Activating the 2030 Agenda.

SDG Lab Toolkit


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals (SDGs) call for collaboration and partnership like never before. Achieving the SDGs requires us to look at complex global challenges through many different dimensions. The SDG Lab was created to do just that — by acting as a connector, amplifier, question asker and innovator.

This toolkit is a living document that captures the Lab’s journey by providing insight into the methods, tools and techniques that, if used, can enable you or your organization to deliver on the Agenda. The toolkit can be used as the foundation for your own lab or to inspire new ways of working.

 

This toolkit can help you in:

  • Localizing the SDGs to your context

  • Building a lab

  • Experimenting with others

  • Testing new tools

  • Trying new ways of working (think multi-stakeholder and integrated)

 

  • Finding out what works and what doesn’t

  • Connecting with new stakeholders

  • Incubating partnerships

  • Co-creating solutions

  • Making a case for resource mobilization

  • Maximizing your unique convening power

  • Learning from other implementation successes and challenges

 
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The SDG Lab was created to be a catalyst for finding synergies, breaking down silos and erasing outdated divides. This toolkit does that exactly by providing the tools and know-how for individuals and organizations who want to think and act differently and creatively in the SDG era.
— Mr. Michael Møller, former Director-General, UN Geneva (Nov 2013 - Jun 2019)
 
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The SDG Lab Toolkit packages the resources and insights we have used and collected along our journey in one place. With growing interest in the lab model, I hope this toolkit will serve as inspiration to others seeking ideas and help in implementing the 2030 Agenda.
— Ms. Nadia Isler, SDG Lab Director

 

Thinking about building your own SDG Lab inspired initiative?

At the SDG Lab, we learned from experience how to create a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on supporting the delivery of the 2030 Agenda. Here are our top tips when considering to build a lab-inspired platform.

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Connect, Amplify, Ask Questions and Innovate:

These four areas are mutually reinforcing and represent the SDG Lab’s operational niche. We have tested and iterated on these tools since the Lab’s founding, and they have ultimately proved to be an invaluable service to our stakeholders.

Determining if these four areas will resonate in your community may require equal amounts of trial and error, not only through the tools listed below but also by other methods and processes relevant to your activities.

I want to . . .

Connect.

These tools will help you create new opportunities for actors in and outside your community to co-create solutions and to exchange information, experiences, and ideas for collaboration. Doing so fosters constructive interactions and strengthens multisectoral and multi-stakeholder engagement.

Ecosystem of Actors

Randomized Lunch Trials

Peer Messaging

 

Amplify.

Acknowledging the wealth of work already underway provides the space for actors to learn from and build on each other. These are platforms that create unique forums for telling stories of success and failure, helping to inform future policy and practice.

Story Sharing

Failure Report

Unpacking

Ask Questions.

A shift in mindset will be required to achieve the SDGs. Thinking, acting and investing in an intersectoral way doesn't 'just happen'. These tools will support you to ask the key questions that uncover new ways of thinking and new paths to action.

Insight Session

So What? Series

Innovate.

These tools will enable you to provide the space for actors from various sectors to come together to tackle common challenges. They encourage experimentation with new approaches, formats and processes, as well as risk-taking and learning from failure.

Action Areas Workshop

Open Space

Country Challenges Workshop

 

*Check out the additional resources for advancing the 2030 Agenda, provided by the Geneva 2030 Ecosystem

Co-Creation Rules of Engagement 

The SDGs will not just happen on their own. Meeting the challenge of the 2030 Agenda requires us to adopt mindsets that are open to new ways of convening, engaging and working. Initiatives that engage other stakeholders open new insights and foster shared ownership of challenges and solutions. The following principles have been adopted from handbooks on co-creation as well as our own experiences and are essential for fruitful collaboration.

  • Gather different stakeholders from different sectors. Their diverse experiences and viewpoints foster solutions that are relevant and impactful.

  • Ensure everyone contributes. All voices should be heard regardless of experience, background and role.

  • Aim for quantity over quality. The goal is to generate a lot of ideas — prioritization and viability come later.

  • Think blue sky. Move beyond the perceived limitations of your organization and environment.

  • Promote active listening. When other people are talking, take notes and jot down questions.

  • Build on each other’s ideas rather than knocking them down. Instead of saying ‘no’ try ‘yes, and…’.

  • Share ideas in a visual and engaging way: drawing, acting, building… any action that motivates people to move and try new things.

  • Turn on FOCUS mode. Discourage the use of phones and computers. Respect the time people have blocked and be present.

  • Use simple visuals to transform your space. Posters, easel boards and sticky notes are low-cost ways to create a friendly and informal environment.

I want to Connect.

Ecosystem of Actors


What is it?

An ‘ecosystem’ refers to a distinct ecological phenomenon: it is a community of organisms and the network of their interactions among each other, and with their physical environment. 

While the Ecosystem of Actors is not biological, it does build well on the analogy. It is a highly networked community of actors that interact among themselves and with many global issues and processes.

Every community by nature has an ecosystem, but more can be done to realize its full potential in addressing challenges and leveraging opportunities.

This is an opportunity to activate an already existing community of actors in service of the SDGs.

Why do it?

  • Opportunity to build on each other's work and advance the Agenda as a united front.

  • Transformation of culture to one that values collaboration, partnerships, knowledge exchange and support.

  • Ability to translate the knowledge and expertise of actors into actionable products that support SDG implementation.

