Winners of the first United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Action Awards announced

The Awards Ceremony honored winners in seven categories during the Global Festival of Action for Sustainable Development in Bonn, Germany, highlighting transformative action for the SDGs around the world

March 21, 2018 (Bonn) – The winners of the first United Nations SDG Action Awards have been announced this Wednesday by the UN SDG Action Campaign, demonstrating the extraordinary momentum towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in different corners of the earth.

See photos of the Awards Ceremony

The Awards Ceremony was held in tandem with the second edition of the Global Festival of Action for Sustainable Development in Bonn, Germany, and honored initiatives in the categories of communicator, connector, includer, innovator, mobilizer, storyteller, and visualizer.

“These are ‘Action’ Awards because we need more than words: our winners dared to believe and act for change. They are perfect examples of the wonderful work that’s happening around the world led by thousands, if not millions, of people”, said Mitchell Toomey, Global Director of the UN SDG Action Campaign.

The winning initiatives are fighting corruption in Nigeria, mobilizing Belgians to implement the SDGs in their daily lives, empowering children through photography and digital skills in Bangladesh, promoting human rights education in Sri Lanka and much more. Evidencing the multi-sectoral engagement to achieve the SDGs, the winners span over private and public sectors, as well as civil society and grassroots movements.

Over 700 nominations from 125 countries in 7 continents were submitted. An expert judging panel evaluated submissions against the degree to which actions were deemed to be transformative, inclusive and impactful.

In addition, an open vote was held on the website of the UN SDG Action Campaign where visitors could rate their favorite among the 38 finalists to win the People’s Choice Award.

“Great solutions for the world’s challenges can come from anywhere. We hope everyone is inspired by these stories and consider submitting their nominations for future Awards. These are the first winners of a community that will continue to grow”, said Toomey.


The UN SDG Action Campaign is a special initiative of the UN-Secretary General, administered by the UNDP to create awareness about the 2030 Agenda, empower and inspire people across the world to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while generating political will, and help make the Goals attainable by 2030. For more information, please visit


The Global Festival of Action for Sustainable Development is the world´s annual event to celebrate, empower, and connect the global community driving Action for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Organised by the UN SDG Action Campaign with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Festival connects an inspiring mix of business leaders, activists, UN representatives, academia, governments, innovators, global organisations, and the media from across the globe. Taking place in Bonn each year, the Festival provides a dynamic and interactive space to showcase the latest innovations, tools, and approaches to SDG action and connect organizations and individuals from different sectors and regions to exchange, build partnerships, and make the impact of their solutions scale.

Project Vayati

Bernie is a transgender and whishes to work as designer (and that is still a challenge)

Bernie is a transgender and wants to work as a designer (and that is still a challenge)

Supriya and Amulya want to work as receptionists, Maya and Bernie as designers, Dimple as a gardener and Prashant as a social worker. They are transgender individuals and their dreams are sadly still a challenge because of that. Transgender people appear faceless to us, but each of them have a story to tell—of discrimination and violence. But also of determination and hope. Families reject them, schools dismiss them, employers shun them, hospitals discriminate against them, and society is hostile towards them. Change is happening, but not fast enough.

Project Vayati brings members of the transgender community into the mainstream by helping them find appropriate jobs in the formal sector. This approach was considered too radically inclusive but in 2017, the company Egomonk collaborated with Solidarity Foundation and Interweave to support 15 members of the LGBTIQA community as they went through an intense 12-day program at the Don Bosco Skills Mission in Bangalore, India. These individuals decided to join the Vayati project so they could defy the odds stacked against them. They made the choice to escape begging, sex work and numerous other challenging situations, and instead use their skills so they could lead lives grounded in their individual courage and passion.

Their efforts were rewarded as all 15 individuals were able to secure formal sector employment with two joining the Don Bosco Skills Mission itself as trainers. All of us are entitled to live the life we aspire to lead, and the changemaker behind this project are glad to have been able to support the hopes and ambitions of these individuals.

However, this is just the start because now that they have been able to demonstrate that this methodology of self-empowerment works best to support marginalized communities, they are hoping to both scale up as well as open-source it so that local non-profits and civil society organizations all over the world can adopt this to serve others.

Who is behind this?

Sartaj Anand

“Home” the movie

There is no way you know first hand stories from refugees and you remain doing nothing

There is no way you can know first-hand stories of refugees and keep doing nothing

Director Daniel Mulloy said: “My partner’s own experience as a refugee, the most personal to me, combined with the thought of the young family I had met, almost a year earlier guided ‘HOME’ at every stage.” With the project “HOME” the team was sending two different messages: A humanitarian message – to serve as a global call to all governments and societies to tackle the current migration and refugee crisis from a humanitarian perspective- and a development message – to showcase Kosovo as a place with talent, capacity and many young professionals who crave a platform or opportunity to produce wonderful  cinematic art, and thus make Kosovo an attractive place for the film industry.

