The Gates Foundation + UN General Assembly
A report to change the world. This special annual publication charts our remarkable progress so far in the fight against global poverty.
It was created for a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation event during the UN General Assembly in New York, 2017.
How many children in the world die before they reach their fifth birthday? How many people struggle below the poverty line? How many still don’t have access to a bank account?
Happily, there is a single answer to all of these questions: far fewer than we could have said two decades ago.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wanted to show the amazing progress that’s been made on the UN global goals – vital measures of global health – over the past 25 years. And, more urgently, to inspire leaders to keep going.
They asked us to create a special report that could reveal the stories behind the data.
It would be used to inform and inspire attendees at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s World Progress event during the UN General Assembly in New York, 2017.
We began exploring devices that could visualize data for 18 of the UN General Assembly’s Sustainable Development Goal key indicators.
These cover a range of hefty data sets from maternal mortality to HIV to family planning.
Often, these stories of progress covered three points in time: 1990 (where we started), 2016 (progress achieved so far) and 2030 (with three possible projected scenarios).
Another huge consideration: we had to make the charts work across both printed and digital versions of this report.
“On average, as my friend and mentor the late Hans Rosling pointed out,” writes Melinda in the report, “chimpanzees do better than people on a multiple choice test about how many children the world has saved.”
The point being, our visualizations had to cross a big knowledge gap.
We sketched and prototyped a variety of exciting visualization options that could help us do this. Devices that could clearly represent millions of human lives affected over time. Those afflicted, those saved and those hanging in the balance.
The device we chose needed to help policy-makers see dramatic trajectories that clearly show, “We have made amazing progress. But there’s more work to be done.”
Finally, it became clear that line charts offered the perfect balance.
They’re simple to understand and true to the data. They’re also powerful enough to tell an at-a-glance story that time-travels from the past into three possible futures.
We developed a visual language that readers could become instantly familiar with.
Careful use of colour signified how much progress could be made – or lost – in the next decade. And helpful annotations called out key points of each data story.
We designed a bold, authoritative 40-page booklet around these visualizations, pairing them with essays written by Bill and Melinda, and in-depth case studies from experts in the field.
Vibrant inks helped the content jump off the page and made the whole report feel compelling from cover to cover.
But the report also needed to engage with a much wider online audience beyond those at the World Progress event.
We translated the printed report’s full content into an elegant website, which allowed people to effortlessly explore every single chart and case study.
Digital offered extra possibilities to bring the data to life: we used subtle animations to etch out the charts, unfolding the stories as readers moved through the report.
This full digital version of the report could speak to you in seven different languages and on any screen size.
By keeping the user experience slick and simple, we ensured this large amount of content always felt digestible, engaging and easy to navigate on any device.
To help promote the launch of the report on social media, we transformed four of the most powerful charts into mini video-stories to grab people’s attention.
On a wider level, we also helped put together the media package for the UNGA’s international markets.
Launched in Sept 2017, Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind The Data created a huge impact on audiences across the globe.
The report was celebrated and shared by everyone from Nobel Peace Prize-winners to agenda-setting media outlets like Fast Company.
Not to mention, of course, Bill and Melinda themselves.