  • Opportunity to develop multidisciplinary solutions to key challenges in policy and practice that would not otherwise be addressed through a single-disciplinary approach.

How to do it?

  1. Talk to the right actors and potential co-conveners (get out and go door-to-door) to know their vision for their community and their unique challenges. Use what they share to draft a mission for how the Ecosystem could respond to those needs and ambitions.

  2. Then, host a visioning session with the Ecosystem to test it. Inform the community that you're still in the 'prototyping' phase – it is essential to have their feedback before locking in what the Ecosystem stands for and will be delivering on.

  3. After you have a co-created mission, begin piloting tools that uniquely speak to your actors. We’ve developed Randomized Lunch Trials and Peer Messaging in response to the needs and requests of our community. Not every tool will resonate; but trying demonstrates your commitment to the community and to experimentation.

  4. Conduct surveys and check-ins to have one ear always tuned in. Annual surveys provide insight into how the Ecosystem has grown over time, and where it is doing well and where the opportunities are to improve. In order to best evaluate impact, start with a baseline survey. Between surveys, 2 to 3 question polls can be a great way to get quick feedback on new tools or concepts you are exploring.

  5. Stay consistent with communication and engagement with regular (not necessarily frequent) updates and meetings. Once the Ecosystem has been well-established and you have the right actors engaged, leverage these engagements to cross-transfer knowledge and tackle challenges individual actors may be facing.

  6. There is value in getting actors talking to each other and building unexpected partnerships, and this may be enough in the beginning. But eventually, people will want to take advantage of the multidisciplinary nature of the Ecosystem to accomplish things they are not able to otherwise do alone. Depending on where you're at in your growth stage, either make it clear when action isn't the purpose of the Ecosystem or secure resources when you see the community is eager to take the next step.  

+ Points to Consider

Developing the concept

The first question to ask yourself is if you see an opportunity for greater collaboration between actors in your community. After articulating the need you want to address, identify if there have been similar attempts in the past. What can you learn from these attempts? If there are current initiatives, how can you build on each other's efforts? Remember, part of your role as convener is to influence greater collaboration within the community, not to duplicate efforts.

Once you’ve established your Ecosystem, ensure that you remain agile; meaning that you’re constantly checking in with the changing needs of your community and creating, adapting and eliminating tools that no longer serve them.

Who to engage?

Based on what the co-conveners are mobilizing the Ecosystem around, engage actors that are working on similar initiatives but in different capacities and with varying mandates. Know that the composition of the Ecosystem will have an important impact on its dynamic (e.g. a Member State focused Ecosystem functions differently than one composed of non-state actors).

Space

As the Ecosystem is diverse, encourage members from different organizations to host gatherings and events. This helps to instill the notion of ‘shared ownership’ of the Ecosystem.

The spaces you choose for gatherings will influence the conversation and outcomes (e.g. if people are sitting in theatre seats there will be limited brainstorming and informal exchanges).

Conveners

The Ecosystem works as a balance between ownership and no ownership. Although it doesn't belong to anyone in specific, there are still distinct conveners that bring legitimacy and are responsible for driving the initiative forward. The number of conveners needed depends on how many groups you need legitimacy with. For example, if your Ecosystem brings together actors from development and finance, it is best to have two conveners trusted by both communities.

The conveners should frequently reinforce that the Ecosystem is a community effort and they are simply stewarding the process.

Resources

To be able to deliver on what you've promised, secure start-up funding for a dedicated staff person, a tracking system and flex funds for general convening. There is a business case to be made for interconnected and innovative communities, so look to your local and/or national governments for these early resources.

Tracking & documenting

Moving door-to-door means a lot of names and numbers, therefore, a system to help you track these contacts is essential. In the beginning, this may take shape as a spreadsheet; however, you may need to scale to something more robust quickly.

Beyond keeping a contact database, a system that also supports segmentation and overtime engagement tracking enables you to deliver targeted communications and demonstrate impact.

+ Templates

Visioning session (PDF)

Annual survey (PDF)

+ Geneva 2030 Case Study

The Geneva 2030 Ecosystem mobilizes the capacity, skills, experience, ideas and motivation of Geneva based actors towards realizing the 2030 Agenda. The dynamic, informal network strengthens the individual efforts of organizations by bringing them together to share information and ideas, create new partnerships and address common challenges.
Webpage

Key features

  • 318 individuals as of December 31, 2018 (40% UN agency; 33% NGO; 11% private sector; 8% academia; 4% other international organizations; 4% independents)
  • 161 organizations as of December 31, 2018 (41% NGO, 27% UN agency; 14% independents; 14% private sector; 5% academia; 4% other international organizations)
  • Grew from 27 to 318 indidviduals from June 2016 to December 2018 Convened by one representative from the United Nations (SDG Lab), and one from civil society (IISD)
  • Political support from UN Geneva Director-General Michael Møller essential for bringing faster legitimacy
  • Member States, although not part of the Ecosystem group, are invited to leverage the expertise of the community for their country challenges
  • Hosting of an annual gathering that focuses on peer-to-peer information exchange — for tips on how to lead the session, see Open Space for more information
  • On-going connecting activities, including Randomized Lunch Trials and Peer Messaging
  • An informal innovation meeting group and short trainings were tried and eliminated because they didn’t meet the needs of the community

I want to Connect.

Randomized Lunch Trials


What is it?

