There are probably not many Amsterdam citizens who have heard of the UN sustainable development goals. But thousands of people in Amsterdam are using their time, their job, their business, their education, their money or their talents to make their city better. Many may be working on the sustainable development goals without even realizing it.
What if we let these people tell their story:
- what made them choose this work or task?
- what is their ideal?
- why do they think this is relevant for Amsterdam?
- what are they getting out of it?
- what values or traditions are they bringing to the job?
- what is their most pressing need?
- what UN sustainable development goal are they working towards?
These will be brief stories – just long enough to offer some inspiration, some entertainment, some insights and to show how the sustainable development goals translate into local action.
The City of Amsterdam 'is specifically interested in initiatives that focus on diversity and inclusion.'
This is a very good idea - after all, Amsterdam is a diverse city. Different groups may have different issues they care about. Different cultures also have different values and different traditions for solving problems. In Africa they have Ubuntu, the Chinese have the Tao and Confucianism, in the Netherlands we have the Poldermodel.
If diversity causes problems it is often because people can't relate to those differences.The stories will show that there are many ways to solve problems, and that they all have value.
Showing these different traditions may even result in people adopting each others practices. Perhaps some Dutch folks will conclude: 'well, we might try some of that Ubuntu ourselves!' Perhaps some Amsterdammers of non--European descent will discover similarities between their own traditions and the Poldermodel.
The stories will also show that the SDG's are not the exclusive domain of policy makers, NGO's or the higher educated, but that every citizen with an ideal can make a contribution.
Some ideas for stories:
- a senior citizen participating in a stadsdorp (neighborhood community for the elderly) SDG 11,3
- the chairwoman of a migrant organisation that helps its members find their way in Dutch society SDG 10,8
- the city ecologist working on protecting birds and plants in the city SDG 14,15
- a student social & legal services who helps people with their paperwork SDG 1,4,10
- an inventor working on the energy transition SDG 7,12,13
- an school teacher running a diverse classroom SDG 4,8,10
- a volunteer organizing a community garden SDG 11,13,15,3
- a Philips employee working on SDG 12 'responsible production and consumption'
Each time a set of stories is written, the protagonists will be put in a focus group to read each others stories, reflect, exchange ideas and discuss how best to disseminate the stories in their own constituency.
The stories will be distributed by the City of Amsterdam. Since different citizen groups use different media, a broad variety of channels and media will be required.
The city wishes to 'use technology and social media to reach a bigger audience, ideally with self-sufficiency and continuity built in'. This can be achieved by opening up the city's social media channels for people to post their own stories.
When developing this solution, these are the criteria of the City of Amsterdam that I kept in mind:
- the city wishes to educate and engage citizens
- wants to see ideas and perspectives from different actors and different parts of the city
- is interested in initiatives that focus on diversity and inclusion
- wants to use technology and social media to reach a bigger audience
- wishes to link actors that are less likely to work together
- focuses on deploying within 6 months but with a longer term perspective and built in self-sufficiency and continuity
I would like to add that citizen idealism is a very old Amsterdam tradition. The street gardens you see everywhere started when people just pulled out the pavement to plant climbing roses. Initially the municipality responded by pulling out the roses but they soon realized that these little gardens were actually a very good idea. Now anybody wishing to start a street garden can get help from the municipality.
The stories will present the city in all its diversity and show that all Amsterdam citizens who pursue an ideal are part of a local, but also of a truly global movement.