SDG Lab: Connecting, amplifying and innovating for Agenda 2030
A complex equation
When the 17 Sustainable Goals were adopted at the end of 2015, a powerful political manifesto was born. It was the first time in history that every single country in the world united behind a common Agenda for the future, which articulated and intertwined in one document the many dimensions of sustainable development. It marked a unique point in time when the social, economic and environmental variables of this global equation were made explicit, both in terms of aspirational goals as well as focused targets. Governments, civil society, communities, businesses, academia and United Nations organisations are today looking to turn this vision into practice. They are striving to break-down the complexity of the Agenda into concrete and coherent measures that will allow these goals to be met and for their reaching to outlive the test of time.
The systemic mind-set with which the SDGs are asking us to operate is not new. Part of the “revolution” of the Agenda lies in the level to which it has nudged us to think about linkages among and between sectors that we had never entirely connected together, nor intellectually, nor politically, nor financially. The adoption of the SDGs has crystalised and magnified the need to address these fundamental linkages and compels us to look beyond our sectoral comfort zones so that the mind-set shifts actually happen. As technical as the Agenda is, the heart of the SDGs is about changing the way we think, the way we act and the way we invest in development.
A laboratory to open new paths to 2030
To support the implementation of Agenda 2030 and contribute to this shift in mind-set, the SDG Lab was created at the beginning of 2017 in the Office of the Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG). The SDG Lab is a multi-stakeholder initiative that contributes to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by supporting Geneva-based actors and beyond in further leveraging expertise and knowledge into policy, practice and action.
The Lab works with a diverse ecosystem of actors that are focused on delivering the 2030 Agenda and identifies strategic opportunities for convergence in order to energise and maximise the added-value of International Geneva in supporting implementation of the SDGs. The Lab creates space for interdisciplinary and multisectoral collaboration, while consistently testing assumptions and asking questions about what is needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The dynamic model of the Lab strengthens the individual efforts of governments and organisations by amplifying their unique voices, creating space for new partnerships to form, and providing a platform to innovate and experiment. It supports the collective knowledge and expertise within Geneva, making it increasingly relevant and actionable for national and local level SDG implementation.
Reaching every single Sustainable Goal by 2030 is an ambitious vision and the volume of the task before us can seem daunting. In such a complex context, we could opt for cynicism and risk-averse inertia or use this opportunity to build on the practices that bore fruit in the past, learn from what didn’t work, try out new ways of operating across silos and identify the incentives that drive inter-sectoral, multi-stakeholder and shared-risk approaches to multiply such practices and maximise joint investments. The SDG Lab was set up to seize this historic opportunity and will contribute to the fullest of its capacity to this global movement for change.
Written by Nadia Isler for the GHC Newsletter
Director, SDG Lab