Randomized Lunch Trials is an informal, voluntary and fun way for people working in the same city to network, establish professional contacts and share ideas and knowledge.

By way of an online sign-up sheet, individuals are matched and connected to share coffee or lunch once per month. After contact has been made, the individuals decide when and where to meet, and if they would like to repeat.

Why do it?

  • Connect professionals and practitioners in an informal and fun way to help them network, act and think in a cross-sectoral way.

  • Break down silos within your city, community or professional network.

  • Demonstrate how mindsets can be shifted towards engaging and working in the SDG era.

  • Prove your value as a platform for experimenting with unconventional methods and ways to build communities.

How to do it?

  1. Set up an online registration form with defined eligibility criteria. When a participant registers, use this opportunity to prompt them to complete a short biography that will be used to make matches.

  2. Ensure you collect consistent information from all participants, e.g. bios that identify SDG interest, place of work, etc. Don’t be afraid to exert quality control because first impressions count.

  3. Create a mini Lunch Trials group to test the tool before scaling it up. Soliciting their feedback will help to ensure that the initiative resonates with your stakeholders.

  4. Notify your community of this initiative and ask them to take part in the Lunch Trials.

  5. Match participants monthly using a randomized process (or at a regular interval of your choosing) and let them know that they are now connected with the cover email. Include their bios and the conversation starters, and remind them to set up their appointment.

  6. Get routine feedback and iterate accordingly.

+ Points to Consider

Registration

See a live example of how the 2030 Ecosystem invites participants to register or use the provided template for guidance.

For examples on eligibility criteria the Geneva 2030 Ecosystem uses, visit the website.

Facilitator

Designate a focal point responsible for making the matches, sending communications and tracking participation.

Follow-up

A specific email account will help manage all communications related to the Lunch Trials. Having a designated inbox to answer questions from the community will also help you to streamline your efforts.

Tracking & documentation

Use a spreadsheet to keep record of the participants and their associated matches. Make sure to include name, email, title, organization and sign-up date for growth tracking over time.

+ Templates

Registration form (live | PDF)

Cover email (PDF)

Conversation starters (live | PDF)

+ Geneva 2030 Lunch Trials Case Study

The Geneva 2030 Ecosystem offers Randomized Lunch Trials to link its members and encourage networking in the community. The initiative was developed in response to demand from the Ecosystem and has grown from 24 individuals in 2017 to 108 in 2018.
Webpage

I want to Connect.

Peer Messaging


What is it?

Peer Messaging is the use of a platform that creates the space for peers within an ecosystem to directly exchange publications, resources and news related to the SDGs.

It may take shape as a common mailing list, a Slack or WhatsApp group, or something else. Whatever the platform of choice, the most important thing is to set the right parameters.

Why do it?

  • Provide a non-judgmental space for people to share things that are important to them with a group of like-minded people.

  • Share and receive information that may be outside of your direct network.

  • Embracing ongoing communication with other stakeholders from other sectors enables you to think systemically about SDG challenges and implementation.

  • Not needing to relay information always through the convener shifts an ecosystem’s ownership towards collective responsibility. 

How to do it?

  1. Select a platform for the Peer Messaging depending on how and when you expect the participants to exchange with each other. Potential platforms include a common mailing list or a Slack or WhatsApp group. (We use WhatsApp because we find it’s helpful for also getting phone numbers for quick communication.)

  2. Establish guidelines for what should be shared. A sample of these guidelines can be found in the invitation template.

  3. Send the invitation to members of your ecosystem and if relevant, make the invitation publicly visible so that the network can continue to grow. Joining the platform should work on a by-request-only basis to ensure you have oversight.

  4. Now that the platform has been established, it is your responsibility to moderate, without being overly prescriptive. Make sure the people that are supposed to be in the group are there and keep it local to the actors you are trying to serve and engage. At times, it may be necessary to kindly remind the participants of the purpose of the group and its rules of engagement.

+ Points to Consider

Invitation

See a live example of how the 2030 Ecosystem invites participants to join the Peer Messaging group or use the provided template for guidance.

Tracking & documenting

Similar to the Ecosystem and the Lunch Trials, Peer Messaging is an opportunity to grow a community. By tracking the participants that join the messaging group and their organizations, you will be able to demonstrate increased community engagement over time, showcasing your value as a convener.

+ Templates

Invitation (live | PDF)

I want to Amplify.

Story Sharing


What is it?

Storytelling is one of the most important activities for any organization or initiative. Sharing progress and results through effective communication engages audiences, builds interest and garners support. 

The range of communication channels and platforms available today make it easier than ever before to share stories and amplify activities, and there are numerous tools to fit any budget and respond to different levels of communications expertise.

Why do it?

  • Greater awareness of your work among your community and other stakeholders.

  • Promotion of your initiatives.

  • Reinforce your mandate.

  • Attract new partners and potential funders and supporters.

How to do it?

  1. Use your insight and convening power within your community to identify good practices that are having impact. 

  2. Be selective: stories should serve the interest of the greater community and not over emphasize single actors.

  3. Share good practices using a communications tool that you can develop and manage.

  4. Develop a regular and branded series to amplify good practices and stories. Providing your community with consistent content — e.g. in the form of a monthly or quarterly email newsletter — helps encourage engagement and spreads knowledge. 

