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Last week I attended the 63rd Annual UN DPI/NGO conference in Melbourne, Australia. This year’s theme was Advance Global Health: Achieve the MDGs. The MDGs are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include reducing extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development. I know a lot about the 5th goal, improving Maternal Health, and in my opinion, it stands as the most important, but I shall not go into my rant.

The conference took place over 3 days at the Melbourne Convention Centre, a BEAUTIFUL building in Melbourne’s South Warf. I took many photos (below) of the space because I loved it so much. Everyday the conference would start with a round table discussion with important NGO (non-government organizations aka non-profits) leaders, and they would discuss issues around achieving the MDGs, and issues particular to their NGO and region. Some of these talks were more successful than others, a few ended up being pretty boring to be honest, and were not inspiring. The audience question portion was usually interesting as people would pretend to have questions and either a) provide a lengthy speech about their NGO or b) criticize the UN and their lack of efforts. It was nice to see the Conference opening the floor up to suggestion and question though.

Throughout the day there would be workshops, lunch breaks, and afternoons teas, where we could network. I gave out TONS of Art Center brochures, and directed lots of people to the Pratt booth. I kept wondering how to frame my purpose for attending the conference. I’m not in an NGO, I’m not in public health, never been to a developing nation, etc … so I ended up making the case for collaboration. NGOs have amazing content and do amazing work. Partnering with designers and artists can take their work to another level and space. Entire new audiences can be created, and since our job is to communicate effectively, working together would help NGOs better do that.

A lot of people loved both projects, and had never thought about reaching out the design community. Many were excited about the opportunity to work with students, and get their messages out there. I joked with a friend that I felt like an ambassador of design, but in reality, that’s pretty much what I did. Most of the free time at the conference was set up for networking, and I did a hell of a lot of that. My favorite part of the Conference were the Youth Breakfasts, each morning at 7am (i had to wake up at 6am EVERY day of the trip) where we met our peers, and enjoyed FREE breakfast while talking about our work, and how youth can get more involved. I’m so thankful to my friend Kelly and her team putting those together.

Now onto the photos … I’ll do another post later reflecting on outcomes of the conference, once I present this stuff to Pratt, and get their feedback.

Screen shot from the Melbourne Convention Centre’s website … cool place (minus not having working wireless internet).

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