Social Progress Showcased at the Center of Global Goals Week

Last week, the 72nd UN General Assembly, known this year as Global Goals Week,  commenced in New York City. World leaders, heads of business and social innovators have gathered to share ideas and explore innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. Discussions on building partnerships and sharing best practices to strengthen the world’s capability to create solutions specific to every region of the world took place over the productive and engaging five days.

As an active member of the global community, the Social Progress Imperative was thrilled to participate in Global Goals Week. One of the most prevalent topics amongst the minds of the changemakers were the Sustainable Development Goals and how we, as a global society, can meet them. The Sustainable Development Goals are a bold, formidable and worthy ambition for the world — but they are in danger. In only two years since they were adopted, the world is already falling behind in reaching them. This was what was top of mind for the world’s most prominent thinkers in New York, and we were proud to be driving force showcasing progress forward.

What were they saying?

1) Accelerating Sustainable Development Solutions

The Skoll Foundation, TED and the United Nations host We The Future

Hosted by The Skoll Foundation, TED, and the United Nations Foundation, key world leaders and influential thinkers were present on Thursday, September 21st at the TED auditorium to discuss how to make big data small to measure and achieve the SDGs.

While data itself is everywhere, how we manage, measure and implement it was the focus of the session Model for Change: Data-Driven Approaches. Social Progress Imperative’s CEO Michael Green sat on a panel alongside Mats Granryd, Director General of GSMA, and Kathy Calvin, CEO the United Nations Foundation.

During this lively discussion Kathy Calvin pressed both panelists on how data can be used to have practical applications towards measurement of the SDGs, and how it can help bring citizens of the world into prosperity.

The Social Progress Index & The Sustainable Development Goals

The Social Progress Index captures outcomes related to 16 of the 17 SDGs in a simple but rigorous framework

Michael Green challenged the concept of GDP as a way of measuring progress towards the SDGs and showcased how the Social Progress Index is a more complete and practical way of measuring progress against the SDGs.

“GDP [as a measurement] was developed by an economist…so we’re living in a paradigm that we’ve created, which means that we actually can create a better paradigm. A good society is where everyone has the rights and freedoms to pursue their desires and dreams. That is what we’re measuring to achieve.” Michael Green

Mats Granryd went on to explain why he thinks mobile operators are the perfect industry to lead the fight for accelerating SDG achievement — their ‘common purpose.’

[Mobile operators] strive to connect everyone and everything to a better future. We connect more than 5 billion individuals globally. Our goal is to save lives.” Mats Granryd

Key takeaway: While data may be king, collaboration is the key. Public and private partnerships are at the heart of achieving the SDGs, and measurement is a crucial step.

We are fortunate and excited to work alongside both the United Nations Foundation and GSMA to strengthen the Social Progress Index and track progress so all countries can achieve the SDGs by 2030.

2) Businesses Need to Take a Seat at the Table

Just as NGOs and foundations focused on new means of driving success against the SDGs, they were a common thread amongst the private sector as well. Powerhouses of industry were present to propose new models of accelerating progress towards 2030 at both the Bloomberg Global Business Forum and at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Sustainable Development Impact Summit.

At WEF’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit, there was a call for businesses and the private sector to become involved more meaningfully, reconsider their approaches to profit-making, and incorporate social and environmental factors into their operating strategies. Deloitte Global Chairman and Social Progress Imperative Board Member, David Cruickshank, spoke of how industry is working hand in hand with policymakers, NGOs and other changemakers to achieve the greatest success.

“Working together we are helping policymakers, business leaders and social innovators to assess and drive progress towards the SDGs at different contexts – from communities in the Amazon River in Brazil to Boroughs in the City of London.” David Cruickshank

Meanwhile, at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, Mayor Michael Bloomberg focused on the importance of building strong partnerships, and cooperation between all entities to achieve the SDGs.

“Recent events around the world have challenged the principles that have governed commerce for the past several decades. In transitional times like these, I believe business and government must work together to solve the issues affecting us all,”Mayor Michael Bloomberg

3) Goalkeepers

Bill and Melinda Gates launched an annual ‘Goalkeepers’ report to track progress toward key UN goals for 2030.