+ Points to Consider

Developing the concept

Keep it simple by telling a narrative that people can relate to and quickly understand the main takeaway(s). The best stories are those that spark interest and nudge people to act and learn more. Avoid communicating too many actions and ideas in one go.

Short attention spans mean that web and social communications must be concise. Use language that is clear and keep paragraphs and posts short. Add visuals where possible.

Platforms

Free or minimal fee website building and hosting platforms offer a quick and effective means to create an online presence. We use Squarespace, but there are many other platforms available.

Social media is another good way to connect with and reach a wider audience, as they are platforms integrated into everyday life. But don’t overstretch your capacity. Popular tools like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are distinct and each require a dedicated effort if you want to use them effectively.

Tools like Mailchimp and Canva provide templates that take the stress out of developing them from scratch.

+ Additional Reading

The complete guide to nonprofit social media: Strategy and design tips for success by Canva

I want to Amplify.

Failure Report


What is it?

The Failure Report is a reflection on things that have not gone as planned or ideas that have not taken off. It states the failure in an honest way, and reflects on why it happened and what factors may have contributed to it. It also outlines key lessons and suggests ways to avoid it in the future.  

Why do it?

  • Recognizing and rewarding successes while also openly talking about what did not work grows a culture of innovation within your organization and the greater community.

  • By openly discussing failures, you gain input on new ideas based on others’ experiences.

How to do it?

  1. Begin an honest assessment of the failure with an internal reflection. This could be done independently or in collaboration with your greater team. Use data to provide evidence of the failure when possible.

  2. Continue the assessment externally to hear directly from end-users why an initiative or an idea did not resonate with them. This may be through an open conversation with a wider audience or more explicitly with 1-to-1 stakeholder interviews. 

  3. You may want to use this opportunity to think more deeply about the failure and its relationship to the 2030 Agenda. How did the failure inhibit your ability to make progress on the SDGs? What should other stakeholders be aware of that may share similar challenges?

  4. Write the report and share it within your organization and across the community. It may be necessary to redact the report to avoid disclosing confidential or sensitive information. By sharing it with a wider audience, you encourage dialogue and help others to avoid making the same mistakes.

+ Points to Consider

Developing the concept

While it is good to reflect on failures, not all are reports are suitable for them. For example, when large projects do not have the expected impact, sharing it openly could be looked as insensitive. Because admitting failure in writing can have some communication risks, it is important to create a safe space and confidentiality terms.

Avoid the temptation to find a nice label for a failure (e.g. ‘lessons learnt’). Call it what it is. This can be hard to do, but it helps with acceptance.

Follow-up

Admitting openly to a failure creates a safe space for others to contribute their own lessons learnt. After distributing the report to the relevant stakeholders, you may want to generate a community discussion around shared challenges. Convening a session on Unpacking or an Insights Session can be useful platforms to do so.

+ SDG Lab 'Admitting Failure to Donors' Case Study

Most humanitarian and development projects are funded by government donors, and ultimately, taxpayers. This naturally makes it uncomfortable and difficult to admit to donors that some initiatives, which they supported, did not produce the desired results and may have even failed.

Historically, the UN system and other international organizations have shied away from having open discussions about failures. The SDG Lab uses Failure Reports to lead our community by example.

When attendance at the Geneva 2030 Ecosystem meetings dropped from 100+ people to 30, the Lab created a Failure Report for its donor and reframed sessions to be more participatory and action-driven.

We strive for transparent relationships with our donors by having ongoing conversations about our work and progress. In this context, the content of the Report did not present surprises to the donor but merely created a safe space to reflect on them. The donor has asked the Lab to continue with the Failure Reports and provide more data in future iterations.

+ Related Reading

UNICEF + Failure 'Institutionalizing Risk Taking'

Fail Forward resources

Ted Talk from David Damberger 'What Happens When an NGO Admits Failure'

Ted Talk from Stuart Firestein 'The Pursuit of Ignorance'

UN Innovation Network 'Embracing Successes and Failures'

I want to Amplify.

Unpacking


What is it?

Unpacking is a method to (de)brief stakeholders on a specific theme, process or event, which may be involved or complex. It can take the form of a formal plenary-style briefing or a more informal exchange among participants. This method is particularly useful to help your stakeholders stay on top of an ongoing process or activity at regular intervals.

Why do it?

  • Establish regular moments in the year for your community to convene and hear from you on a specific topic or process.

  • Underscore your role as a connector in the ecosystem.

  • Provide a feedback loop on important developments.  

  • Create an environment in your ecosystem or organization where people share information, feedback in an open and trusting manner, and ideas and resources ahead of key events.

  • Enable stakeholders to share knowledge, ideas and resources ahead of key events.

How to do it?

  1. Select a theme, process or event that is relevant to your work and the community and that you are intimately familiar with, but may be under addressed, difficult to engage with directly or lacks a shared understanding. 

    In preparation of the session, ensure you have the most up-to-date information through desk research and/or direct engagement. Use this material to develop questions and discussion points for the session. Put the content into an easy to follow slide deck.  

    For the session itself, allocate 10 to 20 minutes for the ‘unpacking’ and follow with an informal discussion using the points and questions you’ve prepared in advance. Use this opportunity to crowdsource information that your participants have on the topic.

    Send a follow-up email sharing the slide deck, a summary of what was discussed and key asks of the community.

