Mary O’Neill Berry, PhD

Looking to engage with the SDGs in your own sphere of influence? Here are some tips!

Background on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2015- 2030: The SDGs were finalized in 2015 to replace and expand the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which had essentially set the global developmImage result for sustainable development goalsent agenda from 2000 through 2015. There are 17 SDGs, with many additional targets and indicators “underneath” each Goal (list of Goals and Indicators would be included at end of document). Governments and civil society are expected to take account of these SDGs as they shape national policies, programs, and practices. To do so will ensure significant social, economic, and environmental progress both locally and globally. The list of SDGs may be found here:

SDG Implementation: How can our membership help to ensure that the SDGs are, in fact, implemented on the ground locally? One way is for members to examine local/national policies, identify key influential players, and, in effect, “lobby” on behalf of the SDGs.

Forming Partnerships/Coalitions: It is likely that other national/local groups may also be already engaged in this kind of activity; the first thing to do is to identify who these groups may be (check their websites and/or any publications/statements they have issued), and suggest that a coordinated approach be taken to optimize the outcomes.

Examples of some such groups could include major NGOs like the Red Cross, Save the Children, CARE, or organizations like UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP, etc. At the student level, campus-based and other academic organizations can also be explored, as well as instructors; there may be a place in academic courses themselves to address the SDGs and their implementation.

Implementation Steps: Once you have forged these relationships on the basis of shared interests, then the basic steps in the implementation process are as follows:

  1. Begin with national policies/programs in some of the arenas most reflected in the SDGs, for example, poverty, social welfare, health, education, gender, labor/work, the environment, human rights, discrimination, etc. These will likely be located in such government ministries as Health, Education, Labor, Social Welfare, etc. Prioritize which one(s) you want to focus on most; it may be best to tackle one SDG at a time. Do not try to do too much, too soon. Early successes will set the stage for later, additional, efforts.

  2. Review these national policies/programs to ascertain in which ways they seem likely to assist in achieving one or more SDGs. Also review the extent to which the national policies/programs can be assessed by the indicators established to monitor the success of SDG implementation.

  3. Identify any “gaps” between what is articulated in the policies/programs and what is stated in the corresponding SDG(s).

  4. Establish recommendations for closing these gaps, and/or for otherwise enhancing the probability that the policies/programs will be successful. An advisory group, resembling a “rapid response team,” will be set up within GOHWP; this group will be available to discuss and help to refine these recommendations in what will likely be an iterative process.

  5. Provide specific measurement suggestions whereby you will know whether the recommendations have been successful. Referring to the SDG indicators may be a useful step here. Again, GOHWP representatives will constitute a group of expert advisors who can assist in program evaluation and indicator assessment.


  1. In parallel with these efforts, identify the key influential players nationally/locally who are involved with the policies/programs, and develop relationships with them and/or their staffs/offices.

  2. Communicate your recommendations to these key players and work together with them to negotiate their acceptance.

  3. Publicize your activities to the memberships of any national or international professional communities of which you are a part. This can be done via journals/bulletins, as well as through conference presentations, professional publications, and op/ed pieces in the local/national press.

  4. Follow up over time to assess whether the recommendations are taken into account, and if not, why not.

  5. If necessary, try again. If early efforts are successful, move to another SDG(s) and repeat the process.

For additional resources about SDG implementation, please see this document developed jointly by GRI, the United Nations Global Compact, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development:

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