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For the SDGs to Succeed, Combine Old and New Power



By Noa Gafni

Now that diplomats have adopted a development agenda which strives to reduce poverty, fight injustice and end climate change by 2030, many of us are wondering, “how”?

The 193 world leaders at the UN General Assembly committed to 17 global goals with 169 indicators. The effort is so ambitious that one of the 17 goals specifically calls out the need for partnerships. Many of us have heard about public-private partnerships and other multi-stakeholder initiatives. But what if we looked at a new type of partnership- between large organizations and a generation of grassroots change-makers looking to make a difference?

We often think of millennials as protestors, who occupied Wall Street and created tent cities in Tel Aviv. But, in recent years, millennials have begun to work alongside institutions and individuals that already have a seat at the table, channeling their energy in a constructive manner.

In essence, they have created a new type of social movement-- conscious movement. Conscious movements funnel the energy of young people and the gravitas of established institutions to bring about positive social change.

From the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum to Lean In, a conscious movement launched by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, conscious movements create a powerful combination that brings together old and new power, online and offline interactions and global reach with local impact.

Old and New Power

Many people talk about “new power,” which is more open and participatory than “old power,” which is closed and hierarchical. It seems like these two types of power are completely incompatible. But conscious movements manage this tension and turn it into an opportunity. The Global Shapers Community, part of the World Economic Forum, brings together Global Shapers, who are under 30 years old with the CEOs and world leaders who go to Davos each year. Shapers take part in cross-mentorship schemes where they learn from world leaders, and these leaders, in turn, learn from the Global Shapers.

Connecting on and offline

Conscious movements recognize the importance of both online and in-person meetings. In a world that emphasizes online interactions over in-person gatherings, conscious movements flip this logic on its head. Lean In is a conscious movement launched by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. Lean In encourages women to further their careers by launching Lean In Circles-- in-person gatherings where women discuss their professional challenges, seek advice and share resources. Lean In's website provides women with the tools to create and manage meetings, access expert videos (for professional development during meetings) and interact with other Circles nearby. But the focus remains on building trust through small, in-person meetings.

Bridging Global and Local

Even though the world is more global than ever before, most of our daily contact still takes place locally. Of all the telephone calling minutes in the world last year, only 2 percent were cross-border calls and the average person consumes just 1-2 percent of their news on foreign sites.

Conscious movements make the most of both the global and the local. +SocialGood unites changemakers around the power of innovation and technology to make the world a better place. Globally connected influencers work with +SocialGood to share ideas of what’s working in global development and adapt it to their local communities. Whilst the Social Good Summit took place in New York during United Nations General Assembly week, over 100 local meetups took place around the world, including in the Philippines, Rwanda and Tunisia.

As someone who has not only participated but also helped nurture several of these conscious movements, I have seen the benefits to organizations, millennials, and more important, the world at large. In a time where we’re looking for solutions to the world’s biggest problems, conscious movements play a key role. Who is more invested in a better world at 2030 than the millennial generation? And who is better placed to connect, scale and leverage the enthusiasm of millennials than established institutions? Conscious movements can be a key type of partnership to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

Noa Gafni is a Fellow of Social Innovation at the University of Cambridge and the CEO of Impact Squared, a movement building consultancy. She is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, a +SocialGood Connector and a Lean In Organiser.

Image credit: David Shankbone, Flickr

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