Whenever I refer to the 17 sustainable development goals defined by the UN, I get excited. The reason for excitement is manifold.
- The comprehensive coverage of the areas we need to focus for development
- The ability to focus few, 3 or 4, or even only one of them, and be able to make significant progress
- The simplicity of the model
- The potential to enact sustainable development
The canvas has 17 items. All of them are worth the pursuit. However, my thinking is that if we can focus on a few of them at a time, we can get to great heights.
My personal favourites are the first five
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Health and well being
- Quality education
- Gender equality
Just imagine that we could focus on these few development goals though corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects or in our personal charity projects. We could be able to bring about considerable growth and positive change across the society.
The rationale for the focus on the goals are not about providing some funding here and there for food, expenses, and utilities. Rather it is about enabling autonomous growth though kickstart programs withing communities.
The simple analogy here is not to give fish but to teach how to fish, thus ensure sustainable development.
“You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money.” — P.J. O'Rourke
To this end, the model we must follow is along the lines of
- Provide inspiration to the poor on leadership thinking, finance management, small business management
- Eliminate hunger with home gardening with limited spaces
- Ensure health though indigenous methods that help boost immunity
- Provide education with opportunities to learn and practice sustainable social contributions
- Gender equality though appreciation of diversity
Government can play a wider role to help realize SDG. The policy frameworks and legislation have a significant role to play to help reach sustainable development momentum. Government policy could be driven by or include all the 17 sustainable development goals. 17 ministerial portfolios are all that you need to help cover the full space.
Let us investigate the first sustainable development goal and explore how to plan community projects, either as CSR, government projects or as personal charity projects.
In the simple economic model, people need to have a sizable income form employment or from their small business. Jobs with sufficient income require good enough training and education. The ability to build a basic emergency fund though savings is also very important.
When people live hand to mouth, that situation originates from lack of income. While poverty could be blamed on lack of education, the opportunities also matter. The simple instincts to leverage the opportunities also matters. Hence, even with lack of education, if we could inspire people on how to capitalize on available resources and small yet effective opportunities, we can lead them out of poverty.
The next step is to help create opportunities for the less fortunate. The simple scenario of cultivation, produce, picking, transporting, and selling to consumers’ needs a small-scale ecosystem to be able create opportunities for a bunch of people. It is about creating a marketplace with associated economic agents and logistics to connect each other. Once we get into the dynamics the community would thrive around the opportunities made available to them.
The best form of giving is creating opportunities.
The opportunity creation could be done with small and simple projects. It is more about facilitation and empowerment rather than large scale investments into a marketplace. It is about connecting the consumers with producers and logistics such as transport and banking.
Oftentimes we think what we need is to provide the poor with money though funding and lending facilities. However, it is more fruitful to get the ball rolling with connecting the parties and inspiring them on the roles they could play. Then the community would move the ball further down the field on their own.
Once we facilitate the flow of income, we need to empower people with financial literacy. Lack of understanding on basic financial principles is a major cause for the loss of hard-earned money. Saving a percentage of the income, building an emergency fund, monitoring your expenses are basic financial literacy principles that the poor need to be aware of.
As you gradually get over poverty level, then people need to be inspired on how to utilize the savings to acquire assets that will ensure sustainable economic growth through investment and assets management.
Access to the economic resources, banking, and the use of technology to manage finance needs to be introduced to the communities.
There are both positives and negatives with microfinance. People need to be empowered to make informed decisions when using microfinance facilities.
Breaking the vicious cycle of debt is essential for sustainable development. Sometimes, people spend a considerable portion of their income for paying interest on debt. An essential pillar of effective financial literacy is the understanding of what debt is and how to manage the pile of debt. Sometimes people want to first get rid of all debt before they save for a basic emergency fund. That indicates sheer lack of financial literacy. A better model would be to imagine that your debt is slightly higher than actual and save that additional amount the way you pay your debt. That would help build small emergency fund gradually.
Resource Optimization and Sharing
Lack of access to resources is a key challenge for the poor in their journey towards no poverty. We need to facilitate the knowhow around optimal utilization of the available limited resources. There are knowledge systems within the communities on optimization. We need to leverage the knowledge system they already have in order to help them build their own models. An example is to optimize limited storage. Another is how you could leverage a small garden space for vegetable cultivation.
Resource and knowledge sharing could also lead to sustainable development though collaboration. If we could build a sense of shared purpose within communities to help them get over poverty together, that is an effective and sustainable model.
Engagement and Participation
We got to ensure that the members participate in the projects and initiatives from within the communities we want to develop to help end poverty in all forms. Inclusion and diversity encourage participation. There could be members of the communities, especially youth, who could take leadership and engage proactively with projects and initiatives.
“Extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere.” — Kofi Annan
Why is it so important that we eliminate poverty?
Inequality can unbalance a society in the long run. We as humans need to help each other to lead a quality life. There is joy in living with a purpose, one that reflects our values and serve the greater good. There is joy and satisfaction in helping eliminate poverty. The journey towards sustainable development will provide great life stories for everyone.