Think Global, Act Local: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In 2000, the global community came together to change the world through a series of 8 goals – the Millennium Development Goals  (MDGs) – all focusing on lofty ways to make the world better by 2015. In 2015, the global community realized that their original goals were not Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, or Time-bound enough, and so they turned 8 MDGs into 17 SDGs – Sustainable Development Goals. While these 17 goals are still quite lofty, this time, they are have indicators, progress reports, global summits, and increased awareness efforts to help in their achievability.

The Power of Being Intentional

HOBY – more than anything – taught me the power of intentionality. This emphasis on intentionality has become a mindset that impacts the way I approach every project I am a part. It translates to the goals, timelines, and benchmarks I set. To the education, friendships, and communications I engage in. And ensures that the work I do is inclusive and holistic in scope. The SDGs, more so than its predecessor, the MDGs, are immensely intentional in its messaging. As opposed to a top down approach to societal change, the SDGs put the onus of accomplishment on individuals throughout the global community.

The time limit for the SDGs is 2030, giving the global community now only a decade to solve widespread hunger, gender inequality, climate change, and world peace. And that’s only 4 out of the 17 goals. As you can imagine, this is a global undertaking requiring intense collaboration, accurate reporting, and an upheaval of specific systems in place.

But don’t let this intimidate you. The purpose of the SDGs is to highlight the ways we can advance and progress society together. Within all 17 goals, there are unique, measurable targets to track that aspect of the goal and its achievability. And that’s where you come in. A big part of the SDGs is all about improving the community where you live, and that’s why its mantra is Think Global, Act Local.

How to Think Global, Act Local

Ending global poverty (SDG 1) in ten years may sound improbable, but building resilience to environmental, economic and social disasters (Target 1.5) is more manageable of a task. And it is already underway. Building resilience is an example of a Target Indicator, which is much easier to track and implement in your local communities.

Take a look at your community. What can be improved? How can you be engaged in this process? What resources do you need to make these changes? Is the volunteer work that you do helping? The answer to any and all of these questions can be aided by using the language of the SDGs – public, free-to-use, language –  uses the same information in a globally cohesive way to manage sustainable change.

Take This for Example

Let’s say that recycling is an issue in your community and you start a recycling education program that teaches community members how to reduce, reuse and recycle. Right away, your project is hitting on several goals. Most directly, you are working towards Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12) and hitting on Target 12.5 – Substantially Reduce Waste Generation. But you can make the argument, and I would support you in doing so, that you are also hitting SDGs 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, and 15.

Approach your community stakeholders with the language and ideas that your small town-wide recycling project is an important part of achieving global Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12) alongside 6 other SDGs. This is powerful. You are using the metrics and information of a global partnership to solve 17 major global challenges, and you are implementing it on your own community’s terms. You are the best expert on what your community needs. With the backing of the SDGs, you have the guidance to effectively and sustainably make that change. You identify the what, the SDGs can help guide the how. They also make a great case for the why.

Preparing You for the Future

Think of the SDGs as a crash course in project management and goal creation – a reliable strategy for impacting your community. “Is this project solving an issue? According to goal ___, it is and here is how. And here are examples of how other communities in my area and even globally are solving this particular issue.”

Think Global, Act Local. It’s as simple as that. This mantra is a fantastic way to connect how the volunteer program you are engaged in to achieve your 100-hour challenge is also a part of achieving several of the SDGs. The projects that you engage in, especially those that are created and implemented intentionally, can positively impact your community. And that has a profound impact indirectly and directly on the world.

How to Apply this While Under Quarantine

While under quarantine, many of us have lots of time on our hands. What if you used that time to explore the strengths in our community and identify gaps? Are there gaps in society that you are particularly passionate about? Are your passions and strengths needed in your community? What unique opportunity do you see? How can you take action and create change?

Read over the goals to discover how your current and yet to be dreamed of activities can hit the Target Indicators at this link: https://www.globalgoals.org/

We challenge you to find an opportunity in your community and connect it to the SDGs. Report back with your idea or project plan and how it connects to the SDGs!


About the author: Benjamin Lutz is a 2011 Georgia HOBY and World Leadership Congress alumni. He received his Bachelor’s degree in 2017 from Elon University and his Masters degree from the University of Bradford in 2018, both focusing on Middle Eastern Peace Politics. He lives and works in Washington DC as a mediator & peacebuilder for Mediators Beyond Borders International.

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