+ Points to Consider

Developing the concept

If you plan to 'unpack' a theme, process or event because it is difficult for your community to engage with it directly, be aware that it is necessary to be involved yourself. Think of yourself as a translator of sorts, meaning potential travel to cover an event or a meeting. Making sure you have available resources to do so ahead of time will enable you to set the right expectations among your community.

Who to invite?

Think broadly about who the session might be relevant for, potentially in surprising ways. The real magic of Unpacking happens when people from a variety of sectors and disciplines are engaged in the session. It is an opportunity for these diverse actors to share stories, insights and challenges among each other that may not otherwise be heard.

Space & supplies

A tightly controlled venue (e.g. security restrictions) can impact participation for those coming from outside organizations. For a more engaging conversation, choose a venue that promotes informal dialogue.

Having a screen available to present a slide deck is essential for clear communication during the session.

Facilitators

Your facilitator must be credible on the subject and able to convey the most pertinent points in a coherent and easy-to-understand way. Having consistency in terms of the facilitator can help to establish rapport among the community.

Follow-up

The follow-up email to participants is essential but can be brief. It's also a way to communicate what happened for those that couldn't be there. Include the slide deck, links to the theme, process or event that was 'unpacked,' as well as key themes and community asks that resulted from the informal discussion.

Tracking & documenting

Document key points such as objective, invitee list, participant attendance and their organizations, organizing costs and location, and any communications (e.g. invitation, slide deck, follow-up, etc.). And be sure to take some photos! Good documentation enables consistency across your team for future events and help to demonstrate your impact as a convener.

+ SDG Lab 'HLPF Brief' Case Study

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) briefing is an opportunity for Geneva 2030 Ecosystem members to prepare for the annual meeting by:

  • Sharing informal feedback on emerging themes and linking Geneva activities with what’s happening in New York (where the annual session of the HLPF takes place).
  • Enabling stakeholders to test their ideas for side events and to pool resources where it makes sense.

Following the HLPF in New York, we also organize a debrief where we invite Member States and other stakeholders to participate in an open and frank dialogue on information and opportunities arising from the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).

News update

I want to Ask Questions.

Insight Session


What is it?

Insight Sessions are highly curated, relatively informal knowledge-transfer sessions made up of Insight Seekers and Insight Sharers. 

An Insight Seeker presents their challenge, idea or project to Insight Sharers with different backgrounds, expertise and experiences to get feedback, ideas, information and connections that can help to enhance their project. 

Insight Sharers are carefully selected and invited to the session in order to share their knowledge and previous experiences in a constructive and helpful manner. 

Why do it?

  • For Insight Seekers, this is an opportunity to gain feedback on their ideas from outside their immediate network and to accelerate SDG implementation.

  • Through this process, Insight Sharers may also learn about new ideas, practices and tools for SDG implementation.

How to do it?

  1. Talk to the Insight Seeker to understand what they want to achieve and who they want to talk to. Taking time to ensure the right people in the room is critical — know that it can be difficult.

  2. Send an invitation ahead of time that includes the objective of the session and how the Seekers and Sharers should prepare.

  3. At the beginning of the session, invite the Insight Seeker to present their challenge, idea or project to the room of Insight Sharers. 

  4. Give ample time for the Insight Sharers to respond. It is important to make sure everyone has a chance to give feedback, so it is best to ask the Sharers to go one by one.

  5. After all Sharers have had an opportunity to respond, the Insight Seeker may use this opportunity to pose follow-up questions or share additional comments.

  6. Provide an action summary in follow-up of the session that reveals key insights and actionable next steps for the participants.

+ Points to Consider

Developing the concept

The concept should be shaped by the needs of the Insight Seeker. It can be based on a challenge, idea or project that they would like to put forward for feedback.

Invitation

See the template for guidance on how to prepare both the Insight Seekers and Sharers for the session.

Who to invite?

Based on the needs of the Insight Seeker, invite Insight Sharers that have relevant knowledge and experience. However, challenge yourself to think outside a single thematic area or discipline — diversity in representation leads to the most unexpected and innovative ideas. Ideally, Insight Sharers come from at least four different sectors or organizations.

Space

All that’s needed for this session is a general meeting room. Round tables work best at facilitating collaborative conversations.

Facilitators

Pick a facilitator that is credible for both the Seekers and the Sharers. They should be diplomatic and able to manage different personality-types and inputs. It is important that they establish the right expectations among the group and speak clearly to the purpose of the session.

Follow-up

See the action summary template for guidelines on how to provide actionable follow-up after the session.

Tracking & documenting

Document key points such as objective, invitee list, participant attendance and their organizations, organizing costs and location and any communications (e.g. invitation, action summary, etc.). Good documentation will enable consistency across your team for future sessions and help to demonstrate your impact as a convener.

+ Templates

Invitation (PDF)

Action summary (PDF)

I want to Ask Questions.

So What? Series


What is it?

So What? is multi-stakeholder event platform to ask provocative questions, demonstrate the indivisibility of the SDGs and help forge a better understanding of what an integrated approach means in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

It provides the opportunity to explore interconnections between two seemingly unrelated SDGs. A panel of practitioners from different backgrounds and sectors are asked to address how two SDGs are mutually reinforcing in practice.

Why do it?

  • Break down the complexity of the inter-sectoral aspect of the 2030 Agenda by putting it into practice.

  • Activate a mindset shift in policy making, programming, budgeting, funding and partnership building.

  • Showcase practices that demonstrate the added-value and impact of thinking, acting and investing in an integrated way.

