In 2015 the UN, with input form 193 member states, developed the Sustainable Development Goals. These are 17 target areas that governments, businesses and people can align themselves under and focus their efforts to tackle the biggest challenges we face today so that we might have a better tomorrow.
In August 2016, 360 young leaders from around the world flew to New York to attend Merit360. This comprised of two weeks of inspiring talks, workshops and working together as a team to develop an action plan to present to the UN in New York. Each attendee applied to work on one of the 17 goals. I, and 21 others, chose to focus on SDG6: Clean Water and Sanitation.
We came together from 13 different countries, 5 continents, without knowing each other, but knowing we want to act, we want to make a change. So over two weeks we huddled together in a room, The Nook, to work on 3 components that would make up our action plan to tackle SDG6.
- Component 1: A marketing strategy to raise awareness for SDG6 around the world.
- Component 2: Explore existing projects (we do not need to reinvent the wheel); local and global, that solves one of the many issues faced within the water and sanitation sector.
- Component 3: Be entrepreneurs and create a new project that will contribute to reach the targets of SDG6.
This was very challenging: How do you make 22 previously-unknown-to-each-other individuals with different views, opinions and experiences agree on one single course of action? The answer: You don’t. Instead we embraced each other’s differences, and decided to act as 22 individuals with a single voice calling for change, calling for education, advocacy and action. We developed a global online platform called WASHable International. The aim is simple – to connect the problems of clean water and sanitation to the people with the skills to solve them.
We continue to develop this platform and are going through the process of registering as an official charity in the UK.
I learned so much over the two weeks in New York, not just about the SDGs but also about different cultures, different challenges and about myself. I have dramatically improved my pitching and presentation skills and way of working in complex teams.
I was given so many opportunities that I never thought I would have. I have pitched our organisation in the UN (video available here), I have played guitar and sung for 400 volunteers and I have made friends from all over the globe. I could not have done this without the support of the Happold Foundation and Buro Happold.
I am bringing all this learning back, and integrating it into my work. We are now looking at how Buro Happold and the projects we contribute to can help to achieve the SDGs, and I am carrying out workshops to raise awareness of these Global Goals, and why they need us.
Now, go onto your computer, and google the Sustainable Development Goals. Which ones do you think are most important in your community? How can you help tackle them? What do you want the future to look like?
Together, we can be the change we wish to see in the world.