Twenty-Fifteen: the Millennium Development Goals book series

The project began with a series of workshops on Poverty and the MDG agenda in 2009. TY students wanted an action that would reflect their frustration and disappointment with the progress in the United Nations MDG programme. Two schools came up with a book project and Self Help Africa facilitated activities to explore MDG 1 simultaneously.

To enhance their awareness of Poverty the students devised an activity to allow them to ‘explore’ the consequences of poverty – this is available in the links section below.

Each of the books was paralleled with a student activity that helped explore the ‘emotional’ side of the issue and enhanced the student awareness and empathy.

The launch and marketing of each book was unique to each school involved and reflected their focus and needs. The books were also published by Self Help Africa and made available in bookstores for purchase (links available below).

The books aimed to be completed within the school year and books 1 & 2 managed to do that, while book 3 took longer.


Three publications have been produced to date:

  1. MDG 1 – Colaiste Bhride, Carnew and St Peter’s College, Dunboyne.
  2. MDG 2 – St Wolstan’s Community School, Celbridge.
  3. MDG 3 – Loreto Schools’ Network


The project began in 2009 and continues today. The project should finish by end 2015 – the time frame for the MDG targets.

3 Big Ideas

  • Provide a professional platform to empower and support students to comment on the MDG programme.
  • Enhance the awareness with an action activity that helped inform the students.
  • Launch the book to attract media attention and enhance this with presentations of the books at key events and to key, influential people.


  • An excellent book designer.
  • Print run of 500 books.
  • Art work – professional artists donated cover images and students provided internal work.
  • Enthusiastic teachers to motivate and coordinate the work in school.
  • Enthusiastic students who will work beyond class time on the project.
  • A core group of motivated students.
  • Funding for design and print – SHA provided this.


1. At least 2/3 workshops with students to explore the MDG theme and then the publication process.

2. The format of each of the books was set in this first publication;

  • Students writing and creating artwork on the topic.
  • Students writing to well known public figures in the worlds of art, media, music, film, government, etc and asking for their contributions on the issue.
  • SHA coordinated the work and sourced a designer (Alan Davis) to bring the publication to print (deadlines, formats, style, cover artwork, etc).
  • Students were the key participants in all steps of the publication – submissions, editing, marketing, launch, sales, etc.

Case Study: Each of the books had a different thematic focus and also a different learning activity

In book one Poverty Week is an excellent activity that was devised by the students as part of the project (see 4 above for link). This was a week long activity that limited access to luxury or consumer items. A full explanation can be seen in the project brochure but access to the following was limited or denied:

  • Mobile Phone
  • Water
  • Food
  • TV
  • Internet
  • Cosmetics

This involved students debating the rules to be imposed on themselves for the week. It also involved engaging with teachers on the logistics of the week eg. A safe but limited diet was discussed with Home Economics teacher. The student group had to agree monitoring the week – some activities self monitored and needing a degree of trust among the group.

All students kept a personal diary during the week. The objective was to enhance awareness of poverty and therefore gain the ‘right’ to ask others to comment through the book project.

Project Learning

  • Enthusiastic teachers are essential to drive the process.
  • Enthusiastic and motivated students (core Group) are essential.
  • Focus on communications among the group, between schools and with SHA schools officer essential.
  • Keep the issue to the front always – remind students why they are dong this and how it can help fight poverty and injustice.
  • A ‘public’ school activity enhances the enthusiasm of students.
  • Begin all aspects of the project early – submissions, editing, marketing, launch, etc – form student groups with responsibility for each aspect of the project.
  • Although commercial bookstores are good for promotion, they absorb most of the price of the book. Look to local, independent stores and libraries for promoting the publication.
  • Submissions from ‘outside’ personalities needs persistent follow-up. A personal connection is the best source of success in getting a reply.
  • One high profile contributor can open the gates to others eg Sebastian Barry’s input to Book 1, encouraged other well known writers – Seamus Heaney, etc.

Measuring Impact

  • The impact of the book was measured by the participation and enthusiasm of the students.
  • A book project needs constant professional and objective comment – engage with publishers or others to set the standard.
  • The quality of the books was measured by critical reviews through the media.

Links to Project Activities

  • On-going project link and how to get involved (prepare your own book on the MDGs), access fact sheets on the MDGs
  • Poverty Week activity used by schools in Book One on
  • Purchasing copies of books 1, 2, & 3 from Self Help Africa’s online shop.

Other Information

The timing of the project depended on completing one book each school year – this set a deadline of 2015 and a possible 7 books. This has been difficult to achieve and MDGs 4 & 5 are being ‘processed’ with a number of schools during 2013/14.