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SDG Changemaker Toolkit

Introduction to the SDG Changemaker Toolkit

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a shared vision for the future focused on peace, shared prosperity and planetary health. The 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs are the primary action framework for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that act as a roadmap – charting a path to a future where all communities and individuals can thrive. The SDGs and Agenda 2030 were officially adopted by the UN in 2015 and set a target to achieve the global goals by the year 2030. 

The scale of the goals and the timeline are nothing short of ambitious. The SDGs call for coordinated progress across the globe on some of the biggest and complex challenges facing humanity – such as climate change, poverty and inequality. While it is widely recognized that this global comprehensive vision for change is necessary, the ambitiousness of the goals have also been cited as a key barrier for engagement, particularly at the local level. 

2023 marked the midpoint to the 2030 deadline. As we move past this milestone, and take stock of progress made, there is evidence to suggest that from a global standpoint we are not on track to achieve the goals by 2030. Recent years have also been marked by significant disruptions, such as a global pandemic, ongoing conflict, accelerated impact of climate change and economic uncertainty, that are moving us further away from these shared targets. At the same time, the challenges faced in recent years have accelerated calls for urgent and transformative SDG action around the world.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present a vision for a future that is better for all, however without community-driven solutions, there is little hope that we can achieve the goals. SDG localization is the process often used to describe the work of taking the SDGs from the global and the abstract – to the local and actionable. 

With increasing levels of urgency around many SDG issues – climate change, poverty, resource extraction, political instability, to name a few – finding pathways to localization is more important than ever. Through SDG localization, communities can adapt the SDGs to fit their unique context, engage in shared learning and find ways to combine resources and expertise to meet the biggest challenges we face today.

“People are often impeded from approaching the SDGs because they think they are too big and too far off. They don’t have a sense for what SDGs mean for them personally. The way forward involves creating next steps for communities with goals and resources they can achieve locally. ”

– John McArthur Together Ensemble Report, 2023

This toolkit provides direction for those leading, inspiring and driving SDG localization in their communities. We know that real change happens, and is sustained, when individuals and communities are empowered, so we have crafted a resource that aims to bring the ambitious global goals within local reach and help support change that is globally inspired, and locally rooted. 

Gardener from Village Community Garden, located in Guelph’s Willow West Neighbourhood.

This toolkit identifies seven changemakers, whose gifts, skills and perspectives are essential for SDG localization. By providing practical advice, real-world examples and actionable strategies, this toolkit aims to spark conversations about possibilities and best practices and help people see how they can contribute to localization in real ways. Our goal is to empower changemakers – like you— as they harness their own potential and that of their communities to realize the vision of the SDGs through a local lens. 

Convenors: In the practice of localizing the SDGs, convenors help to integrate the global goals into local strategies and practices, by connecting people, ideas and resources. They play an important role in promoting SDG awareness, cultivating partnerships, and building local knowledge, so that local SDG actions can happen. 

Data Stewards: By localizing data interpretation and utilization for the SDGs, data stewards empower communities to gain ownership change that is happening locally. This essential work ensures that the global goals are locally relevant and measurable and helps bring forward important data insights to support local decision making.

Social Innovators: As problem-solvers, social innovators are driven by a sense of urgency and a drive to lead change in their communities. Through localized strategies and creative thinking, social innovators are achieving impact on the SDGs – while measuring and mapping their individual and collective impact.  

Policy Champions: With a focus on systems change, policy champions are knowledgeable advocates for the SDGs in communities, calling for policy change that reflects the interconnected nature of the goals. Working in and with communities, they ensure that all voices are heard and that policies reflect the needs of the most marginalized.

Knowledge Navigators: Embedded in organizations, institutions, local agencies and the community knowledge navigators are developing critical research questions, digging into local context and helping people to see solutions that bring the SDGs closer to home. Through research, dialogue and community empower these changemakers are helping to see and develop solutions.  

Resource Mobilizers: Investments of resources – time, money and expertise – are essential for achieving the SDGs. Resource mobilizers are gifted at identifying where these resources exist in communities, and mobilizing them through networks and strategic collaborations to help meet the goals.

Conscious Catalysts: Creating safe and caring spaces for changemakers, conscious catalysts are focused on supporting, uplifting and empowering individuals and communities working towards the SDGs. They are caretakers and storytellers, bringing new and diverse narratives and perspectives to local work on the SDGs.

This toolkit was developed to inspire the work of local changemakers in communities across Canada, drawing on the insights gained through active SDG localization in Guelph and London through SDG Cities – a 3 year project aimed at increasing engagement and use of the SDGs. The journeys of these communities, and others, have been rich in lessons and marked by community-led action and innovation. It is through this lens that we invite you – the changemakers –  to be part of the journey to embed the SDG in community context across Canada and, and beyond.