How many times have we had an idea, tried to carry it out and desisted because we need something to achieve our goal? I would dare to affirm that, on a personal level, when we have executed them successfully, it is because we found support. The same happens to organizations.
In 2015, the definition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Agenda 2030 marked a key moment in recognizing the importance of the links between the different social actors to achieve success. The primary role of this collaboration is explicitly reflected in Objective #17: “Partnerships to achieve the goals”. Since the establishment of this goal, the private sector, governments, academia and civil society have increased efforts in the field of SDGs to integrate them within their priorities and generate initiatives associated with their fulfillment. However, there are still challenges to fostering intersectoral alliances and, especially, to involve citizens as one more actor in the social transformation and progress of their communities.
In support of that purpose, we give you four recommendations to take advantage of partnerships as an instrument to share knowledge about the SDGs:
1. The audience dictates the method
Before considering an initiative to share knowledge and seek alliances, it is essential to define whom the efforts will be directed toward, that is, the target audiences. This will function as a filter on which collaborations are most relevant and will guide our techniques regarding the audience whom we wish to inspire action.
Start by asking yourself some questions like these: What interests the public you are appealing to? What level of knowledge on the subject do they have? What will be the added value of their participation? Take into account factors such as age, country of origin, level of education and social context of the target groups, since that will influence the most effective way to structure and exchange information.
To communicate the message to a school-aged audience, for example, you could refer to the alliance between the UNESCO office in Brazil, the ministries of education and environment of that country, and the 2030 Education Agenda. The campaign consisted of several videos in which boys and girls appear explaining the SDGs, in order to make the material available to educators for the teaching of each objective in a voice the children would relate to.
At the IDB, the Financial Innovation Laboratory has facilitated the exchange of knowledge on investments in climate change and adaptation, connected to SDG #13: Climate Action. His first workshop, held in Mexico, brought together specialists in sustainable transport and green finance to share experiences and analyze successful cases in other cities. Being an expert audience, opening a space to exchange ideas with the support of leading institutions in the transport sector allowed enriching the specialized knowledge of those who participated.
2. (Strategic) Union makes force
When forming a partnership, it is key to establish clear objectives, a solid work plan and clear indicators of success to design a transparent, realistic and measurable proposal. It goes beyond collaborating for collaboration’s sake. Following the principles of mutualism, joining together means that each party brings unique contributions to the table that collectively represent a more efficient use of its resources.
The first step is to ask yourself which SDGs the strategic framework of your organization responds. Then, make a multisectoral mapping of institutions, organizations and/or companies with which an alliance could add value. Knowledge management plays a fundamental role in this diagnosis: What knowledge or technical advantage does our organization have that could be valuable in partnership with another type of entity? And what opportunities would complement that knowledge and create an initiative with impact?
For example, UNDP recently joined Samsung to create the “Global Goals” application, which is integrated into several of its devices with recommendations on how its users can contribute to each SDG with simple actions. In this case, the company’s positioning and capital platforms as well as the technical knowledge of UNDP and a technology-related audience were used. This is an innovative approach to broaden the scope of information, train citizens on the SDGs and invite them to participate actively in achieving the goals.
On the other hand, several academic institutions in the region have leading research centers to generate dialogue tables on the SDGs. The Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Latin America (CODS), created in partnership with universities in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as multi sectoral organizations, seeks to be a point of dissemination and meeting on this topic.
The IDB platform WiConnect3 is a useful channel to identify private, governmental and civil society organizations in the region which could serve as potential partners for collaboration and knowledge sharing related to achieving the SDGs.
3. The more inclusive a space, the more knowledge gained
Open spaces for experimentation and collaboration are optimal for empowering individuals or organizations that have projects on the SDGs, but lack support in terms of knowledge and good practices to implement them. A great example is the Laboratories of Citizen Innovation of the General Secretariat of Latin America (SEGIB). These laboratories are places where citizens become the protagonists in the ideation of solutions for social progress. In 2018, the Argentine Citizen Innovation Laboratory (LABiCAR) was the first to work on projects related to the SDGs, while this year Costa Rica will launch its LABICCR. Both were organized by government institutions, NGOs and foundations that achieved the participation of hundreds of people from different countries to work with local communities and develop projects on issues of gender equality, water, sustainable cities and strengthening institutions. These meetings represent a window for vulnerable populations to share their needs and, for project leaders, to connect them with the SDGs, in addition to generating local impact and promoting multicultural teams.
It is also worth mentioning the work of Low Carbon City, a space for global collaboration that was inspired by the SDGs and the Paris Agreement to address climate change using innovative solutions from citizens. The platform visualizes some of the efforts made in the region and serves as a learning channel to replicate them in other cities.
The “Using Data to Support Women’s Rights” initiative, an alliance between a multisectoral coalition and AREA Uganda, an association of real estate agents, generated a data-based campaign to measure women’s participation in the property market in Uganda with the purpose of supporting their right to land and housing. In addition to the exchange of knowledge with local actors, the results were shared with key counterparts in the government with the aim of placing this situation on the country’s public agenda, in support of SDG #5: “Gender equality”.
4. Continuity is our greatest ally
Developing joint projects involves a lot of effort. So much so that it is easy to applaud the closing of the initiative and forget to follow up. At the end of the product of an alliance, it is essential to review the results, contrast them with the goals set at the beginning and identify opportunities for improvement and continued dialogue. A good practice is to document the findings so that they serve as a reference for other organizations or even for future initiatives of the organizations involved.
In the same way, it is important not to neglect those who participated. How do we make sure they understood the message about the SDGs? And what actions are we taking to really listen and take into account their inputs? Assessing the efforts and asking what other information they would like to know about your audiences can be a valuable way of engaging them and participating in new activities.
In Costa Rica, the Center for Urban Sustainability, in partnership with the Semanario Universidad, a national media and with the support of government institutions, associations and civil society organizations, developed an urban camp on communication and climate crisis to train to students of communication about this phenomenon, an excellent way to cover the topic with the required relevance in the future.
Platforms are good tools to facilitate the monitoring of initiatives. The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data platform collects multisectoral data and information by making it available to the public to facilitate efforts linked to the SDGs, collaboration and knowledge. Its community-centered communication strategy supports the exchange of knowledge and experiences among its participants on an ongoing basis.
Sometimes, we focus too much on what we need to achieve our goals instead of enhancing the resources we have within our reach. The reality is that gathering knowledge results in greater scope, more possibilities to connect ideas and, with it, opportunities to involve more actors in the search for sustainable development.