Case Study: Global Festival of Action 2019

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June 30, 2019

At Unity Effect, we see the Sustainable Development Goals as a crucial framework to tackle our current challenges and support meaningful change. We also see the potential of events such as the SDG Global Festival of Action to bring together actors from across diverse fields and sectors.

Because of this, we were driven to create a platform which would allow actors to connect more deliberately, with the intention of catalysing collaboration and action during and beyond the festival, and in doing so unlock the significant potential within people, organisations and the network to drive change.

The importance of visualising networks 

How are actors distributed across the SDG ecosystem? Which SDG are they working on? Which skills and resources are most needed within the SDG network? What are possible leverage points for joint action and strategic planning? These are some of the questions we addressed in our report after conducting  a live social network mapping of 227 festival participants.

The Unity Effect booth at the Global Festival of Action.

The digital tool we developed and used was designed to provide the organisation and attendees with valuable information about their existing and potential key partners, together with a real time visualisation of the network and its dynamic and unfolding connections. 

More specifically, the network map shows the connections between participants as well as the SDGs each person is working on (maximum 3 per person), skills offered and skills needed. The purpose of visualising the network in this way was to: 

  • enable participants to connect and collaborate more deliberately throughout and beyond the festival, and 
  • provide a way for  the system to see itself; to identify blind spots, opportunities for strategic planning and action, and leverage points for change.
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The data collected through the map provides insights into which SDGs are most and least selected. It visualises the overlaps (or lack thereof) between different SDGs, where multiple people were working on the same combination of SDGs. These overlaps can be seen as bridges and potential clusters for innovation. Further, it highlights the skills which are offered and needed in the network and where there is a discrepancy between the demand and availability of certain skills. 

The most popular SDG triangle selected by participants.

Most importantly, the map was used by participants throughout the festival itself to reach out intentionally to others. This addressed the challenge of finding people with similar or complementary interests and expertise during a fast-paced event. Further, by displaying the map within the conference venue, participants had the opportunity to zoom out and see the conference as a social network, locate themselves within it, and understand what their personal contribution to the network might be. 

Overall, the live mapping both incentivised deliberate interaction throughout the festival and provided strategic insights into the network structure for further strategic planning and action steps beyond the festival. 

The findings - now available to the general public - confirm that network visualisation is a powerful tool to explore the relationships which exist within a network, which are otherwise hidden.

You can access the complete report here (

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