✓ Shape your vision and mission by having strong ideas and testing them. Stay flexible because you may miss new opportunities.
✓ Define what you’re not. Protect yourself against the assumptions of other people and organizations.
✓ Map your audience: who haven’t you heard from and what do they want?
✓ Be agile but move at a pace that fits your capacity.
✓ Find your niche that builds on what’s happening around you. Avoid duplicating efforts, there is no shortage of work when it comes to the SDGs!
✓ Maintain the mantra of ‘iterate, test, iterate’. It’s okay to not have anything figured out.
✓ Pursue feedback and learn from others.
#2 Building multi-stakeholder teams*
✓ Aim for a mix of expertise, experience, backgrounds, generations and networks. A multi-sectoral approach requires a diverse and multi-talented team.
✓ Attract forward-thinkers that value risk, creativity and opportunities outside of their comfort zone.
✓ Seek out a balance between ‘doers and dreamers.’
✓ Identify your relationship builders. They are key to creating a community and staying connected.
✓ Choose a team leader who embodies your vision and mission. They must have credibility on the SDGs and be valued for their openness.
✓ Build and sustain team spirit with regular check-ins and outings.
✓ Have a dedicated go-to administrative support person from day one.
* Team members do not need to possess all attributes and characteristics from the beginning. Team building is an iterative process.
#3 Finding risk-taking champions
✓ Identify the people who believe in your initiative and have the political power to give it creditability.
✓ Ensure their backgrounds reflect the multi-sectoral nature of the Agenda.
✓ Don’t be afraid to ask your champion(s) to go the extra mile, especially in the kick-off phase.
✓ Make your work accessible and tangible so they can use it to influence their own networks.
✓ Use your champions as a sounding board to test ideas and assumptions.
✓ Keep your champions engaged and informed throughout your journey.
#4 Dropping a pin: why location matters
✓ Be mindful of how your physical location impacts the perception of your initiative. For example, Mayor’s office versus community centre.
✓ Select a space that is accessible to your current and future stakeholders.
✓ Negotiate hosting arrangements that allow for agility and reduced bureaucracy.
✓ Take your initiative on the road. Host events and meetings elsewhere in and around your community.
#5 Sourcing flexible financing*
✓ Secure flexible funding that will cover your needs for at least the first two years — year one is iterating on your concept, and year two is the opportunity to test it. If you are chasing funding, particularly in year one, you will not be able to properly develop your niche.
✓ Seek in-kind support for staff, sponsorship of events, office equipment and supplies, and more.
✓ Have patient funders at the beginning that believe in your concept and are willing to share in your risk. Be prepared to go up against donor monitoring and evaluation frameworks that are not necessarily compatible with risk and innovation.
✓ Build a diverse pool of funders. This demonstrates your commitment to a multi-stakeholder approach. A single donor could create perceptions that your initiative is an offshoot of their mandate.
* You don’t need large sums in the beginning.
#6 Communicating counts
✓ Stagger your communications: avoid overwhelming your audience with too much information at the beginning.
✓ Be mindful of what you’re sharing and the image you’re projecting. Overstating your ambitions — and results — could backfire.
✓ Develop and practice your elevator pitch: neatly package who you are, what you do and where you are going.
✓ Craft a visually-appealing brand identity: invest in a professional to develop your look and feel.
✓ Create core products: a (simple) website, flyer, newsletter and business card.
✓ Translate ‘innovation’ in a way that does not scare potential partners. Not all stakeholders are going to be fluent in your language.
#7 Proving value
✓ Keep records: things as simple as growing email lists and event attendance can demonstrate sustained engagement. Use this to report back to your donors.
✓ Track your milestones and growing pains to tell your story. Don’t panic if you’re lacking a robust monitoring and evaluation system from the beginning.
✓ Share results early on and communicate the progress you’ve made. A mission statement or cohesive brand is worth showcasing.
✓ Conduct a baseline survey as early as possible to best measure results.
✓ Always keep impact as your final goal. Know that everything you do has a place and contributes to your overall objective.
✓ Embrace skepticism as interest in your initiative.