Martin Samaan: Bringing the UN SDGs to People on a Different Level
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the change-making leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Martin Samaan, the lead for communications of the UN SDG Action Campaign. Let’s see what he is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Martin! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your organization?
Martin: Happy to be with you, Spiffy! In my work, I lead a team of seven communications specialists to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our challenges include how to communicate the SDGs to people in an exciting way and get them to understand that each of us has a role to play in helping the SDGs succeed. People taking action is our main focus, and we do that by developing key messages that will help drive our campaigns. We identify ways to do this via special events, social media, and engagement of partners all around the world. Our work is multilingual, and we brief partners on how to use all our assets for their own means, allowing them to customize them to fit their audience. If the message resonates and inspires people, there is no limit to what we can achieve together.
Spiffy: Awesome! What motivates you to do it?
Martin: I was always interested in communication, whether it was through photography, film, or graphic design. My career shifted from designing the work to communicating visually—I ultimately realized I wanted to work on the messaging behind the design, not just the design itself. I have been lucky that I have worked in amazing teams over the years, with really great supervisors who encouraged me. I have never lost my ambition for learning new skills, working with teams, and connecting people. I am motivated by seeing ideas come into fruition, in whatever shape they come. With changing technologies and virtual events and so on, there is always something new to learn and exciting people to meet.
Spiffy: That is exciting. What is the impact of your work?
Martin: I believe my work helps enhance the SDG agenda by bringing it to people on a different level. We make them understand how everything is connected and the part they have to play in the process. When I worked on the ActNow climate campaign for the UN, the team had to make very clear the impact your individual choices make, and that you alone can change your behavior. Of course, we need to inspire other people to do it as well so we can multiply that change. Raising awareness of global issues has been part of my work since day one, and it is very satisfying when people respond to a message, a design, or an event. You get to see conversations grow from the work you have done.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone or initiative by you or your organization. What impact does that make?
Martin: We do so much in the UN SDG Action Campaign that is exciting. Recent milestones include having 24,000 virtual participants in last year's SDG Global Festival of Action, organizing a live concert in Milan, Italy, accumulating 100 million actions during last year's Global Week to #Act4SDGs (which we are hoping to exceed this year!), and so on. We inspire people to take action that creates real-life impact, and we recognize change-makers across the world during the UN SDG Action Awards every year. This helps showcase the amazing work from people and organizations all around the world, and we thrive on bringing this to global attention.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Martin: Based on my personal experience, I would just encourage your audience members to always find something that inspires them and excites them. Life is too short to spend time on something you don't like. Always learn new skills and find good people to work with.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Martin—it’s been an honor!
Martin Samaan is lead for communications of the UN SDG Action Campaign in Bonn, Germany, focusing on developing and implementing multilingual global communications campaigns across all mediums, including live and hybrid events. He has extensive experience in public information and was formerly digital communications strategist at the United Nations headquarters. He has a background in film, video, photography, graphic design, as well as visual and digital communications. (Nominated by the Ladderworks team. First published on the Ladderworks website on October 12, 2022.)
© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.