  • Amplify high-impact solutions and partnerships that could be replicated and scaled-up.

How to do it?

  1. Identify two goals or targets from the 2030 Agenda — or two distinct issues — where there is need for a deeper understanding and practical examples of the horizontal connections. It can be strategic to build on key events or gatherings already happening in your community.

  2. Invite relevant organizations (one for each goal/issue) to co-host the event — their networks can help you to reach the right panelists and audience members that may otherwise be less accessible.

  3. Convene a meeting with the co-hosts to highlight concrete examples that demonstrate the added value and challenges of a systemic approach. The themes that result from this meeting can help to establish the framework for the concept note and panel questions.

  4. Send an invitation with all details relating to the event.

  5. Host the panel: keep it informal, encourage an open dialogue and ask bold, tough questions.

  6. Provide timely follow-up including overall concept, main takeaways and lessons learnt and memorable quotes.

+ Points to Consider

Developing the concept

Be balanced between demonstrating the indivisibility of the 2030 Agenda and not getting lost in a world of theory. The link you are making between two goals/targets/issues should connect to practical examples that ground the discussion.

Invitation

When selecting a date, be cognizant of other events that may be happening at similar times so as to not compete for attendance. Send out the invitation one month prior — too long beforehand and people can forget when it is upcoming. Follow-up one week before with a kind reminder.

Who to invite?

The panel should convene different stakeholders from different sectors — it can also be interesting if they’re at different points in their career. Having a variety of perspectives pushes the panelists to think critically and provokes a greater diversity in answers. A gender-balanced panel is a must.

The event invitation should be sent to a diverse audience to ensure a dynamic group of actors from your local community.

Have the participants register using a platform like Eventbrite or Google Forms in order to track names, organizations and how they heard about the event.

Space & supplies

Book an accessible event space: a tightly controlled venue (e.g. security restrictions) can impact participation for those coming from outside organizations.

Facilitators

Ask your moderator to keep it informal, underscore the 'unexpected connections' when possible and prompt speakers for concrete examples.

Follow-up

Use your communication platforms — like a newsletter, blog or social media — to provide a recap to your community. Capture the overall concept, main takeaways and lessons learnt and memorable quotes from the panelists. Share with photos if possible!

Tracking & documenting

The So What? event is something that takes a fair amount of time and coordination. If you turn it into a routine engagement, be sure to keep record of the event in order to demonstrate impact to potential partners and/or funders in the future.

During the event, consider video streaming the panel. Conversations like these can be useful to students and researchers interested in SDGs.

Document key points such as objective, panelists and their organizations, invitee list, participant attendance and their organizations, organizing costs and location, and any communications (e.g. concept note, invitation, panel questions, re-cap, etc.). Good documentation will enable consistency across your team for future events and help to demonstrate your impact as a convener.

+ Templates

Concept note (PDF)

Panel questions (PDF)

+ SDG Lab 'So What? Series' Case Study

The SDG Lab has hosted several So What? events since 2017. Recaps of these events are featured on our website.

I want to Innovate.

Action Areas Workshop


What is it?

This is an exploratory ideation workshop for existing or intended collaborations with the aim of identifying action areas such as future workstreams, research opportunities and beyond.

Why do it?

  • Get your collaboration(s) to result in actions.

  • Gain insight into the unique activities of your various partners.

  • Create a space for co-creating and prioritising workstreams.

How to do it?

  1. This workshop strings together five different exercises, adapted from design thinking methodologies. Not all exercises may be relevant to your objective or fit within the time frame you have available—and that's okay. Identify which ones are most important and start from there.

  2. Before jumping into the sessions, share the agenda and establish the rules of collaborative brainstorming using the slide deck. Split participants into table teams of no more than 10 participants per table, making an effort to have multi-disciplinary teams.

  3. Session one: Within your table team, take 20 minutes to identify existing and future workstreams of each partner, using a poster-sized sheet of paper and sticky notes. Reserve the last few minutes for table leads to report what was discussed to the full group.

  4. Session two: Within your table team, and based on the new insight into everyone's workstreams, take another 20 minutes to capture on sticky notes ideas for future action areas using a new sheet of paper. Remember, there are no wrong ideas! Now is the time for quantity over quality. Again, reserve the last few minutes for table leads to report what was discussed to the full group. 

  5. Session three: As a large group, plot the sticky notes from exercise two on a 2x2 matrix that can group action areas along relevant variables that help with decision making; these will vary based on your collaboration. You will find that this is not necessarily a straightforward process, but it will push for critical conversation between all participants.

  6. Session four: Now is the time for prioritization through individual voting, otherwise referred to as ‘dotmocracy’. Participants should use six dot stickers each to vote on the action areas where they have the greatest interest; a participant may use up to two dot stickers on the same idea. Use the selection criteria provided in the slide deck to guide the process.

  7. Session five: Participants will naturally want to continue expanding on the action areas, however, in a session of this length there isn’t enough time to fully develop the concepts. Discussion of next steps ensures momentum is not lost and there is a clear path forward. Split among the table teams the highest rated action areas from session four (one action per team). Using the action planning canvas, work together to identify immediate next steps.

  8. After the session, hold everyone accountable to the next steps with timely follow-up. We find that it's helpful to use a platform like mural.co and keep close record of what was discussed by plotting the sticky notes on a virtual white board and sharing the link with everyone. At a minimum, consolidate the next steps from the canvas and share those with the participants.

