Clive Wilson is author of “Designing the Purposeful organization – how to inspire business performance beyond boundaries”, and is currently writing “Designing the Purposeful World – the Sustainable Development Goals as a Blueprint for Humanity”
I was inspired and intrigued when I read Michael Schluter’s Relational Thinking Dialogue “Three Relational Concerns about the Sustainable Development Goals”. I was inspired by the fact that renowned thinkers such as Michael are evaluating the SDGs from a range of different perspectives. I was also particularly inspired by the specific assessment of how relationships play out (or not) in the delivery of the goals. The more people that take the time to explore, consider and discuss such views, the more we will come to realise the power of the goals and what else needs to happen in support of them.
My personal approach to the SDGs is probably different to that of many. The moment I read the published working group draft of the SDGs in 2014, my heart skipped a beat. All I saw as I read the paper, was a vision that totally corresponded with my own. The key here is the word “vision”. The words in the draft goals provided stimulus to my imagination, the vision was what arose in my mind’s eye. This is what inspired me.
Naturally, the goals have been worked through and converted into detailed narrative, sub-goals, targets and measures, which are vital to forming a cohesive global programme but as I explain in “Designing the Purposeful Organization”, results are simply the measure of our progress to the vision. They are rarely what inspires us. We are principally inspired by four things: a sense of purpose; a compelling vision; a felt sense of success; and the knowledge that our talents are being deployed in support of something meaningful. In this respect the SDGs worked for me and immediately caused me to commit to supporting and celebrating their delivery in the best way I could.
Working on the hypothesis that there would be others in the world who would be equally inspired, I set out to engage with the world in four principle ways. I established a branch of the United Nations Association focused on the SDGs; I established a Facebook page to support the SDGs and celebrate progress; I started to write my new book “Designing the Purposeful World”; and I started to engage with groups of people from all walks of life (so far in Europe, the US and Asia).
So far I have engaged with thousands of people aged from seven to seventy and in groups from five to five hundred. I always begin these workshops with a “mind-journey” to 2030 and ask those involved to envisage the world they would like to see (realistically) in 2030 and be happy to pass to future generations. The amazing thing is that to date at every workshop, what people see is entirely compatible with the SDGs. I then (and not before) show them the SDGs and they are always amazed how “their world” fits with the goals. I then simply ask them which goals particularly resonate and in what way. This is where individuality plays out. We all see 2030 differently but always in line with the goals. They leave inspired to take action which they share before leaving.
The beauty of the goals is that they are far from limiting. At headline level, they apply to the whole world, not just the developing world, even though some of the targets are clearly oriented that way. And, whilst the specifics may drive specific actions at the formal programme level for the UN and national governments, they certainly don’t need to constrain other players, such as organisations, communities and individuals. I encourage people to follow the inspiration that a better world for 2030 provides to them and those around them. Naturally, if a specific goal inspires them, I’m sure they’ll find out more about the details, but I trust and encourage that they won’t allow this to constrain their imagination and innovation.
It is wonderful that Michael Schluter and his colleagues are emphasising the real need to strengthen and exploit relationships in a plethora of ways to make the world a better place and I wish them every success in doing so.