Even during a pandemic and in the midst of their own academic responsibilities, BB&N students find a way to reach out beyond their own small sphere of experience to become leaders-in-training to solve global problems.
On November 7th and 8th, five BB&N students, Andri Kadaifciu '23, Kira Tian '22, Richelle Chang '24, Grace Lang '22, and Eizabeth Chin '23, attended the 2020 Student SDG Summit, hosted by Envoys, one of BB&N's educational travel partners.
SDG's, or Sustainable Development Goals, are the interlinked goals outlined by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. The aspiration is to achieve these goals by 2030. The Student SDG Summit brought together a diverse group of students to take part in designing, testing, and iterating solutions to some of the world's most intractable problems, such as ending poverty and hunger, expanding access to health, education, justice, jobs, and promoting inclusive and sustained economic growth, while protecting our planet from environmental degradation. While learning about the various global issues that gave rise to the SDG's, students learned about themselves and how they can harness their leadership to make sustainable changes in their communities.
Over the course of two days, cohorts of students from around the world gained inspiration from expert speakers and engaged together in a virtual collaboration. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to further their project ideas through the United Nations Association, allowing them to find more collaborators, present at UNA/UN conferences, and work on the SDGs in their local community with like-minded UN advocates.
The conference was comprehensive and inclusive. Students met virtually and discussed their unique communities and backgrounds, setting the stage for the sessions to follow. Initially, students created usable norms to aid their processes for collaborative work, and made visible their respective learning goals. They then heard about selected SDGs from subject-matter experts, including Fernando Reimers, Professor of Practice in International Education at Harvard School of Education. Students considered both the 'big picture' as well as examples of how real people and organizations on the ground make tangible progress around the world. Students then looked at existing models for accelerating progress on particular SDGs, analyzing their strengths and shortcomings.
Richelle Chang '24 learned as much about the process as the content of being a future change-maker. "I learned how to collaborate with others for our final presentation project, and I also really enjoyed listening to the guest speakers and their experiences. One of my most valuable takeaways from the SDG Student Summit is that I can create change. By learning specifically about others' experiences and also creating an action plan for an issue retaining SDG 16, I learned that we can all be a part of changing the world and help move us towards a positive direction."
After setting the stage for fruitful discussions, students then engaged in a 'remix' session to edit existing models to produce new creative works that expand on the strengths of those models and brainstorm new possibilities. Following a 'jigsaw' methodology, participants broke into groups to re-examine how their separate innovations were set up for success (or failure) according to cultural, psychological, institutional, professional, or political dimensions. Returning together, each group discussed how to adapt and expand on their designs in order to best ensure lasting change. Each team shared their work, noting both the results and crystallizing the lessons learned along the way.
As a final step, participants came together in an act of collective learning, setting out a declaration of beliefs and actions that every member commits to achieving in the time to come. Ultimately, the BB&N team presented their projects to UN Youth Observer Dustin Liu.
Kira Tian '22 was inspired by the summit. "It was amazing to hear from the guest speakers. They made me understand the things we must improve in the world, and what the SDGs are working towards: a better future. The first speaker, Fernando Reimers, was incredibly intelligent and very inspirational," she said. "Danyi Prieto talked to us about climate change and what we must do to combat it which was very informative. I also loved working and collaborating with my group to take climate action for SDG 13. It was awesome to become friends with people from all over the world, and put our heads together to figure out what we can do to combat the effects of transportation on the environment. It showed me that we, the youth of the world, can do anything and can think of amazing things to do to help make the world a better place!"
All of the BB&N participants found the conference inspiring and are wonderful ambassadors for more student involvement in the future:
Elizabeth Chin '23: "Don't be afraid to start small, you don't have to make a huge change in the world to be impactful."
Andri Kadaifciu '23: "We each play such an important part in shaping the world, we just have to realize it, lead by example, and use our power for good."
Grace Lang '22: "It was awesome to become friends with people from all over the world, and put our heads together to figure out what we can do to combat the effects of transportation on the environment. It showed me that we, the youth of the world, can do anything and can think of amazing things to do to help make the world a better place!"