News — June 19, 2019

It’s Time to Make the Global Goals Everyone’s Goals: Engaging Young People at the Global Festival of Action

By Jeanette Harris-Courts

It’s been a month since the third annual SDG Global Festival of Action in Bonn, Germany and I’m still feeling the impact of this inspirational event. The Global Festival of Action is hosted by the UN SDG Action Campaign  to gather and inspire advocates of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, as well as multi-stakeholder partners to take action for the Global Goals and expand the global movement. Understanding the Festival’s themes and focus on participant-generated content, I knew this would be an experience unlike anything I encountered before. I was excited to leave Bonn with more knowledge, motivation and action-orientated ideas about how to build a global movement in my local community. The number of young participants and panelists who are working at the local level to create a better world was inspiring to be a part of, as a young active citizen myself.

During the first day, participants gathered around the plenary stage and learned about the Festival themes for the next three days: creativity, storytelling, campaigning, visualization, connections, mobilization and inclusion. Marina Ponti, the Global Director of the UN SDG Action Campaign, began by encouraging the audience to take action in this global movement by acting for the Global Goals. Ponti stated, “The quest of the SDG Global Festival of Action is how do we make the Global Goals everyone’s goals.”

Working in communications for JCI, I am excited to see our members regularly using storytelling as a tool to initiate change, evoke awareness and take action toward the Global Goals. But what about the young people who don’t know what these goals are? Over the past few years, we’ve seen young people around the world taking to the streets demanding policy change related to climate change, gender equality, justice and stronger intuitions. Imagine if each of these driven young citizens knew about the connection between these issues and the Global Goals and had access to the tools needed to make positive change at the local level. By engaging these young active citizens, we’d transform our world and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

After hearing from government officials and creatives such as Inverse K and Hashtag Our Stories founder Yusuf Omar who both expressed how important it is for young people to take action now for us to achieve Agenda 2030, Festival participants broke into sessions motivating them to do just that. In each session, the panelists and participants made it clear that change begins with us taking one step forward in order for us to have a better tomorrow. Artists, small businesses and NGOs were spread throughout the Festival expressing themselves and sharing the actions they are taking to make the Global Goals everyone’s goals.

The energy was still high on the second day of the Festival featuring motivating sessions about mobilizing like-minded individuals to make the Global Goals their own. A huge announcement came from for the UN SDG Action Campaign about their newest initiative, #IAmSDG campaign. This campaign evokes the festival themes while encouraging participants to share their stories about what cause would they start a butterfly effect for. This question inspired beautiful designs by Filippo Mazzasette of butterfly wings representing each Global Goal.

Following one of the Festival themes, JCI joined Kadi Kenk, Member of the Management Board for Let's Do It! Foundation for a session on campaigning to discuss how we built a movement for young people to create sustainable development with the 2018 World Cleanup Day. This movement is a powerful example of how to leverage the enthusiasm of young people at the grassroots level by connecting a great challenge facing the world — climate change and poor waste management — with accessible action. While the movement started years ago in JCI, in 2018 18 million volunteers mobilized in 157 countries to do lead cleanups. This connection takes the existing passion of young people and activates it to create positive change around the world.

During the final day of the Festival, JCI took the plenary stage to discuss Social Enterprise Opportunities for the Global Goals for Sustainable Development with panelists Annalisa Schembri, Kelly Lovell, Nina Monjean, Susan Wanders and Lieke Beelen. The panelists and participants delivered creative pitches for their social enterprises and shared tactics for how to persevere as entrepreneurs in the face of challenges. Then in the Festival’s closing plenary, JCI made a huge announcement about the Global Youth Empowerment Fund’s partnership with UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth, bringing grants and visibility to innovation projects centered around the Global Goals. The projects receiving support from the Fund embody everything this festival was centered around — creativity, storytelling, campaigning, visualization, connections, mobilization and inclusion. Learn more about the Fund and our partnership!

I can't help but feel motivated to continue to increase young people’s knowledge about the Global Goals so the changes being demanded on the streets can be achieved by working with all sectors of society. It’s important for young advocates to understand the Global Goals, how they’re relevant to the causes they’re working to advance, and also the resources available to begin making change at the local level today!

The UN SDG Action Campaign worked hard and created a powerful storm of positive energy during this incredible Festival. Check out this video to get the full experience of this once in a lifetime opportunity! 

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