How art is helping us promote the SDGs in Mongolia

BY Mariyam Nawaz | January 17, 2018|Comments 0

Curious onlookers stopped to watch graffiti artists including Heesco, Dasher, Risky, Ulaambayar and Degi paint the old wall of the United Nations House in bright colours. Each art piece, a unique and positive representation of the 17 Global Goals.

The urban art installation was the kickstart of our public awareness campaign on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Mongolia. Nine Mongolian artists helped us reaching the crowds: Sydney-based Mongolian artist Heesco, Ulaanbaatar’s female artist Boldbaatar Odonchimeg, Dashkhuu, Bilguunnaran, Ulambayar, Sodbayar, Tuguldur, Boldbayar and Enkhbat Michid.

It was set up on the Mongolian Youth Day (August) and the wall quickly became a landmark; everyone stopped to take a photo or two.

The masterminds behind the campaign was the United Nations Communications Group, a team comprised of all the communications specialists, from all UN agencies, working in Mongolia. Our idea was simple but challenging: tell people what the SDGs could represent to Mongolia and its young people, namely, because one in every three inhabitants in Ulaanbaatar is young.

Going for a spin around Ulaanbaatar to learn about the SDGs

As communicators, we know that a successful campaign is made up of different elements, and we started with the basics: we developed and distributed an action guide (in Mongolian) listing how citizens could contribute to the global agenda of Mongolia. This action guide, which is also available online, was printed and handed out at every event we held.

The great twist of using this guide was that we got celebrities to joined our efforts. Famous artists, journalists, models and athletes posted their photos on social media with SDG logos promoting the guide. Most of these celebrities were initially approached through a third-party media company who helped with the promotion of our campaign. With 1.1 million mongolians on networks like Facebook, social media was a key channel to spread the word. Thinking back, collaborating with celebrities in the country was essential to the success of the campaign.

In addition to the art wall, booklets, and famous people advocating for the SDGs, another highlight of our campaign was a big tour bus that stopped in three different parts of the capital city. We were inspired by the Belarus train. If you haven’t seen this amazing initiative, you can check the blog here. We set up a registration link for people to sign up online and, with the support of our UN Young Advisory Panel, selected 35 people to come along, as well as media representatives and performers.

And the journey begins…

On October 1 2017, our seven months months of hard work, came to fruition: 35 people at the UN House hopped on the SDGs-branded bus that looks like a bandwagon. The first stop was the Ger district. Staff from UNICEF, UN-Habitat and ILO greeted everyone.

Young singers from the Music and Dance Conservatory Mongolia, Enhlen Altandul, and Tengis Tserenbat won people’s hearts with their outstanding  performances. Our SDG photo frame got popular and people lined up to take photos to share in social media. Meanwhile, face painters placed streaks of red, blue and yellow paint on children’s faces as they skillfully drew SDG logos on their cheeks.

After the one hour show, we drove to the most central location in Ulaanbaatar; the State Department Store, where we displayed calls for action on big standees and an SDGs photo booth. Colleagues from UNFPA, WHO and UNESCO led the way at this hub. Youth organizations including AIESEC and the Centre for Citizenship Education joined and helped make drawings on the SDGs. A young baker sold cupcakes with SDGs logos on them. The famous actor, Orgil Makhaan addressed the audience and invited everyone to take part in the country’s development.

The last stop was the Light Street, which was organized by UNDP, FAO and IOM teams. The UN Resident Coordinator in Mongolia, Ms. Beate Trankmann,  joined the public too. Small children from Kung-Fu school performed and the bus tour ended, successfully.

To sustain the buzz, we placed sixty small billboards with “Your Participation is Important” as a call of action across the city for 15 days. The QR code on the board directed people to the action booklet.

Our campaign ended on a high note on October 24, which is UN Day. For this occasion, we developed a SDGs Cartoon brochure that tells the story of Mongolia and the SDGs. People loved it. Through the combination of social media engagement and activities like the bus tour, flashmob, and the SDGs wall, we reached more than 160,000 people of all ages.

Thousands of people were reached and engaged through outdoor events, display of SDGs message on billboards, online initiatives (33,769 people engaged through blogs and stories, 78,000 on Facebook and 52,900 impressions on Twitter) and distribution of material across the country through the National Statistics Office.

Traditional and new media also played an important part in getting our messages across. Leading bloggers published their stories in Yolo and UNREAD. The leading magazine Mongolian Observer did a cover story on SDGs and UN in Mongolia dedicating 17 pages.

The road to success  

For us at the UN in Mongolia, this campaign was a combination of success and a starting point to continue the conversation around the SDGs. Everyone at the UN in Mongolia poured their hearts to make this campaign happen, our colleagues’ energy was unstoppable! One of the things that really inspired us and fueled our energy was the amount of people (more than 40!) that showed up and volunteered, one way or the other, during the different activities of the campaign.

One of the key achievements of the campaign, besides the tremendous outreach and engagement of public online and in events, was the establishment of a “SDGs supporter network” of media, bloggers, young volunteers and celebrities in the country.

A big challenge that we faced through this journey was finding common grounds for each UN agency to contribute to the campaign. Each agency has its own mandates and core mission, so we invested time in coordinating our efforts to agree on a campaign strategy that helped us create clear guidelines on key messages, branding, hashtags, visibility and roles/responsibilities.

Having said that, by far the best thing of all was to see the way artists used their talents to advocate for our campaign. I believe that somehow, we tend to underestimate people’s capacity to understand sustainable development. Thanks to this campaign, I got to see firsthand how passionate people are about making their country a better place for everyone.

Watch this space for more, we’ve got more initiatives in the works! http://www.un-mongolia.mn/new/

Authors


Mariyam Nawaz Mariyam is UN Communications Analyst at the UN Resident Coordinator Office in Mongolia. You can follow her on Twitter.

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