The Sustainable Development Goals have been in effect in over 193 countries since 1st January 2016. In the run up to the official launch date, celebrities, NGOs, and businesses from around the world united under one banner to emphasise that, unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs are a universal set of targets, as relevant to Global North countries as they are to the Global South. One of the most impressive campaigns from an education perspective was the ‘World’s Largest Lesson’ which encouraged teachers around the world to dedicate at least one lesson to teaching their pupils about the Sustainable Development Goals. A bank of resources and lesson plans was collected to support teachers to do this, and these can still be found on the World’s Largest Lesson website if you are interested in taking a look.
These campaigns have done an excellent job of raising awareness amongst millions of people across the globe. Yet in an age where information is available at the click of a finger, the real challenge lies in our ability to transform awareness into sustained and meaningful action, and to inspire young people to go out and ‘have a go’ at tackling some of the complex challenges facing their local and global communities.
In June 2016, SEEd piloted an event that brought together primary and secondary pupils, University students, and educators from NGOs to create a network of young people who would support each other as they undertook a variety of different action learning projects. What stood out most to us on this day was the extent to which the students and pupils were inspired by the SDGs. Among the most prominent examples were George Rosenfeld who attended a UN Youth Summit on the SDGs and who is now a Youth Ambassador for SEEd, and Torriano Primary School who are using them as the basis of their curriculum.
The SDGs are far from perfect, and there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to how their impact will be measured. What we can be sure of though, is that they are a powerful motivating force for young people who are eager to bring about change. Please do let us know if you have examples of young people who are using the Goals as the basis of their work in their local community.