ArcGIS StoryMaps

Meet the winners of the 2020 ArcGIS StoryMaps Competition

Through the 2020 ArcGIS StoryMaps competition, Esri and the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) invited storytellers worldwide to solve global challenges through GIS and storytelling. And you responded!

By the numbers:

Which stories stood out above the rest? Our 2020 Storytellers of the Year used innovative storytelling techniques, mapping best practices, and sound data to create solutions-oriented stories about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The submissions were incredibly high quality and covered really important topics. I was very impressed both by the student and the professional categories, in the topics that were picked and the statistical and human stories that supported the SDGs.

Alex Tait, National Geographic Society
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As leaders in the sustainable development space, our four guest judges for the competition selected first-, second-, and third-place winners in student and professional tracks from the competition finalists.

Guest judges (shown below) 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.

Each judge, with varied skill sets and experience, has spent years contributing to the science, policy, and educational efforts that support sustainable local and global communities.

Meet their picks for the 2020 Storytellers of the Year.



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Winning stories in the student track

View the Hidden Realities story.

In the student track, the Hidden Realities story took first prize for its compelling infographics and personal narratives about femicide in Turkey. This story showed skilled collaboration among three students: Melissa Kaslowski at Columbia University, Zeynep Abes at University of California Los Angeles, and Eda Kazancioglu at Emerson College.

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. Congratulations to authors Ainayya Rahma, Allessandro Aryo Setyaki, and Martin Reynaldi Simanjuntak.

And rounding out our student winners, Kellie Ward at the University of Tennessee Knoxville won third place for What you CAN’T see in the Tennessee River. The story examines pollution in the Tennessee River—a water source for recreation, power generation, drinking water, and biodiversity–through an engaging custom design.


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Winning stories in the professional track

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.

View the Segregation is killing us story.

Our first-place winner in the professional track, Segregation is killing us by Territorial Empathy, received unanimous praise from the judges and StoryMaps team. The story takes a critical look at the New York City communities most negatively impacted by COVID-19 and considers the long-term impacts of segregation. Congratulations to Zarith Pineda, Victoria Vuono, Cecilia Gonzalez-Rubio, and Yi Zhang.

The Dene Kʼéh Kusān story, our second-place winner, makes the case for protecting Dene Kʼéh Kusān as an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in British Columbia. Author Corine Porter of the Dena Kayeh Institute in Canada tells the story of the land and indigenous knowledge through engaging images and personal experiences.

And in Keeping up with the Kuchis, England-based Alcis takes us on a 3D journey with the nomadic Kuchis in Afghanistan. Our third-place winner uses this interactive journey to connect current mapping efforts with the Sustainable Development Goals.


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Esri and SDSN kicked off the 2020 ArcGIS StoryMaps Competition for the SDGs with a blog post by Jeffrey Sachs. In it, he discusses the critical role of GIS and storytelling in addressing the global goals—and your role in the competition…

Thousands of sustainable development leaders and SDG activists around the world look forward to seeing, learning from, and disseminating the great SDG stories that will be generated in the months ahead!

Jeffrey Sachs, SDSN

The winning stories now are featured on the ArcGIS StoryMaps competition pages and SDSN’s SDGs Today: The Global Hub for Real-Time SDG Data, which features timely data on sustainable development measures.

Congratulations to the 2020 ArcGIS StoryMaps Competition for the SDGs winners and finalists—and a heartfelt thank you to everyone who submitted a story.


Esri and SDSN logos

About the author

Michelle Thomas is a communications lead and content strategist on Esri's StoryMaps team. She manages the annual ArcGIS StoryMaps competition, digital platforms, and storytelling campaigns that feature storytellers globally. Prior to joining Esri, Michelle created digital campaigns at the U.S. Interior Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture. She leveraged Esri's storytelling tools at both agencies, tying people, resources, and places together through stories. She joined Esri's StoryMaps team to share those experiences widely and empower storytellers to tell stories that matter.

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