Embracing the SDGs is good for you


James Magowan


‘Connecting Community Foundations with the SDGs, a recent ECFI publication, highlights the relevance of the work of community foundations to the SDGs and describes an approach to embracing the Global Goals at local level.

‘The SDGs represent a universal call to action – what better response could there be by community foundations than adopting a whole-of-organisation approach to embracing the SDGs’

The Guide demonstrates how local action can be easily connected to global aspirations using the SDG framework, and that the common language around the 17 Goals can help broker connections, stimulate discussion and promote collaboration leveraging knowledge and resources and leading to new ways of working between the public, private and non-governmental sectors.

Community foundations, being concerned with defined geographical areas, and having long-term institutional presence, are well placed to understand and address a complex array of interdependent issues at local level. Through their ability to build and utilise physical, financial and human assets; their knowledge of the locality; and their role in building trust and fostering connections and relationships between people and institutions, community foundations are important players, and in some cases leaders, that can help drive transformation at local level. They therefore provide an important connection between local actions and global aspirations. By embracing the SDGs, and aligning with the Goals, community foundations can demonstrate how their strategies and work are relevant and impactful.

The ECFI Guide seeks to demonstrate that the work of all community foundations is highly relevant to the SDGs – making the connection between local action and global good, using the SDG framework. It proposes adopting a ‘whole-of-organisation approach’ which takes into consideration mission, investment, strategies and programmes, communications and operations, to enhance their role, credibility and effectiveness as catalysts for change. This, the Guide suggests, and illustrates with examples, can attract partners and funding, can motivate staff, board members and volunteers and can consolidate the position of the community foundation in its locality.

It is much more than simply aligning discrete actions or programmes with particular Goals. At local level the interdependence of the Goals becomes all the more relevant. It requires a holistic approach and recognition of the relationship between dependent actions and the respective Goals. Furthermore, the universality and interconnected character of the Goals means that action in relation to one Goal often translates into impact on several.

Achieving the SDGs is not just about mobilising financial resources – it requires systemic change that involves new ways of working between the public, private and non-governmental sectors. Community foundations will always be a minor actor in respect of finance, however they are well placed to play a catalytic role through their own independent action and through brokering connections, stimulating discussion and promoting collaboration. Communicating consistently around a unified set of priorities can help establish partnerships not only between private giving and public good but also among other relevant stakeholders in order to leverage the knowledge and resources required to effect change. The common language of the SDGs is valuable at all stages, from initiating dialogue, through taking action, to reporting.

The starting point however may well involve some self-reflection through an SDG lens with foundations asking questions about their own operations and determining their own SDG footprint.

James Magowan is Co-ordinating Director at ECFI

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