What we do
The SDG Solution Space is located in the heart of International Geneva and hosts a comprehensive education, innovation and research programme for the SDGs.
Geneva is home to 37 International Organizations (IOs), approximately 400 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and 176 Permanent Missions. This relatively small city of a million inhabitants, including suburbs in neighbouring France, is the most active centre of global governance in the world. It is also the European headquarters of the United Nations. The presence of these IOs, NGOs and Missions makes Geneva a recognized centre of expertise in the areas of multilateral initiatives for peace, security and disarmament, humanitarian affairs, migration and labour, economics and trade, science and telecommunications, health, environment and sustainable development.
The SDG Solution Space is just a few minutes walk away from the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), among many others.
The SDG Solution Space and the activities it hosts capitalize on this close proximity to the global policy centers, in order to build partnerships with IOs and NGOs for education, innovation and research.
The SDG Solution Space and the World
While the main focus of the SDG Solution Space is collaboration and innovation with partners in International Geneva, the impact of projects initiated in the space is often truly global. For example, the Open17 Challenge is an online coaching programme in collaboration with the social network for youth change-makers, Goodwall, which attracts millions of young people in Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia. The SDG Summer School explores Open Source solutions to health challenges, with partner sites in Paris, Seoul and Shenzhen.
The IHDS Master program includes hands-on workshops where students solve challenges in the field. For example, in the 2018 workshop on Human Development, students worked on two projects: one was dedicated to developing a mobile app to help farmers in rural Kenya to better cope with extreme climate events (see picture below); the other studied Indonesian workers on the crowdsourcing platform Go-Jek and came up with a set of policy recommendations and a short movie to raise awareness on issues faced by those workers. In both cases, understanding the problem meant going to gather data in the field.
As well as field trips associated with the hands-on workshops, there are internships and exchange programs that take students from the SDG Solution Space to the four corners of the planet. They come back enriched with a much better sense of what the challenges to human development and sustainabillity look like around the world, and buzzing with new ideas of how to solve them.
Origins of the SDG Solution Space: the Geneva Tsinghua Initiative
The SDG Solution Space owes its origins to the Geneva Tsinghua Initiative (GTI), a collaboration with International Geneva to establish the world’s first comprehensive education program for the SDGs, based on a unique partnership between the University of Geneva and Tsinghua University, China’s top university with its main campus in Beijing’s high-tech corridor, and a graduate campus in Shenzhen, heart of the Chinese manufacturing ecosystem. The GTI was launched as a five-year project in 2016 thanks to a generous seed grant from a Geneva-based foundation. The partnership with Tsinghua was established in January 2017, with President Xi Jinping of China and then President of the Swiss Confederation, Doris Leuthard, jointly witnessing the signing of a memorandum between Tsinghua University and University of Geneva on a comprehensive education program for the SDGs. The SDG Solution Space was inaugurated by University of Geneva in May 2017, as an innovation space with a Fab Lab, to host the novel hands-on and challenge-based education programs of the GTI.
The mission of the GTI education programs is to:
- Answer the aspirations of a generation that wants to contribute to solving major societal challenges based on the SDGs.
- Immerse students in two cultures, International Geneva and Entrepreneurial China, to teach them to think and act outside of their comfort zones.
- Develop novel teaching methods based on solving concrete problems in interdisciplinary teams, inspired in particular by experts from International Geneva.
- Prepare students for the transition from the academic world to a global economy transformed by digital technology and the challenges of sustainable development.
- Crystallize the convergence between international organizations, the academic world and the business sector.
Future of the SDG Solution Space: a hub of open innovation for International Geneva
In 2023, after seed funding expired, the SDG Solution Space began to operate based on a multi-user membership model, where University of Geneva still maintains an important stake and continues to operate the space. Increasingly, it is the go-to space in International Geneva when international organizations and NGOs need to develop new projects and plans in surroundings that are both inspiring and informal. Public and private sector institutions are also frequent users of the space, as are spin-off activities from the GTI, such as the Open Geneva Association. More information about the SDG Solution Space, its facilities and how to book it is available on this website in the dropdown menu item ‘Places’.