  9. When this workshop goes well, it is going to prompt a series of spin-off meetings on developing the action areas. Be ready to support and to keep the momentum high. Growing collaborations take a lot of time, energy and attention to cultivate.

+ Points to Consider

Invitation

See the Insight Session invitation template for guidance.

Who to invite?

This session is most effective when the group works across common themes, has expressed interest in collaborating or is already collaborating.

You need actors from two different organizations (think multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral) at a minimum; however, three or more can be even more fruitful. Keep in mind that the number of participants you have impact the number of action areas you will be able to dive into in the final session.

Space & supplies

All that's needed for this workshop is a general meeting room. Round tables work best at facilitating collaborative conversations. Have easels, sticky notes and markers on-hand for the breakout sessions.

Facilitators

The facilitator must have the capacity to follow up.

Follow-up

Reference the Insight Session action summary template for guidelines on how to provide actionable follow-up after the session.

Tracking & documenting

Document key points such as objective, invitee list, participant attendance and their organizations, organizing costs and location, and any communications (e.g. invitation, slide deck, mural.co board, action summary, etc.). Good documentation will enable consistency across your team for future sessions and help to demonstrate your impact as a convener.

+ Templates

Slide deck (ppt | PDF)

Session one: workstream identification (PDF)

Session three: 2x2 matrix (PDF)

Session five: action planning canvas (PDF)

+ Additional Reading

See The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design from IDEO and the DIY Toolkit from Nesta for more ideas on how to facilitate ideation during the workshop.

I want to Innovate.

Open Space


What is it?

Open Space is a 'self-organizing' session that capitalizes on the collective intelligence of participants. As the host, you will bring the overarching theme that responds to a community need. The session is considered self-organizing because what's exactly discussed within that frame is spontaneously chosen by the participants based on their most pressing ideas, challenges and opportunities.

Why do it?

  • Approach the complexity and interconnectedness of issues in SDG implementation in a short period with a simple methodology, and without the need to hire keynote speakers or draft meticulous schedules.

  • Facilitate unique opportunities in co-creation and idea exchange between diverse actors.

  • Shift individual ownership of issues and solutions to collective responsibility, while demonstrating the need for an inter-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach.

  • Insight into the ideas, challenges and opportunities the community is facing.

How to do it?

  1. See the points to consider for pre-event planning and logistical preparation. Be sure to send an invitation ahead of time.

  2. At the start of the session, use the first 10 minutes to welcome the participants to the Open Space. Start by sharing the principles of Open Space and the ‘law of two feet’ using the slide deck. Then, introduce the theme of the day. 

  3. Use the next 20 minutes to invite participants (first come, first serve) to pitch a topic they want to discuss (30 seconds each). This can be something they are dealing with in their own work or an issue they want to explore. Each pitch will be assigned a table number using the table map.

  4. Make the table map with the topics visible to all participants. Everyone is free to choose which tables interest them or where they want to contribute.

  5. Open Space is free flowing so at any point an individual can choose to move to another topic table, or a group can split into two or merge with another. This is the beauty of Open Space: the conversation serves you so you can choose how you want it to be structured. This open exchange will last for one hour.

  6. At the end, table leads should be designated. They are responsible for presenting a 2-minute report-back on what was discussed at their table to all participants.

  7. Provide simple documentation of the event via email to all participants. Share high-level notes from the 30-second pitches as well as the final report-back. 

+ Points to Consider

Developing the concept

The theme should be kept broad so people can easily contribute, yet strategically respond to a community need. 'Resilience' or 'energy' are two examples.

Invitation

Depending on how open or adverse the participants are towards spontaneity, customize the invitation that you send ahead of time. For those that are more adverse, it can be helpful to provide them with the theme beforehand so that they are able to reflect on the topics or ideas they wish to share.

Who to invite?

For Open Space to work well, you need at least 30 people in the room. However, we've done it for up to 600. Based on the theme you plan to address, invite participants that have relevant knowledge and experience, yet challenge yourself to think outside a single thematic area or discipline. They don’t necessarily need to have high titles, but they do need to care about the topic at hand and be willing to be actively engaged.

Space & supplies

The space must be large enough to accommodate ‘rounds’ (5 to 10 people each), either as tables with chairs or just circles of chairs. It is possible to have a space with multiple rooms where the participants are free to move between them. Before your participants arrive, number the rounds and update the table map accordingly.

Have easels, sticky notes and markers on-hand for the rounds.

Facilitators

Depending on the size of the group and the venue, consider having two facilitators from the convening organizations. They should have high energy and be able to push participants to step outside their comfort zones. It is important that they establish the right expectations among the group and speak clearly to the purpose of the session.

If possible, have a third person available to support note taking during the Open Space.

Follow-up

Reference the Insight Session action summary template for guidelines on how to provide actionable follow-up after the session.

Tracking & documenting

Document key points such as objective, invitee list, participant attendance and their organizations, organizing costs and location, and any communications (e.g. invitation, action summary, etc.). Good documentation will enable consistency across your team for future sessions and help to demonstrate your impact as a convener.

+ Templates

Invitation (PDF)

Slide deck (ppt | PDF)

+ Related Reading

Harrison Owen's 'Brief User Guide to Open Space Technology'

Chris Corrigan's 'Open Space Technology Planning Resources'

Michael Herman's ongoing collection of 'Open Space Technology Practices'

Open Space Facilitator Resources from Open Space World

I want to Innovate.

