This is the what the Visualize 2030 Hackathon* is about — making data on sustainable development easy to understand and act upon for all, through using data and innovation to channel youth’s enthusiasm into producing visual stories addressing development challenges in the Arab region.

The second edition of Visualize 2030, held in 2018, brought together around 53 young people from across the Arab region and challenged them to use their creativity and data skills to bring the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals “SDGs” to life

Young participants formed 23 teams to search, review and analyze data on specific issues of their concern, linked to specific SDGs and local real-life challenge. They crafted impressive visual and audio data products, including animated infographics, virtual reality games, technologically-advanced videos and interactive presentations. Employing official data and statistics each visual product presented a powerful advocacy tool for action.

Each of the teams had no more than three minutes to convince a panel of experts that their ideas can truly bring about change in their communities, and beyond. The panel had the difficult task of selecting only 3 winners of this data and innovation challenge based on the creativity, innovation and evidence-base of their ideas.

Who were the winning visualizers then?

Gold — Hekaya, for smaller families.

Waleed (21), a graphic designer, Nosaiba (22), a nutritionist and Shehab (29), a data analyst from Sana’a, Yemen joined forces to promote the importance of family planning as key to ensuring better living conditions, for women and the entire family. They observed that large young families in their communities are strapped for resources, have limited educational opportunities, and healthcare providers struggle to meet their increasing needs.

They wanted to do something about it. Their winning video, “Hekaya” (Arabic for story) shows how Zahra, a 9-years old Yemeni girl was forced to abandon her education to get married, risk her life in a immediate, premature pregnancy and go on to mother 9 children by age 18. A fictional character, Zahra represents the reality of many girls in Yemen, where 23% of women are married before the age of 18.

With their video the Hekaya team aims to to raise awareness among local communities about family planning and increase utilization of family planning service from under 50% to at least 70% of Yemeni families.

But the challenge is huge. “Religious motives and tradition make families very resistant to change,” explains by Shehab. “When we talk to families about the importance of family planning, they react as if we are trying to take their right to give birth away from them.”

Waleed, Nosaiba, and Shehab, the Hekaya have no intention to give up. They are committed to producing more innovative evidence-based advocacy products and to mobilizing other young people like them to act in their communities, bringing the issue of family planning directly to all Yemenis, family by family, from door to door, until they see real change.

Silver: ArtMoony for a new Social Contract.

Sharing a passion for art, brothers Rayen (28) and Ranim (26) from Nabeul, Tunisia, drew with a pencil, stroke by stroke, each frame of their stop-motion video calling for a renewed and strengthened social contract in the country after the turmoil of the “Arab Spring.” One marked by greater trust between citizens and institutions and more responsiveness from the state. Yet, one main obstacle stands in the way: corruption.

“The Tunisian people deserve to know where national resources are allocated. If they are invested in their education, health and infrastructure. Or, if they are lost along the way to corruption” says Ranim. “Art is the perfect vehicle for delivering such a message, as it directly touches people’s hearts” adds Rayen.

Extracting data on government expenditures was their biggest challenge while preparing their video. They say that Tunisia lacks a culture of transparency, making information available to the public, especially when it comes to managing finances.

Yet, they were able to dig into the fiscal data officially published by the Ministry of Finance and in citizens’ perception surveys to argue that it is time to demonstrate efficient and transparent utilization of resources, to show citizens that national institutions listen to people’s voices and needs, and act upon them. This, for them, is the most efficient investment that can be made into revitalizing the social contract.

Rayen and Ranim hope that their video sends a clear message to national institutions to undertake necessary steps towards increased transparency on the management of public resources and finances.

They plan to make their art speak to everyone, promising to produce more advanced visual material targeting people in the most remote areas of the country.

Bronze: Act for Syria’s Children.

The children of Syria are facing unbearable consequences of a conflict that has led to massive destruction and displacement. “The future of those children is my major concern. 6.3 million people are internally displaced in Syria and 13.1 million people need humanitarian assistance — 53% of them are children,” says Dania’s (25), an applied chemist by training, living near Damascus who now works as a graphic designer. “It could have easily been me. My immediate neighbors, for instance, lost everything.”

Dania’s animated video is a call to action to save a generation of Syrian boys and girls inside the country and displaced in neighboring countries — facing poverty, physical violence, and absence of shelter.

Her video combines data, graphic animations and dramatic imagery to communicate the gravity and urgency of the situation.

It reminds the audience that one million children in Syria are orphans, two million are out of school and many are working in the streets as the provides for their poor families, like those we see begging or peddling gums and roses at traffic lights, but never pay attention to.

The video concludes with an appeal to our collective sense of moral outrage: “Those children who live in the streets, who are missing their education, what kind of future will they have? Who’s responsible for their fate? It will be our collective fault, if we don’t do anything” concludes Dania.

All are winners!

The remaining 20 Visualize 2030 teams covered a broad range of issues — reflecting their countries’ and the region’s priority development challenges, including: from youth unemployment to climate change, to unsustainable urbanization and poverty, and many more

  • Youth Unemployment as a major obstacle to empowerment: covered by Youth’d team from Lebanon and Envast from Tunisia;
  • Gender equality as a cornerstone to achieving the 2030 Agenda: covered by the videos of Fatma from Sudan and Rabab from Egypt;
  • Access to water in a region that hosts 14 of the world’s most water scarce countries: covered by the Fearless Dreamers and InfoTimes team from Egypt;
  • Transformation to renewable energies in a region that is heavily dependent on oil and gas: as covered by We Deserve It team from Oman and the ActGreen team from Syria;
  • Protecting children’s rights: covered by Our Rights Are Not Draft Laws team from Jordan and Gryffindor team from Algeria, who called for access to quality education for all; and
  • Conflicts and protracted crises that continue to ravage Arab countries such as Palestine and Yemen, as presented, respectively by Wedad and the 5 in 1 team.

These and all the other visual products may not have won a prize but they present tangible examples of youth commitment to make a difference in the lives of the people of the region.

With initiatives such as Visualize 2030, UNDP stands ready to advocate for and support a larger space for the active engagement of youth in their countries’ quest for a better and more sustainable future.

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