Our Perspectives

Do-it-yourself Sustainable Development: The SDGs go DIY


Women participate in management training in BangladeshWomen participate in management training, part of a UNDP programme that aims to enhance the government’s effectiveness in fulfilling their mandate. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh

With the proposal for Sustainable Development Goals now available for all members of the General Assembly to consider further, the question on many of our minds is:  where to next?  Once global sustainable development goals are adopted next year, how can we best help governments, citizens, and the private sector take them from aspiration to reality?

So far almost 5 million people in almost 100 countries have either voted on their priorities for a new development agenda through the MY World survey or engaged in face-to-face discussions on what is needed to improve their future.

As part of our broader work supporting innovation for development (I4D), we are looking for new ways of inspiring action on these priorities. So far, some interesting approaches have emerged:

Micro-narratives and qualitative research to learn more about complex issues   

The World we Want consultations asked what people need for their future, engaging people who are not usually part of policy debates. For example, people living with disabilities in Belarus and youth at risk in Kyrgyzstan shared their experience through micro-narratives. This data was then used to advocate for policies better suited to meet their needs. In El Salvador the consultations provided data used to advocate for a multi-sector citizen security strategy. 

Platforms for encouraging civic engagement and entrepreneurship among young people

Growing out of post-2015 consultative processes where young peoples’ engagement and employment opportunities were a recurring theme, experiments in several countries developed platforms to design solutions. In Albania, the platform helps young entrepreneurs go from elevator pitch to business plan.  In Jordan, the UN team focused on engaging the Irbid Youth Volunteers with the MY World global survey.  They are now considering how to make use of the results and adapt this crowd-sourcing method to design their own programmes.  In Moldova, UNDP helped design a videogame where young people can debate solutions to Moldova’s employment crisis.  Montenegro and Rwanda  also developed platforms where young people advance their own solutions.

Horizon scanning to engage social innovators

In Georgia, Armenia and Egypt, we are working with Edgeryders to find out what people are already doing  to advance sustainable development.  The results of our analysis were rich and varied: we found car-pooling networks in Armenia, girl coders in Georgia, and citizens building their own ramp to a ring road in Egypt. For more on #futurespotters, check here.

Design thinking for post-2015 issues 

Design thinking has great potential to advance sustainable development. Partnering with the Waag Society, we worked with young people to design ‘Green Cloud’- an app that enables citizens to take photos and report pollution and waste across Egypt -,  and ‘Transreal’, a platform where citizens can rate the bus lines and drivers of public transport in Armenia .

Much as the Millennium Development Goals did, the hope is that sustainable development goals will serve as a rallying call towards a better balance between economic growth, environmental protection and social inclusion. Their adoption will signal commitment from governments across the world to take concrete action. To meet the promise of governments from ground up, supporting change makers who are already using innovation will be essential. Innovation is becoming an engine for development.

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