Multi-colored balloons float high above an exhibition stand showing a simple, home-based solution to disinfect drinking water. Young men and women in T-shirts explain the newest app for connecting farmers to markets. A woman in a bright blue scarf hands out pencils and questionnaires about locally sourced fresh produce. A man wearing a blazer and bright yellow running shoes runs from one exhibition space to the other carrying banners and cut outs.
This is not your typical suit-and-tie, Geneva-based event focused on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And that’s the point: The Geneva Global Goals Innovation Day (g3id) aims to re-imagine what is possible when it comes to the implementation of the SDGs.
The mission of this one-day event is “radical purposeful collaboration to achieve the SDGs faster.”
“It’s more than just fun, it’s about awareness and engagement,” says Vivian Marcelino, co-president of G3id.
“In today’s world, people want information quickly and we will fail to reach people if we rely on old-fashioned speech. We know that the UN does more than print brochures. We encourage people to show their solutions in an interactive way.”
Throughout the day, demonstrations and pop-up events peppered the various rooms, with the appearance of spontaneous collaboration – a feeling that was well-designed by the organizers.
The SDG Solutions Fair is a showcase of scalable solutions to solve SDG-related challenges. The Solutions Fair features around 40 interactive stalls, all presenting their own innovative solutions. From sustainable local currencies to electric grids for refugee camps, eco-villages and robotics programming for children, this event inspires collaboration in a new and compelling way.
“Geneva is unique because there is so much going on around the SDGs, but we don’t know each other so well. So this event is about how we can find out what is happening and how we can work together,” says Vivian Marcelino, co-president of G3id.
For a UN-inspired event, there was less focus on talks and more on action.
Game playing, point scoring, competitions and interactive exhibitions are just part of the way that this event aims to inspire.
At one booth, LED Safari demonstrated how to create your own solar lamp using recycled materials. At another, the International Labour Organization ran a Fair Labour Interactive Game. A “Waste Game” helped to show the journey to zero waste as part of Future Camp’s mission to fast-forward sustainable lifestyles.
At the International Trade Centre (ITC) stand, several employees enthusiastically displayed their online trade tool for sustainable producers as well as the recent hackathon — deliciously termed ‘Chocothon’ — that they co-organized for cocoa producers in Ghana.
“This is not just about a new platform, but what it will enable,” says Sandra Cabrera, Advisor for the Voluntary Sustainability Standard and Value Chains at ITC. “It’s about where we are coming from and where we want to go.”
In a fully packed presentation space, Rob Hopkins, the founder of the Transition Town movement, talked about how to start a movement and the power of community-led change. Discussing his experience in Totnes, he was quick to point out, “it’s not just people sitting ‘round and talking. There’s enough of that… It’s about a new economic model of community ownership.”
Speaking to the crowd, Hopkins highlighted the important role of imagination.
“Imagining the future … what would it be like? If you have a powerful vision of where you’re going, it’s like a whirlpool. It will draw you in,” said Hopkins. “It’s a time to be as imaginative as possible. We have to imagine something beyond business as usual.”
Regarding the enormous challenges to achieve the SDGs, he said, “There is a lot to do to achieve the SDGs. The solutions come from people learning to work together.”