This is a guest post by Áslaug Karen Jóhannsdóttir, Specialist at the Communications and Public Diplomacy Department, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland.
Elíza Gígja Ómarsdóttir is a typical 15-year-old girl from Iceland. She plays soccer with her local team, hangs out with her friends and loves Harry Potter. Growing up in the sixth most developed country in the world, according to UN’s Human Development Index, extreme poverty and a lack of access to clean water was a distant reality to her – until she visited parts of Uganda.
In 2018, Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs teamed up with the advertising agency “Hvíta húsið” and RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, to produce a documentary series: “Elíza’s Global Goals”. The series follows Elíza on her trip to Uganda. Using the SDGs as a roadmap, she compares her daily life to the lives of Peace and Lafita. Peace is from a fishing village in the Buikwe district, while Lafita lives in Kampala, Uganda’s capital.
In the first episode, we see how Elíza prepares for the journey and begins learning about the SDGs.
In the second, we meet Peace. The two girls attend classes, play sports and music, and visit Peace’s home. In the final episode, Elíza meets Lafita in Kampala. They hang out in the food market, Lafita’s school and a mall. Elíza also visits the Rubaga slum in Kampala.
The aim of the project was to raise awareness in Iceland about the SDGs, and about the need for a global partnership to achieve the goals.
Seen through Elíza’s eyes – experiencing poverty, a lack of clean water, and a lack of quality education for the first time – the story is both sincere and impactful. Despite their differences, the teenagers are able to connect over common aspects of their lives.
“Though my life and [Peace’s] life are very different, there are many similarities too. We both have a family and go to school. We have friends. And we both have dreams”, says Elíza.
The storytelling technique we used is common among influencers on social media – with the main character having a conversation to the audience through the camera. The main target group was children and young people in Iceland – so having a peer tell the story was vital.
The three episodes were broadcast on RÚV in December 2018. Simultaneously, we distributed videos, photos and trivia about the SDGs through social media.
Results and lessons learned
The shows received very good ratings (up to 25.6% average reach among 12-80 years olds). In May 2018 (i.e. before the broadcast), 57% of Icelanders either knew or had heard of the SDGs. In February 2019, awareness had risen to 65.6%, so almost two thirds of the Icelandic population now know about the SDGs.
We also expect longer-term impact, since numerous elementary school teachers have chosen to use the series to help educate students about the SDGs and international development cooperation.
In our next campaign, we plan to put even more emphasis on the educational part of our communication by developing teaching materials for schools. We have found that using humour in parallel with facts is a good way to get people familiar with the SDGs and we will continue to use that method in our future communication activities.
We look forward to engaging even more citizens. The Report of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland to the Parliament 2019 confirms that communication efforts on international development cooperation and the SDGs will be increased.