The Sustainable Development Goals: Engage with them, increase your agency and help children became advocates of a better future.

I have been thinking about writing on the Sustainable Development Goals for a while and learning that just one in ten people would know what the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are generated a sense of urgency to write about them. Awareness around the SDGs is indeed a bit higher (around 41%), but sadly it does not translate into knowledge. As we know that without knowledge there is no action, it is crucial that we think about ways for people to be willing to understand more about the SDGs. Before revealing how we need to start with the UN definition of the Sustainable Development Goals:

“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. “

The UNDP website also states that “achieving the SDGs requires the partnership of governments, private sector, civil society and citizens alike to make sure we leave a better planet for future generations.” No doubts that the above descriptions are clear and every word has been carefully pondered, but are they able to intrigue the reader to learn more? Are they talking to the individual communicating the role that each of us has in creating a peaceful, prosperous and better future for humanity and our planet? I honestly think that this may be where there is a gap. A brief research amongst friends and ex-colleagues, in fact, suggests that one of the reasons for people not to engage and learn about the Sustainable Development Goals is that they are perceived as something distant and technical that involves only business and governments. Although the definition does not limit the audience to the above categories, it seems that it hard for individuals to go beyond those colourful and creatively designed signposts and see their role in achieving the Global Goals. Starting from the above findings, I thought about two communication tools that have the potential to increase knowledge around the SDGs and make people get on board and contribute to the achievement of the 17 objectives set by the UN back in 2015.

1.    The Good Life Goals

Solitaire Townsend, co-founder of the Change Agency Futerra, understood the need to bridge the gap between the high-level aspiration of the SDGs and the more grassroots-led sustainable lifestyles movement. Driven from the desire to make the SDGs human and actionable she and her team hacked the 17 Global Goals into a set of Good Life Goals. These initial behaviour asks engaged more than one thousand people on-line showing that they struck a nerve. Their success led to the UN’s decision to have Futerra develop them further together with the 10YFP Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Programme. The result is a set of fun and engaging 17 Emoji that all together layout 85 ways anyone can contribute towards the planet-changing objectives that sit at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda. Where does their power lie? To me in the fact that they are easy to understand, actionable and personal. They tap into the need of individuals to feel empowered, and able to contribute to a better world. Finally, the fact that the goals are brought to life using emoji makes them fun, modern and therefore stick in people’s mind.

2.    Frida - The Universal Message of the Sustainable Development Goals

Everyone working in communication knows the power of storytelling, and anyone that works on behaviour change recognises how education to children spreads to the whole family creating long-lasting change. The book Frida is an exquisite example of both the above. As stated by UNIC Windhoek’s Head, Anthea Basson “Frieda’s story is meant to capture the imagination of children and encourage them to bring about positive change starting from when they are small”. The storybook aimed at 3-11-year-olds has beautiful illustrations created by a local graphic designer, Nelett Loubser, and explains each of the SDGs in a fun, colourful and relatable way. As for the Good Life Goals, the power of Frida’s story rests in the ability to encourage people to take action and make a change in the world. This lovely and positive character indeed captivates both young and older readers. The book is available in many different languages, and it can be downloaded at the link Frida and the Sustainable Development Goals.