Rallying Civil Society to Foster the Next Generation of Purpose-Driven Innovators

This week, leaders from government, industry, academia, the startup ecosystem, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs),  along with purpose-driven citizens, gathered in Salt Lake City at the 68th United Nations (UN) Civil Society Conference for a global conversation on how to build inclusive and sustainable cities.

At the event, SAP Next-Gen program sessions inspired a movement to scale impact for the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Building Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and Communities

The UN highlights that today 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. That figure is expected to reach 68 percent by 2050. As the complexities of urban life grow, communities and local leaders must find sustainable solutions to issues ranging from poverty and inadequate housing, hunger and health, clean water, energy, environmental degradation, and climate change to infrastructure, transportation, education, migration, violence, and gender equality.

These and other challenges are interconnected with similar issues in rural areas and municipalities of all sizes, where activists and civil society organizations partner with governments and the private sector to support communities that are inclusive, equitable, and sustainable.

The 68th UN Civil Society Conference convened a global movement of purpose-driven leaders around the 17 UN SDGs, a blueprint for action, advocacy, and partnership as well as a compass to help ensure that no one is left behind, including the poor and vulnerable.

Reflecting Salt Lake City’s leadership and demonstrated commitment on sustainability issues, the conference focused on Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities: “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable by 2030.” The agenda explored the links among all 17 goals, including critical issues relating to gender.

“This was an opportunity for the UN to have a fresh conversation with a largely new group of civil society from the western U.S. and beyond about the SDGs,” said Jeff A. Brez, chief, Civil Society, Advocacy, and Special Events at the United Nations. “Youth had a strong presence and voice at the conference. Given the energy participants brought, we expect the outcome declarations to have an impact far beyond the conference.”

In addition to plenary sessions, the UN Civil Society Conference featured interactive thematic sessions, NGO-sponsored workshops, exhibits, and a youth hub. The SAP Next-Gen program hosted five sessions.

Reboot the Earth: Climate Action with UNTIL

Reboot the Earth is a global youth hackathon for climate solutions supported by SAP Next-Gen in collaboration with the UN Technology Innovation Labs (UNTIL). Conference attendees learned how the social coding event enables a global community of young people to develop disruptive solutions to climate challenges. The event brings young computer programmers, scientists, and others together under the auspices of the UN to improve upon or build a new software program addressing the current climate crisis. Through a series of tech challenges in four continents, as well as a virtual competition by UNTIL and a virtual contest sponsored by SAP featuring SAP Analytics Cloud, young people are presented with the opportunity to use open data and technology concepts to solve a local climate crisis that may be unique to each location and its community needs.

“UNTIL shares a joint mission with SAP to provide youth with resources, access to mentorship, and a platform to accelerate the achievement of the 17 SDGs,” said Dianne Dain, Global Partnerships, UNTIL. “The development of revolutionary ideas at scale will create opportunities to solve the climate crisis. Reboot the Earth mobilizes worldwide climate action among the next generation of innovators.”

“SAP Next-Gen brought a delegation of global faculty to the conference who seek to inspire new incentives and initiatives with partners in higher education,” said Ann Rosenberg, senior vice president and global head of SAP Next-Gen, SAP University Alliances, and UN Partnerships at SAP. “Faculty who teach sustainable development coursework in the classroom and encourage research and dissemination of knowledge linked to the SDGs empower the next generation of purpose-driven leaders.”

Galvanizing Cities as SDG First Startup Communities

Civil Society Conference participants heard how SAP Next-Gen supports the kickoff of the Startup Guide for Salt Lake City, which builds on the success of more than 25 Startup Guides from around the world while bringing a focus to the vibrant startup ecosystem in Utah. Featuring leaders in the local startup world, such as Silicon Slopes, the latest addition to the global series of guidebooks helps entrepreneurs navigate and connect with different startup scenes in Salt Lake City and the world.

“Silicon Slopes is excited to partner with Startup Guide and SAP Next-Gen,” said Clint Betts, executive director at Silicon Slopes. “The Startup Guide Salt Lake City will be an outstanding resource and we look forward to having it in people’s hands soon, to being part of growing the community of purpose-driven entrepreneurs in Utah, and to connecting to the global community of startups in the Startup Guide and SAP Next-Gen.”

Power of Sports to Unite Communities for SDGs

Conference attendees were also inspired by how sports can play a crucial role in the race against the clock to achieve the SDGs. One session covered how the UN and member states recognize sport as an important enabler of sustainable development through its promotion of peace, justice, strong institutions, and partnerships for SDGs 16 and 17; the empowerment of women and sustainable communities for SDGs 5 and 11; and for health, education and social inclusion objectives, and the reduction of inequalities for SDGs 3, 4, and 10.

SAP Next-Gen hosted two additional sessions: “Higher Education + Gender Equality in an SDG First World: SAP Next-Gen Academy” and “SDG Platforms: Measurements to Drive SDG Impact in the Public + Private Sector.”

Building on the momentum from the 68th UN Civil Society Conference, SAP Next-Gen will engage with purpose-driven partners during UN General Assembly week in New York City next month and accelerate a global movement to empower the next generation of changemakers for sustainable living.