Guest post by Chiara Popplewell, Director of Public Outreach | Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ireland.
This year, Irish Aid took the SDGs to where people have fun: Electric Picnic, Ireland’s biggest music festival. The festival was an opportunity to show over 50,000 music lovers how Irish Aid is working to implement the SDGs, and how they can support the goals themselves.
The Irish Aid stand, part of the festival’s “Going Green” area, invited passers-by to engage with the SDGs in very physical ways, by scoring a Dizzy Goal, playing SDG hopscotch or SDG Twister, taking selfies and videos, and exploring our SDG-themed world map. The idea was that more physical interaction be more memorable.
Through Dizzy Goals, we invited visitors to score a goal for sustainable development and film the outcome. We then asked them to write on a card one way in which their personal actions could contribute to the SDGs. We hung these cards on our stand.
For the SDG Twister, we replaced the usual colours with different SDGs. To play, people had to call out the goals loudly and listen out for them – a great tool to help them remember individual goals. The pictures made for great social media content, with people ‘reaching’ or ‘stretching’ for the SDGs.
The SDG World Map helped show how Irish Aid projects are linked to the Global Goals. We focused on themes like enterprise, innovation and partnership, rather than more well-known forms of development assistance. Visitors learned about specific goals and projects by reading stories about how individuals and communities had benefited from, for example, water distribution services; solar panels; crop diversification. We also invited participants to choose their favourite goal.
Lessons and insights for communicators:
We engaged directly with over 1,000 people, mostly aged 18-30. An overwhelming majority were positively disposed to the SDGs, but not necessarily familiar with them. People who visited our stand in the “Global Green” area were likely to know the goals, but SDG awareness dropped to less than 5% when we went to other festival areas.
We received great feedback: almost everyone wanted to get involved in a game or activity, and appreciated what they had learned about the goals. Several wanted to contribute, financially or otherwise.
We learned that it is important to reach beyond our usual networks, and to spread our messages through portable and familiar activities like soccer and Twister. The challenge is to turn familiarity with the game into an understanding of the topic. We achieved this by explaining each of the goals, handing out postcards and other small souvenirs, and asking visitors to make their own commitments.
As SDG communicators, we need to inhabit the space where our target audiences are already to be found.