Kosovo does not only need to create more jobs for young professionals, but also to diversify its portfolio. The best example is Production Designer, Ms. Mrinë Godanca and Art Director, Ms. Elmedinë Morina, who have put together the two most difficult sets that made the movie so original. They were architecture students at the time, they have now gone on to be architects and highly sought after as set designers. British artist, Isaac Gracie, did a video in Kosovo and the project´s set designers were doing sets for the video. Many other artists got more opportunities.

The production of “Home” was completed right before the SDGs were finalized and launched, but the team already knew most of the inputs into SDGs, hence the finalized product encompasses issues covered about 7 different goals. Probably no other UN entity tried such a complicated engagement of a multitude of stakeholders for a communications product of this level.

The movie HOME, including production, promotion and screening touched the lives of millions of people; whether they have seen it in the theatre, Vimeo, BBC iPlayer or in different TV stations. Initially, it was connected to the #with refugee’s petition and it not only serves to elicit empathy from viewers and humanize refugees, it also reminds viewers of the horrors of conflict including: sexual violence in conflict, food scarcity in conflict regions, suffering of children, etc.

Due to the success of “HOME”, the distribution partner, New Europa Cinema, estimates that the movie will generate  revenues for the next 5-6 years. The UNDC Office intends to utilize these revenues for financing similar projects. With regards to the movie “HOME”, the team plans to release it free to air soon, once the conditions allow for it to be viewed by all that have access to internet.

Who is behind this?


For more information:


Beat Explorers

Parents think you are receiving lessons, you think you are beatboxing (and everyone is right)

Parents think you are in therapy, you think you are beatboxing (and everyone is right)

Take, for example, this problem: Young people in need of speech therapy know that speech therapy is hard. It is a frustrating and difficult process especially when trying to carry over lessons into real speech improvement and eventual independence. Many of the existing teaching methods themselves are in fact, effective, however they are also uninspiring, often failing to intrinsically motivate the student to want to improve him/herself. The students are bored to tears during their speech therapy sessions, but they do it because ultimately it is necessary and it does work.

However, this initiative has a transformative magic program improving this therapy through beatboxing. The changemakers behind the project imagined a tool, a technology, to make speech therapy fun, interactive, and creatively empowering. The impact of this curriculum may disrupt the entire field and positively affect the lives of tens of millions of young people. One student in particular, Diego (7 years old), joined the sessions with several articulation issues, but left with those issues markedly improved. To him, he was just beatboxing. But to his parents and doctors, he had adopted a set of practices that improved his speech. This is a vibrant arts education nonprofit organization that empowers youth and artists by creating solutions to real-world issues through creative self-expression rooted in Hip Hop culture.

The problem that this initiative is solving is a problem of accessibility. In this day and age, there are no boundaries to information. However, making information appealing and engaging is another struggle entirely. Our organization focuses on activities and art forms that youth find inherently fun to solve real world problems. Now, the next challenges of the project are growth, scalability, and sustainability. Specifically, the entrepreneurs are designing a set of online lesson plans and games that use beatboxing, verbal expression, and music as tools for speech therapy. But they are also growing programming that teach nutrition and healthy living through bboying/bgirling. This programming can actually be used to get youth engaged with any of the SDGs. While making art is the core of all of our curricula, the goal can be changed for any program’s specific needs.


Who is behind this?

James Kim

For more information:


Daughters of Bangladesh

This initiative gave tools to five daughters of garment workers aged between 7 and 15 to explain their daily lives in a short-film documentary. Over 4 days in March 2017 they compiled enough material to raise awareness on crucial issues like the supply chain transparency and the need for empowerment of women and girls.

This initiative gave tools to five daughters of garment workers aged between 7 and 15 to explain their daily lives in a short-film documentary. Over 4 days in March 2017 they compiled enough material to raise awareness on crucial issues like the supply chain transparency and the need for empowerment of women and girls.

Remember the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka? When this tragedy occurred, many media published stories condemning the subhuman conditions of the garment workers, until then overlooked. Now it’s been almost 5 years and we see that little has been done in spite of all the rhetoric by businesses and governments. The stories told by journalists have not had the expected impact BUT… what is the result when the power of storytelling is in the hands of the people in the field?

Having the girls as the directors and protagonists of the film allows viewers to understand the challenges in their lives.  It shows how the seemingly harmless appearance of 5 girls can be transformed into an advocacy weapon, as the documentary is being screened in many cities around the globe.

Today, there are people that know the story of Hafiza, whose mother works in a garment factory but fell ill. This unfortunate situation has left all care responsibilities for the family to the young girl, who also takes care of her younger brother. They can’t watch TV at home as her mother suffers from a hearing problem caused by noise pollution in the factory. Through this video journalism project, not only she is able to gain confidence to speak publicly for the first time during the documentary screening in Dhaka, but she has also been able to develop a close friendship with other girls in the programme, and to acquire digital and filmmaking skills which can help her in her future career. Unfortunately, Bangladesh is only one of the many countries impacted by unfair garment production so this project could be replicated in other countries such as India, Indonesia and Cambodia to scale up its impact.

Who is behind this?

Bonnie Chiu

For more information: