By Chris Castro
There are many advantages to developing local action projects focused on the SDGs. Local projects often serve as pilot programs or ‘proof-of-concepts’ for larger, countrywide initiatives.
These small-scale projects are an opportunity to explore new partnerships, innovate new approaches, and discover barriers to be avoided in the future. Implementation costs at the local level tend to be significantly lower and can lead to better understanding of what works and what does not.
Yet, local action has its share of obstacles. Since 2015, we have studied variables that lead to either project failure or best practices not being adopted. We have identified three barriers that need to be focused on to foster local action in the SDGs: development ideas, funding projects, and scaling impact.
CREATING IDEAS FOR ACTION
Ideas for action projects need to be developed into refined courses of implementation with clear goals, participants, and outcomes. We develop local action projects by bringing together community members to directly assist in the design phase of each project. This is a crucial but largely overlooked matter in project planning.
We strive to not be prescriptive in our guidance, but to learn from the local community their needs and approaches to addressing their own challenges.
Design Thinking in Pokhara, Nepal
In 2016, we hosted an interactive and interdisciplinary workshop called The Hive in Pokhara, Nepal. To being the design thinking exercise, we brought together community leaders and elected student officials from small businesses and three local colleges.
Our goal was to facilitate the understanding of the relationship between the key environmental issues we identified in their community: Energy, Water, Food, Waste, and Ecology. We saw an opportunity for potential small-scale projects that could develop from the participants’ further exploration. We sought to provide direction and shape a clear course of action towards implementing the project.
The outcome was a tree planting project that increased local plant biodiversity on cleared cattle land. This project brought together students and community leaders as partners and focused on giving a voice to women and girls as project leaders and citizen scientists collecting data.
The most valuable part of the workshop were the metrics and indicators that gathered data related to social, environmental, and economic impact. This approach of developing projects that includes these tools to measure their impact helps ensure that data generated can help inform larger SDG focused actions in the future.
By 2030, as stated in the SDGs, we will have built on existing initiatives to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development. These will complement GDP as an indicator for growth and support the statistical capacity building in developing countries.
We firmly believe that nothing short of truly global cooperation driven by local action will ensure achievement of the Global Goals.