In my younger years as a grassroots activist I proudly wore a t-shirt that said, “Think Globally. Act Locally”.
While I knew the slogan was suggesting we all needed to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in our communities, I’m not sure until now I really understood how I could make the world a priority when just local on its own was often so daunting.
As a result, my work instead focused first on community-led development, which ultimately evolved to include systems-thinking, strategic foresight, and digital adoption and what we’re now describing as 4th Sector Leadership.
Although I didn't know it at the time, it turns out I was preparing for global change by learning more about how to facilitate diverse networks and the trusted relationships needed by bringing out the best, between and among, businesses, organizations, citizens, social enterprises, and government.
Ultimately, I learned that both grasstops and grassroots change requires growing all parties' collective capacity for solving complex social, economic, and environmental issues. Additionally, it became apparent these networks of trusted relationship resulted in the agility, collaboration, creativity, and ultimately, the transformative change that is essential for addressing our most pressing global and local issues.
It’s especially relevant now because we need to consider, not just, “When can we return to normal?” but more importantly, “What aspects of normal do we keep, and what do we discard in order to move together into a better future?”
The good news is that the United Nations General Assembly has already provided what amounts to being the picture on the top of the puzzle box for moving forward, when they articulated 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a call for action by all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet.
All countries agreed that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection. More important than ever, the goals provide a critical framework for COVID-19 recovery.
My learnings from grassroots leaders has also demonstrated that Goal #17: Partnership Development might just be the most important one. Transformative change is rarely something we can do on our own so multisectoral collaboration is critical.
Clearly many of our existing operations will remain important, but how can these 17 SDGs help your organization prepare for an unknown future?
The simple answer is that it needs to begin with a team formally authorized to serve as a catalyst for ensuring focus on SDGs within one's own organization as well as within their broader external community.
In essence, it means prioritizing the gathering of the talent, assets, and influence of businesses, organizations, citizens, social enterprises, and government in order to collectively address any of the 17 SDGs.
For sure, COVID-19 has been a giant elephant casting a hulking shadow over our communities. But maybe, just maybe, the best way to eat that elephant is to address at least one sustainable development goal at a time.
Ultimately if we think big, but start small, before you know it, the magic begins and the seemingly impossible becomes the possible.