When I first started my internship with BCCIC, I did not know much about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and even less about the so-called ‘Movement Map’. The only map I knew of was Google Maps, which shows you how to get from one place to another or where the nearest coffee shop is. Turns out, if you change what you’re looking for, the Movement Map isn’t too different from Google’s ubiquitous offering. Replace the coffee shop with a non-profit, and an amazing cup of coffee with an SDG – et voilà, you have the Movement Map! (Can you tell I like coffee?!)
In 2015, when the Sustainable Development Goals were first announced, BCCIC staff members went out to different communities in BC to present the SDGs. We wanted to find out whether the SDGs could catalyze change at the local level… or whether the SDG framework was only useful in the context of international conversations.
During these roundtable discussions, community members connected existing programs or missions of organizations to the SDGs that seemed fitting. Surprisingly, almost every organization was already working on some kind of SDG, they just didn’t know it! Somebody even called the SDGs an ‘invisible mosaic,’ precisely because when organizations already working on these issues were introduced to the SDGs, it made previously invisible connections easier to grasp. Imagine – it’s like never knowing that your favourite coffee shop was just around the corner, before it’s finally illuminated on the map for you and others to try!
It was from these conversations that the map evolved, aiming to reveal to Canadians all the amazing work nonprofits and charities in their country are already doing on intersecting issues.
Also unknown to me was how much work and attention to detail is required to make a map as useful and valuable as it can be. Some might be familiar with the map and its features, but I am quite sure you are unaware of what it takes to maintain and improve it day after day. You can currently find over eleven thousand organizations on the map, and every single one of these is classified by an SDG, a Target, and a Sub-target. We read through organizations’ visions and mission statements, then take a deep dive into their projects. It takes time for sure, but what I love the most about this process is seeing all the creativity and engagement on key issues that exist out there. If you could only see half of what I have seen, you would be pretty impressed by the work of civil society organizations across Canada. It is even more amazing that, from time to time, people contact us asking if their submissions to the map were successful, because they are so excited to be part of this SDG ecosystem. This engagement with the map shows us that our work has been worthwhile.
We go through a classification process for each organization to ensure that people searching for an organization by name find that name in French, English, or by its acronym. If you want to find similar groups, you can search this way as well. And if you are looking for groups working on Quality Education, you will find 3,152 organizations working on education – and this number represents only those groups based in Canada that are working on SDG 4.
It’s been really exciting to watch us begin to map internationally as well. As I am from Germany, and I was even more excited that our first overseas mapping happened in Bremen, a city in the northern part of the country. I know that here in Canada the map gets quite a bit of publicity, but I would have never guessed that it had actually been noticed by a relatively small city in Germany. Thanks to that, the Movement Map went from being a Canadian resource to an international one. Honestly, it is a little overwhelming sometimes to think that, no matter where you are in the world, you can visit the map and even submit your own organization or any others one you know of. All you need to do is follow this link: https://map.bccic.ca/add-organization, fill out the form, and click ‘submit’.
You see, every feature the map has to offer is now globally-available and opens the door to so many amazing opportunities. From collaboration and sharing of resources between organizations, to unexpected partnerships and job opportunities for students like me who are constantly looking for new work experiences, the map has made an impact. It illustrates not only the work of NGOs and charities, but also creates a platform that allows all of us to work together on the journey to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Remember how I said our project was similar to a map of hidden coffee shops? Well, replace the coffee with an SDG and you have the Movement Map. You just might be surprised by how many different approaches organizations are taking and the diversity of projects out there, all to make the world a better place.
Antonia Schiller is a university student from Germany who made the long journey to Vancouver to complete a six month internship with BCCIC. Originally from Berlin, she moved to Marbug to study social science at Philipps-Universität Marburg. In her first semester, she joined Etudes Sans Frontieères – Studies Without Borders, an NGO dedicated to supporting students in conflict areas with scholarships or by contributing to reconstruction and reconciliation in their home countries. The aim of her time at BCCIC is to get an inside perspective into international work at the non-governmental level and to witness the impacts of working on the SDGs. While at BCCIC, Antonia’s research is focused on the Movement Map and on compiling data for the Kelowna ‘SDG Scorecards’ project.