-to-one connections between thought leaders and the creation of original youth focused programs.
The Campaign has had a partnership with Bridges of Understanding since June 2016 to promote empathy and understanding around the refugee crisis, co-develop educational and new media activities and to increase awareness and action around the SDGs.
The Campaign organized a We the Peoples hub during the annual Gala. The SDGs were on display, featured as a selfie tool at the step and repeat photowall. Guests also had the opportunity to watch Clouds Over Sidra & My Mother’s Wing on virtual reality headsets. The gala honored Arianna Huffington and Chaker Ghazaal for their contribution to promoting global citizenship, connecting people, countries and cultures.
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.”
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.
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.
“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 atlevelupvillage.com or find us onFacebook,Instagram,LinkedInandTwitter @LevelUpVillage.