“To do the same thing over and over again and expect different results is the pure definition of insanity”.
This famous quote, a legacy of Einstein, is not only a call for us to take a different course outside conference rooms where the gatherings of policy makers and the development community are held. It is also a call for change in the way we organize and structure our discourse and interactions inside these hall rooms.
This is precisely what the Global Festival of Ideas, Ideas for Sustainable Development was organized for. It was designed to give space to everyone to share his or her idea, to prioritize dialogue between audience and speakers, over monologue, to challenge the idea of lecture-type one hour long PowerPoints, and to give an equal opportunity for youth to speak on behalf of themselves alongside the more experienced participants. Dare I say that this development conference was designed to disrupt the norm, at this conference, all types of people from high-level politicians to grassroot organisations and volunteers met on an equal field to celebrate new, innovative, transformative and creative solutions.
Although not the main target group, youth somehow popped up in almost every forum. Uchita de Zoysa, Sustainable Development Advisor from Sri Lanka, enthusiastically emphasised that youth must be invited to officially become a part of the sustainable development team of experts. Not only because they will soon take over the torch, but because they possess the crucial ideas and transformative solutions if we are to become successful with our ambitious agenda.
In addition to the fantastic ideas and solutions raised by youth and other participants during the three days, the organisers had developed the 2030 Hive Mind game which encouraged us to interact and invest in fictive policies to address urgent development issues. I championed SDG 3 - Good health and wellbeing during the first day by investing in, and finding support for policies to end malnutrition, increase universal access to healthcare and more. Eventually, others caught up with my efforts. Do not get me wrong - by the end of the Festival in a fictive year 2030, we had collectively achieved over half of the SDGs! The result of the game calls for celebration, but also alarms us to step out of our comfort zones now if we are to sincerely realise our ambitious agenda. Again, this is what many of the key note speakers pushed for, to get off our computers and comfy couches, and find solutions on the ground together, with people.
I could not have celebrated the beginning of March in a better way than with equals from all corners of the world sharing one floor and one goal - to celebrate new thinking for sustainable development. I will leave you with two inspirational quotes from the Festival, and then get off my computer and get to action!
“We must use the power in the people to challenge the people in power” - Kumi Naidoo, Launch Director, Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Security
“The smartest and quickest way to achieve the SDGs is by investing in the education, employment and empowerment of girls and women” - Alaa Murabit, SDG Advocate