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Localizing the SDGs requires engagement and coordination across communities and sectors. Convenors act as the connective tissue for SDG localization efforts, helping to raise awareness about the SDGs, foster dialogue around issues and solutions, and create places and platforms for learning and connection. With broad community connections and established partnerships, convenors can be effective in helping people find common ground and align efforts around SDG localization so that their impact can be amplified, and sustained.

Strategies and Actions for Convening

Example: SDG Idea Factory, Downtown Kitchener

With the opening of the SDG Idea Factory, a physical space that fosters social innovation and the exchange, the City of Kitchener and the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre has demonstrated commitment to the SDGs and capacity to convene locally focused SDG work. Their SDGtalks event series, launched soon after the SDG Idea Factory was opened, helped to generate excitement about the new space and raise awareness about the SDGs in the community. With events focused on each of the 17 goals, they are highlighting the local people and organizations who are making contributions towards the goals everyday. The success of these events has been in supporting local conversations about the SDGs that are led by those in the community who are closest to the issues.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Naudia Banton, Manager of the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre and the SDG Idea Factory at the SDG Idea Factory in February 2024. Also pictured Mayor of Kitchener Barry Vrbanovic and Bardish Chagger, MP for Waterloo.  

Convening for SDG Localization in Mid-Sized Cities

Mid-sized cities have been identified as places where innovative approaches to social and economic transformation are emerging. Across Canada these mid-sized cities – ranging in size from 50,000 and 500,0000 people – are incredibly diverse with adaptive qualities which offer opportunities to develop, test and co-create strategies for sustainable development.

Designed and delivered with this context in mind, SDG Cities demonstrated how the SDGs could be activated in mid-sized cities to make progress on SDG localization. 10C Shared Space and the Pillar Nonprofit Network worked locally to increase understanding of the SDGs and their relevance to local communities. By sharing local stories of SDG action and integrating SDG language into their own program impact communications and storytelling, both 10C and Pillar demonstrated how the SDGs could truly be used as a “shared language”.  By tapping into the strength of their existing networks 10C and Pillar supported SDG action within their communities and beyond. Raising awareness about the SDGs amongst local changemakers by hosting “Vote for the SDGs” election town halls at 10C or Pillar’s #PolicyTalks which introduced local nonprofits to the SDGs as collective advocacy tool. Informed by the needs of local changemakers, they also developed knowledge hubs and learning opportunities, such as SDGs 101, and a series of SDG training sessions as part of the SDG Cities Academy.

Vote for the SDGs banner and a happy volunteer at 10C Shared Space.

Beyond the Goals: Creating a shared understanding of Human Rights and Leave No One Behind 

Raising awareness about the SDGs must extend beyond a growing familiarity with the 17 goals, to include the foundational principles and values that guide implementation of the goals, including human rights and Leave No One Behind (LNOB). People who are left behind are often economically, socially, spatially, or politically excluded and not only left behind, but pushed back by policies and oppressive systems. Actively working to leave no one behind means reaching those who are furthest behind first, and working to identify and dismantle the factors that are pushing people back. 

In Canada, Indigenous people and communities are those furthest and most often left behind. Moving forward on the SDGs and the foundational principle of Leave No One Behind,  means increasing awareness of the 17 SDGs and their relationship to other frameworks and action plans – such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). UNDRIP articulates the rights which “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world”. As a global agreement, UNDRIP, like the SDGs, requires local awareness and action to ensure Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty can be realized. 
In their leadership of an SDG localization process in Nogojiwanong | Peterborough, the Kawartha World Issues Centre and Green UP worked to increase awareness of the SDGs by centering Indigenous experiences, knowledge and leadership from the very beginning. This focus on Indigenous leadership throughout the process of SDG localization emphasized the marginalized status of Indigenous communities nationally and locally, and helped the community come together to understand and take action on the principle of leave no one behind in a local context.

How to…

To be a part of SDG localization, , it is important for people working locally to understand what the SDGs are and how they can be used in the context of their own work and communities. Raising awareness about the SDGs is often one of the early steps in the localization process and can inspire a sense of personal responsibility, as well as laying a foundation for collaborative work in the future. Convenors often speak the language of many sectors. This means that they are well positioned to help raise SDGs awareness, increasing community-level understanding and action planning. With increased awareness of the goals and values of the SDGs local people can develop a sense of ownership over the localization process and begin to develop solutions that work in their local contexts.

Convenors play a crucial role in supporting the growth of collaborations and partnerships to advance the SDGs. Fostering productive and lasting partnerships can be supported by cultivating a common vision that is inspired by the SDGs – and grounded by local priorities. Through fluency in the shared language of the SDGs, convenors can help to bring people together – both within and across sectors – finding new opportunities for collaboration and partnership. 

Voluntary Local Reviews or VLRs offer communities around the world a framework for working together to localize and make progress on the SDGs. VLRs are locally focused processes that allow communities to “take stock” of their SDG progress identify priority areas and develop systems to track and report progress and the impact of local actions. In Canada, cities like Kelowna, Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, are demonstrating capacity for leadership and cross-sector convening, developing community-wide buy-in around the SDGs. Led by local governments, nonprofit organizations or multi-sector coalitions, the process of developing a VLR can provide different groups with a common purpose and a focused approach to SDG localization. With a collaboratively developed VLR, communities not only align their local priorities to the SDGs but can also begin to collectively identify opportunities for action that leverage strengths and resources available within the community. The concept of a Voluntary Regional Review (VRR) is emerging as a new approach to local progress tracking that leverages unique regional strengths and addresses shared issues. A regional lens could open up new opportunities for collaboration for mid-sized cities and small communities.