CASE STUDY: University of Bergen, Day Zero at the SDG Conference Bergen

SDG Conference Bergen was launched by the University of Bergen, being planned in dialogue with other Norwegian universities, the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Local Government and Administration.

University of Bergen (UiB) was the first Norwegian university to institutionalize the 2030 Agenda. Thus, the university has organized SDG Conference Bergen annually since 2018, and the conference is designed as an academic festival with activities relevant to the 2030 Agenda and UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The motivation behind this conference relies on the challenges of achieving the SDGs and the overwhelming lack of progress in the first five years of the agenda’s implementation. UiB wants to bring optimism and increase commitment to the Agenda by presenting activities, initiatives, and ideas that support the SDGs’ achievement.

Topic (Completion)
Title SDG Conference Bergen
Location Norway & international guests
Time 2018-2021
SDG No Aiming to cover all of the SDGs, but every year the focus can change
Brief Description The project aims to engage universities, cross-sector stakeholders, and university students with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Every year the SDG Conference Bergen focuses on a specific theme around which all the conference activities are designed – panels, workshops, debates, competitions, lectures, case studies, etc. The conference is organized for three days in February, and it always starts with the Day Zero event organized as a festival of sustainable thinking. In 2020, The Day Zero included a special workshop dedicated to students, young people, about how students could live sustainably.
Beneficiaries Researchers, professors, university students, CSOs/NGOs, labor organizations, UN agencies, policy-makers, companies, etc.
Impact The main impact of the project can be seen in the following aspects:

  • Hundreds of researchers, professors, students, public officials, UN representatives from Norway and abroad engage in the conference every year;
  • SDG-oriented resources shared or developed during the event were made available to the public;
  • The event disseminated knowledge on the SDG among participants and to other stakeholders; 
  • It increased the SDG literacy among students and other participants;
  • The conference experts provided scientifically based knowledge for decision-making;
  • It strengthened the position of universities for SDG-related science funding. 
  • It brought changes in education given to prepare students to become leaders of the future, with a greater knowledge of the SDGs.
Social Innovation The challenge that the initiative took on was how to make SDGs relevant and integral part of universities by engaging many stakeholders, including young people and civil society. The high-level scientific approach the organization took was successful in keeping SDGs on the agenda of Norway. Regarding young people, the conference made students more aware of their own personal or scientific contribution to reaching the 2030 Agenda.
Constraints The conference has been working smoothly so far. According to the UN’s SDGs Partnership Platform (2020), the main challenges were given by the initiative’s early success that results in many requests for participation and cooperation, and high interest among students and scientists that strained the limited resources of the event’s secretariat.
Sustainability The project officially ends in 2021, but the UiB has announced to continue the initiative. UiB has launched the first three of several annual SDG-oriented courses (on SDGs 13, 14, and 15, respectively). After the 2020 event, the partner universities decided to develop a platform for sharing ideas and initiatives on SDGs that happen in their schools, research centers, and partnership with other stakeholders (UiB, Day Zero 2020 Report). The organizers also plan to launch SDG Bergen Policy Briefs aimed at decision-makers to achieve impact for peer-reviewed research.
Transferability – Replicability The project’s model can be easily replicated by other universities that could join the SDGs in Universities initiative. With researchers and students focusing their work and interests in the 2030 Agenda, and some in-kind contribution, the universities can bring together local, national, and international stakeholders and engage them in debates and initiatives aimed at promoting and contributing to the SDGs implementation.
Lessons Learned – Conclusions The whole conference’s concept is based on the principles of learning from each other and cross-disciplinary and cross-sector cooperation to enrich the debate and the contribution to SDGs. The strength of the conference resides in its diversity of actors involved.