Esri and SDSN Announce 2020 Storytellers of the Year

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Esri and SDSN Announce 2020 Storytellers of the Year (

The guest judges for the competition selected first-, second-, and third-place winners in student and professional tracks. Guest judges included Jeffrey Sachs, Economist and President of SDSN; Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, UN SDG Advocate and Environmental Activist; Alex Tait, The Geographer at the National Geographic Society; and Dawn Wright, Chief Scientist at Esri. The winners were announced February 17, 2021.

“All of the stories for the Sustainable Development Goals were superb, so impressive -- some showing skills and technology that was unimaginable until even recently,” said Jeffrey Sachs. “The visualizations, the advocacy power, and the ability to give a multi-perspective view of a critical issue together are something very special about all of the submissions.”

Students from 74 schools, 22 countries, and 18 U.S. states competed for top storyteller in the student track. The guest judges selected Hidden Realities–a collaboration among students from Columbia University, University of California Los Angeles, and Emerson College–as the first-place student winner for its compelling infographics and personal narratives about femicide in Turkey. iBanker Kendal Regency, the second-place student winner by Universitas Negeri Semarang students in Indonesia, analyzed the impacts of weather and natural disaster on agricultural lands. And in third place, the judges chose the What you CAN’T see in the Tennessee River story by a University of Tennessee Knoxville student for crafting environmental messages in an engaging, custom design.

“This has been one of the most wonderful contests that I've been affiliated with,” shared Dawn Wright.  “For all of the contestants, even those who were not selected as winners, it was just an outpouring of creativity and courage in the important topics that were covered.”

Over 150 government agencies, nonprofits and NGOs, educational institutions, and private entities submitted competition entries in the professional track. Stories covered the 17 SDGs and much of the globe in support of the UN’s Decade of Action to leave no one behind. The first-place winner in the professional track, Segregation is killing us by Territorial Empathy, examined New York City communities most negatively impacted by COVID-19 and the long-term impacts of segregation. The Dene Kʼéh Kusān story, the second-place winner by the Dena Kayeh Institute in Canada, offered an indigenous knowledge and science-based justification for the protection of Dene Kʼéh Kusān as an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area. And in Keeping up with the Kuchis, England-based Alcis earned a third-place win for taking readers on a 3D journey with the nomadic Kuchis in Afghanistan.

Each winning story is featured on SDSN’s newly designed website, SDGs Today: The Global Hub for Real-Time SDG Data, which features timely data on sustainable development measures. First- and second-place winners will illustrate storytelling best practices as lessons in Esri’s ArcGIS Learn Hub. The GIS community can meet Esri’s StoryMaps team, SDSN’s SDGs Today team, and the storytellers behind the first-place winners together at the 2021 Esri User Conference in July 2021.    

To learn more about the 2020 ArcGIS StoryMaps Competition of the Year and winners, visit

About the Sustainable Development Solutions Network

The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was established in 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. SDSN mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development, including the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. SDSN works closely with United Nations agencies, multilateral financing institutions, the private sector, and civil society.

About Esri

Esri, the global market leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, location intelligence, and mapping, offers the most powerful geospatial cloud available, to help customers unlock the full potential of data to improve operational and business results. Founded in 1969, Esri software is deployed in more than 350,000 organizations including 90 of the Fortune 100 companies, all 50 state governments, more than half of all counties (large and small), and 87 of the Forbes Top 100 Colleges in the U.S., as well as all 15 Executive Departments of the U.S. Government and dozens of independent agencies. With its pioneering commitment to geospatial information technology, Esri engineers the most advanced solutions for digital transformation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics. Visit us at


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