Bill and Melinda Gates, and the Gates Foundation, have been at the forefront of motivating the SDGs since they were announced two years ago. Reducing poverty and increasing quality of life through health and wellness has always been a major focus in the organization. Tying these passions and desires to achieving the SDGs was a natural fit for the philanthropic couple and organization, and 2017 was no different.

At the Goalkeepers 2017 event, Bill and Melinda Gates announced that the organization is launching a new tracking report to share data, successes, and issue any deficiencies to the governments and global communities about what could happen if they fail to continue investing in development. The Goalkeepers report will diagnose urgent problems, identify promising solutions, measure and interpret key results, and spread best practices.

The report launched this year and will be published every year until 2030 to ensure progress continues and accelerates the fight against poverty.

“We are investing all our resources in that fight. But that doesn’t mean every dollar spent on development has maximum impact. And that must be our goal.”Bill & Melinda Gates

We agree with the Gates’. We cannot lose sight of our forward momentum. Using data from the Social Progress Index, we can measure how well our world is doing at turning monetary wealth into real improvements in the lives of citizens. It also can reveal gaps where we can do better. Without measurement, there is no room for improvement or path forward. With the Social Progress Index, learnings and successes discovered from one population, can be applied and activated to achieve productive, beneficial and much-needed improvements in quality of life in another.

Read more about the Goalkeepers report here and the Social Progress Index here.

4) The Gender Data Gap

A major theme which weaved its way across many of the events last week was the lack of data on women across the global board. From the Goalkeepers event, to the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit, gender equality when it comes to data and measurement was at the forefront of Global Goals Week.

At the We the Future event, audience members were fortunate enough to listen to insight from Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan about how data is paramount and crucial to combating gender inequality. She wanted to ensure that women count, both figuratively and literally.

“Good policy decisions depend on good data. How can we accelerate sustainable development, if we overlook half of humanity?”Queen Rania Al Abdullah, of Jordan

After painting a picture of the current gender data deficiencies, she brought hope and momentum by challenging the global community of data scientists to ensure women are equally considered in their research.

At the Goalkeepers 2017 event, Women’s Rights were named as an accelerator by the Gates Foundation, and a major focus of the event was on gender equality where Melinda Gates announced the Gates Foundation would provide $20 million over the next three years to strengthen women’s groups worldwide. This was in conjunction with the commitment from last year when the Gates Foundation first announced its emphasis and desire for more data collection on women and girls. It was previously noted by the Gates Foundation that only 3 of the 14 indicators for the gender equality SDGs have enough baseline data.

“If you want to make progress you’ve got to be able to see what that overall picture is, and the important role that government generosity and innovation and the positive exemplars have played in that. And only by going to those exemplars and seeing what they did right are you able to push the frontier as fast as possible.” – Bill Gates

We are strong believers in gender data parity, and are actively working to strengthen our index to showcase these issues. Together in partnership with both private and public entities, we are working to receive access to the data that best measures both women and men equally. We are also in talks to create national and subnational level Social Progress Indices that specifically focus on the issues that affect women and girls most.

Achievement through Collaboration

As Global Goals Weeks came to a close, we recognize how far the global community has come, and we are reminded how much ground we have to make up.

We realize the entire world must actively and thoughtfully contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Every government, organization and citizen has an active role and responsibility to reach the highest state of social progress possible.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a bold step towards eliminating poverty and ensuring sustainable, inclusive global development, but they must be measured thoroughly to be implemented effectively. The Social Progress Index captures outcomes related to 16 of the 17 SDGs in a simple but rigorous framework designed for aggregation, making it an invaluable proxy measure of SDG performance, particularly for areas where official indicators do not yet exist.

Goal 17 of the SDGs calls on all of us to build partnerships across borders, sectors, and topic-areas. Global Goals Week shined a light on how we all need to strengthen these partnerships and reinforce the world’s commitment to the SDGs.