The 4 Pillars of Successful Sustainable Development Goals

Yahoo employees work to beautify a park in their community of San Jose, California. What can you and your employees do to develop your community?
Yahoo employees work to beautify a park in their community of San Jose, California. What can you and your employees do to develop your community?

By Nita Kirby

2015 was a fantastic year for many things, including philanthropy. I ended my year by attending a two-day symposium devoted to global volunteerism, and it challenged me to think about employee engagement across our world that is seemingly becoming smaller each day.

In September, the United Nations met to address its post-2015 development agenda that includes a review of goals that could incorporate the private sector in their development. The intent is to build a true public-private partnership to affect measurable change on a global scale. We do this by creating (and meeting) Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs).

Per the U.N., the objective is a more “universal, inclusive and bold commitment to people and the planet.” So, how do we implement measurable change on a global scale? When written out, it seems nearly impossible, until you recognize that several countries, companies and countless volunteers are ready to support (and measure) this initiative!

Global volunteerism

Expanding beyond your borders is not a new concept, but teaming up your volunteerism with one of the SDGs is a great way to bring new life into a program, whether you are at your local nonprofit or sending your employees to an organization in desperate need of skills to transform their services. There are a number of partners that support looking for opportunities from the U.N. Volunteers Site, Global Impact and Points of Light. Each share opportunities that are attuned to meeting an objective and providing needed structure for a solid volunteerism experience.

Idea: The second SDG listed here is “No Hunger.” While that might be a scary goal to achieve on your own, your company can go serve at a soup kitchen in your local area, recruit local restaurants to help feed hungry families, or have a food drive to stock a local pantry.

Corporate philanthropy for today

Eduardo Martinez, the president of the UPS Foundation and a member of the 2030 Agenda, shared his thoughts on how his people are using their talents to meet the SDGs and what to expect the trends to be as we make our way through 2016:

1) Diversity and Inclusion – Taking steps to look deeper into outcomes that ensure that opportunities address the needs of employee resource groups, both hands-on as well as skill-based events, and sharing stories that show how goals were met.

To Do: Have you facilitated an event at your workplace that might inspire other companies to get involved? Create a video and put it on YouTube or Vimeo to share with your employees, prospective candidates and any vendors you work with.

2) Volunteerism – Identifying the value proposition for your colleagues and the organizations you work with; always seeking a higher purpose and authenticity.

To do: Survey your employees using this list of SDGs to see which one they are most interested in working on. Measurable results can come from lots of volunteers working together. Tools like Survey Monkey allow you to create simple polls to get a pulse on your employees’ preferences. It’s the first step to increasing volunteerism in your organization!

3) Environment – Identifying smart ways to lessen your footprint and putting investment back into the world through planting, local gardens and sustainable foods.

To Do: Here’s a simple list to help you and your employees lessen your corporate environmental footprint without drastic measures. First on the list? Turn computers off at night. It saves energy, is completely do-able, and gives much needed closure for the day.

4) Community safety – Finding the core essence of what your company considers safety is key for UPS; this can transcend to any community that requires a safe environment.

To Do: Locate a nearby school, neighborhood or business that could use the help of a trained accountant, safety patrol or advocate at city hall for a much-needed speed bump. Not only will advocating for your community create goodwill in your local area, but it will also help your employees use different skills than those they use in your company.

Creating a system of service

One word – storytelling. There is no better way to convey a message than to sit down and share your service. Social media has enabled us with this vast system to share content and explore one’s point of view on their connections of the world. We are able to connect quickly with those in different places instantaneously.

For example, I can tell you that Cleveland’s highest-rated high schools are at only 68 percent capacity while most of the city’s poorly-rated schools are under capacity, averaging 71 percent utilization, and it MIGHT move you to action.

But what will likely move you more, is the story of Jenna, a high-school sophomore who desperately wants more investment in her local school because, while she has the grades and transportation to switch schools, her little brother, Jamal, does not. Her fight to get better teachers, more funding and after-school programs supported is a story of courage, persistence and the desire to leave things better than when she found them.

Combined with the SDG goal to help the world’s youth receive a quality education, this is a story your company can get behind. You cannot change all the schools, but you can change Jenna’s.

Social media is so significant to mobilizing and understanding the benefits of service. To help you get started with your storytelling, here are some quick tips:

  • Understand your audience: This is the key to striking relevant significance.
  • Survey: Part of the story is how the experience was and surveying can make this happen.
  • The right tell: Sharing the transformation; did the event change your view?

You and your willingness to engage touches each of the Sustainable Development Goals. Whether working at a food bank, contributing to your local school or sharing that lives matter, you are the change that can make powerful things happen within your community. As a practitioner and student of this ever-changing field, I challenge you to embrace a goal for this year. Find a common impact, value and ownership in your transformation for years to come.

Image credit: Flickr/Alex Pearson

Ms. Nita Kirby serves as Director of Client Strategy and oversees JK Group’s strategic service management with a majority of its corporate clients. In addition, Nita is responsible for ensuring the success of philanthropic programs for many of JK Group’s key customers and oversees process improvements for how the company manages its client’s programs and relationships. This effort includes detailed benchmarking, employee engagement methodologies and financial modeling. Nita serves on numerous non-profit and volunteer boards and continues to stay engaged with the local non-profits community. Nita has worked for one of largest non-profits in the US, where she provided extensive support to some of the largest employee giving programs in the country. With a BS in Business Administration and vast experience in program development and administrative protocol, this experience has allowed Nita to incorporate best practice processes in each of her client engagements and focus on deliverables and client satisfaction. In addition, Nita is a Lean Six Sigma certified Green Belt providing her with expanded insight into how processes affect outcomes.

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