Local Action for Global Good - why and how to embrace the SDGs


Embracing the SDGs is good for you. This is the basic premise of the European Community Foundation Initiative (ECFI) publication ‘Connecting Community Foundations with the SDGs’. While focusing on community foundations, there are lessons which could be applicable to other foundations, in particular those with a local area focus. This blog highlights the relevance of the work of community foundations to the SDGs and describes an approach to embrace the Global Goals at local level. 

Connecting local action to global aspirations

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.

“This report by ECFI is a treasure trove of positive examples of how community foundations contribute to the agenda.”
Dr. Annette Kleinbrod

Adopting a whole-of-organisation approach

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.

Dr. James Magowan Co-ordinating Director, ECFI: ‘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’.

Interdependence is key and requires interdisciplinary action

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.

Gaetano Giunta, Messina Community Foundation: “Agenda 2030 provides a powerful framework to deal with the complexity at a local level: the transformative capacity of the foundation in its community and beyond is deeply linked with the ability to embrace at the same time all the SDGs, as interdisciplinary and interdependent, and acting coherently.”

More than money – common language is a critical currency

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.

10 actions to embrace the SDGs

Embracing the SDGs may seem daunting. Below are suggested some manageable actions:

  • Develop your own knowledge about the SDGs (the 17 Goals and 169 targets)
  • Build your own resource of reference material and good practice
  • Explore and learn from what other community foundations have done
  • Think about how your work, and the specific needs in your locality, are relevant to the global goals and develop an idea of your SDG footprint
  • Identify who you should connect with in your locality and build a coalition of interest
  • Consider how to get a conversation started about the SDGs within your own organisation, in particular within your board
  • Be clear about the benefit of embracing the SDGs within your organisation and the implications of adopting a whole-of-organisation approach (mission, investments, strategies and programmes, communications, operations)
  • If there is an appropriate relevant project, consider applying to the Global Challenges Local Solutions Fund
  • Align your work with the SDGs, noting interdependent clusters
  • Identify sources of data, or methods to gather data, that will enable you to measure your progress and impact.
Dr. James Magowan

Co-ordinating Director, ECFI

All articles of Dr. James Magowan
Connecting Community Foundations with the SDGs

Embracing the SDGs is good for you. This is the basic premise of ECFI publication.

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