Almost 5,000 hits were counted on the first day of #ZeroCon21, which for the first time took place virtually, yet as accessible as possible for everyone! These were the highlights:

3, 2, 1 … Yesterday, shortly before 9 a.m. CET, tensions were high when the cameraman counted down the start of the 10th Zero Project Conference. As the anthem was being broadcasted, Martin Essl, founder of the Essl Foundation and the initiator of the Zero Project, together with Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna (UNOV), were already waiting in the studio for their signal for the official opening.

“Hello from besides my washing machine“

Seema Mundackal from the Zero Project and Paralympic swimmer and ORF presenter, Andreas Onea, took over the moderation. On all three days, they will guide visitors on Channel 1 through the 86-hour program of #ZeroCon21. After a brief introduction, they handed over to Caroline Casey, who has hosted the Zero Project Conference and has been its face since 2012.

In her always upbeat manner, the founder of the Valuable 500 called in from “her room next to my washing machine here in Dublin, Ireland.” Also, Caroline was particularly touched by the previously seen Zero Project Anthem this year, because according to her “the most important and powerful thing about Zero Project is our connection with each other around the world.“ And if maybe there is one part of this global pandemic – we now have three times as many people joining us online.” Caroline’s encouragement for the conference to all was to “use these three days to reach out to some of your Zero Project friends. Just to connect because that’s what we have been doing.”

A global forum for positive change

The Zero Project and the United Nations also have a close cooperation, as Ghada Waly, Director General of the UN Office in Vienna mentioned in her address “as a global forum for collaboration and a platform for positive change, the Zero Project also shares a higher purpose with the United Nations.”

Waly also echoed a core message of #ZeroCon21, with its focus this year on Employment and ICT for people with disabilities, saying, “inclusion is not only good, it’s good for business. The UN private sector and civil society must work together to support the innovators and leaders of today and tomorrow.”

Additionally, Gabriela Sellner, Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations in Vienna, emphasised the importance of the Zero Project in her video message “as a fantastic platform to think creatively about better ways forward.“

Almanach 2021: The complete Story to date

Martin Essl in his speech was proud to announce to the audience what has already been achieved, and documented in the freshly published Zero Project Almanac 2021. Martin: “this edition brings together ALL 662 awarded-Innovative Practices and Policies, back from 2013 including an Annex listing short-summaries of each Awardee. Essentially – we described the complete story to date!“

#ZeroCon21 focused on Employment and ICT

The best Innovative Practices and Policies took (virtually) center stage immediately afterwards: 82 nominations were honored this year on the topic of Employment and ICT. They will be presented during the three-day conference in a total of six Awardee Hours. On the first day the main focus was on those ten innovations that have been selected for the Zero Project-Impact Transfer Program. Find out who they are HERE.

Dreamers, keynotes and cutting-edge technologies

Among the other highlights of the first day: a session by Access Israel for dreamers who can imagine an inclusive society; the launch of Spawnpoint, an event series by a gaming agency Woop on accessible gaming; keynotes by Charlotte V. McClain-Nhlapo (World Bank Group) and Sofija Korać (US Mission to the United Nations); and the first session on cutting edge technologies with contributions from Guide me (Cisco), Lichtwerk (Belgium), Ask Tobi (Austria), Vem CA (from Escola de Gente, Brazil), Atvisor (Israel) and equalizent (Austria).

In Vienna it’s Always about Dancing

And as befits Vienna, the capital of waltz, the first day was rounded off with an invitation to dance by studio host Michael Fembek and remote guest Connie Vandarakis of Danceability from the USA. Michael in his invitation said, “I can really promise you, it’s unique, it’s a world premiere and it’s something you’ve never seen before.

The show was really unique, and you can see it again and again if you want. Every single session of the #ZeroCon21 will be available on-demand 15 minutes after it airs – just click here. It will be available for the next ten days. Following the conference, the Zero Project will launch a streaming platform. There, the entire conference will be available to stream for free – much like Netflix, it will be sorted by session, but also by topic.