Country Challenges Workshop


What is it?

The Country Challenges Workshop taps into your unique ecosystem to help a country, organization or other entity find solutions to a challenge they are facing (from practical to paradigm shifting).

Why do it?

  • Give visibility to challenges in communities that are under-addressed and under-served.

  • Engage different and unexpected partners around a singular challenge and support their capacity to take action.

  • Develop an ‘out of the box’ solution that responds to a challenge, while also capitalising on your community’s value.

How to do it?

  1. Propose a bilateral meeting with the country/organization to establish the contact, gain insight into the challenge they are facing and articulate the objectives of the upcoming workshop.

  2. After the meeting, write a summary report for the country/organization that captures action points, deliverables and timelines.

  3. Ahead of the workshop, prepare a participants’ briefing kit that provides an overview of key information required for an effective session: a project brief with the challenge(s) clearly articulated, and the bios of the participants and their organizational profiles.

  4. Draw on the multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder expertise of your ecosystem and identify relevant actors. Send personalized invitations that acknowledge what you think their contribution could be.

  5. Ask participants to reflect beforehand on the challenge and, if time permitting, to prepare a presentation on the value (e.g. skills, expertise, experience, resources, etc.) they can bring to the challenge.

  6. During the workshop, have participants do a ‘tour de table’ of their potential contributions to the challenge. Following this, allow for breakout sessions in small groups for ideation on potential routes to action. Afterwards, have table leads pitch their ideas to the full group.   

  7. Following the workshop, develop a summary report that outlines outcomes and next steps.

  8. Nurture any opportunities that resulted from the workshop. If you have the capacity, act as an informal secretariat to enable action (e.g. secure funding, develop proof-of-concept, find technical assistance, etc.). Once you take on this role, be prepared to provide ongoing support and guidance. Therefore, find ways to make this relevant and valuable to the organization you represent.

+ Points to Consider

Developing the concept

The concept should be shaped by the need of the country/organization that has the challenge. To get at the objectives of the workshop, unpack the proposed challenge with a bilateral conversation.

Invitation

See the Insight Session invitation template for ideas on how to prepare one for this workshop. Attach the participant briefing kit and kindly request that the materials are reviewed in advance.

Who to invite?

Based on the challenge at hand, invite stakeholders that have relevant knowledge and experience. However, challenge yourself to think outside a single thematic area or discipline — diversity in representation leads to the most unexpected and innovative ideas. Ideally, participants come from at least four different sectors or organization types.

Space & materials

All that’s needed for this session is a general meeting room. Round tables work best at facilitating collaborative conversations. Have easels, sticky notes and markers on-hand for the breakout sessions.

Facilitators

Pick a facilitator that is diplomatic and able to manage different personalities and inputs. It is important that they establish the right expectations among the group and speak clearly to the purpose of the session.

Follow-up

Reference the Insight Session action summary template for guidelines on how to provide actionable follow-up after the session.

Tracking & documenting

Document key points such as objective, invitee list, participant attendance and their organizations, organizing costs and location, and any communications (e.g. participant briefing kits, invitation, action summary, etc.). Good documentation will enable consistency across your team for future sessions and help to demonstrate your impact as a convener.

+ SDG Lab 'Niger 2.0' Case Study

Niger has established a national ‘digital revolution’ plan to provide broadband infrastructure to improve internet access in rural and remote areas of the country. Named ‘Niger 2.0’, the project will enable the implementation of an e-government system to improve access, efficiency and effectiveness of public services. It represents a vital component of Niger’s efforts towards the SDGs.

In March 2018, the SDG Lab hosted a minister from Niger who was introduced to International Geneva-based actors working on issues related to ‘Niger 2.0’.

A series of bilateral meetings were organized with UN specialized agencies and programmes, other international organizations, governments, private sector and civil society. The interactions focused on providing new resources and ideas to the minister in pursuit of the government’s ambitious vision.

A one-day workshop, co-convened and facilitated by the SDG Lab and a Geneva-based partner, Impact Hub, enabled the sharing of experiences and ideas on how to accelerate the ‘Niger 2.0’ project. More than 20 actors from the Geneva 2030 Ecosystem joined the workshop, bringing different expertise areas relevant to the project.

Thanks to the involvement of the SDG Lab, Niger was able to secure funding and visibility for their ‘digital revolution’ plan.

+ Additional Reading

See The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design from IDEO and the DIY Toolkit from Nesta for suggestions on how to facilitate ideation during the workshop.

Interlinkages board - web.jpg

Additional Resources

Here are additional methods, tools and techniques developed by organizations within the Geneva Ecosystem that can support your work. If you or your organization have something else to be shared, please drop us a note at sdg-lab@un.org.

Process related:

Assessment related:

Technology related:

Human rights related:

SDG related:

Terms of Use

The SDG Lab encourages individuals and organizations to use the resources featured in this toolkit. However, the use of this toolkit does not imply an affiliation or partnership with the SDG Lab and the Lab does not endorse the individuals and organizations that use and/or share this toolkit for wider dissemination.

The development of this toolkit was spearheaded by Amanda Kathryn Spencer with the support of the SDG Lab.

Creative Commons License
SDG Lab Toolkit: Activating the 2030 Agenda by SDG Lab is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.