Another Soul Searching Review of the Sustainable Development Goals


As a person who works in international development, I am always teetering on that sharp edge of wondering if development work is really doing good for the people who need it – the poorest. My concerns are two-fold:

First, most theories of change to raise people out of poverty are growth based. This article does a good job of looking at this issue. http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-sustainable-development-goals-a-siren-and-lullaby-for-our-times/2015/10/01 I share a brief snippet to lure you into reading the full article, entitled The Sustainable Development Goals: A Siren and Lullaby for Our Times

At first glance, the rhetoric of the SDGs seems irresistible. They talk about eliminating poverty “in all its forms, everywhere” by 2030, through “sustainable development” and even addressing extreme inequality. None of which we would argue with of course. But as with all half-truths, one just has to dig beneath the surface for motivations to unravel.

Recent research by economist David Woodward shows that to lift the number of people living under $1.25 a day (in “international dollars”) above the official SDG poverty line, we would have to increase global GDP by 15 times – assuming the best-case-scenario in growth rates and inequality trends from the last 30 years. That means the average global GDP per capita would have to rise to nearly $100,000 in 15 years, triple the average U.S. income right now. In a global economy that is so inefficient at distributing wealth, where 93 cents of every dollar of wealth created ends up in the hands of the richest 1%, more growth is only going to enrich the rich while destroying the planet in its wake.

Of course, it is completely possible to achieve the necessary goal of reducing poverty, but not through the UN’s growth-based, business-as-usual strategy. Poverty can only be eradicated by 2030 if we address two critical issues head on: income inequality and endless material growth.

The second thing I worry about is the folly of those of us in the “north” assuming we know what is good and right for the poor. We can only, at best, be partners. Not saviors. That mentality gets us into a lot of trouble.

What do you think? As you work with your NGOs, how do you view your own work?

Image: flickr photo by Scott..? http://flickr.com/photos/evilpics/13550799833 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

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Are We Designing Capacity Limiting Solutions?

vusblogOne of my favorite non profit blogs here in the US is “Non Profits With Balls” written by a smart and funny guy from Seattle named Vu.  Today he posted an article that might resonate with your small NGOs – in fact, you may want to share it with them. It may influence your own projects!

http://nonprofitwithballs.com/2015/09/is-your-organization-or-foundation-unknowingly-setting-capacity-traps/

Sustainable Development Goals and Alternative Financing

sustfinanceAs we discuss ideas for your various NGO clients, one thing is clear. They are all small, so they have to look creatively at not only how they finance their own actions,  but more importantly, the solutions they seek to give to the world have to be financed as well.

There is an emerging field of looking at social entrepreneurship and alternative ways of financing. If you want to consider how this might be useful to your NGO, check this out http://impactalpha.com/financing-the-sustainable-development-goals-with-blended-capital/ 

Work the Net – A Resource on Using Networks for Development

From Work the Net p 5, SKATThis resource is a pretty traditional view of networks – they use the term “formal networks” – but it is useful nonetheless.

Work the Net – A Management Guide for Formal Networks

The guide addresses networking practitioners, as well as other professionals wishing to set up a network, but also established networkers will find some useful tips. It was developed by professionals with sound experience in designing and running networks.

This hands-on guide in concise A5 format describes on 140 pages how formal networks can be set up, managed and used in an efficient and effective way. The process-oriented approach is explained with a flow chart, and checklists summarise the crucial steps. A resource section provides relevant publications and websites.

‘Work the Net’ is one of the results of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) project ‘Networking, Information and Knowledge Management by Regional Organizations’ (NeRO), which provided an exchange platform for information and knowledge management approaches and instruments between regional development organizations focusing on the management of natural resources in the Asian context. (Download PDF)