The UN’s 2030 Agenda

The Global Goals or SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)
  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

Partnerships are essential for the execution of the 2030 Agenda and unfortunately cultivating meaningful partnerships at scale is quite difficult. There could be an entity that could generate partnership suggestions that could yield the scale that the 2030 agenda seeks to achieve, however that will necessitate global cooperation at unprecedented scale; yet it’s not impossible. After all, it’s one of the goals of the agenda itself.

The UN’s report coauthored by UN DESA and The Partnering Initiative about partnerships at scale entitled, “Maximising the Impact of Partnerships for the SDGs” outlines a typography of the different types of partnerships, all focused on value creation:

  1. Leverage / Exchange
  2. Combine / Integrate
  3. Transform

The interest in making a strong argument for value creation in partnerships stems from how “despite the rhetoric around collaboration, we are still not seeing sufficient impact coming out of partnerships as an essential mechanism for impact.” This arises for a couple of reasons; the paper asserts that partnerships aren’t being modeled enough (it’s not a mainstreamed approach) and that “there is an insufficient enabling system that can systematically develop partnerships at scale that’s required to deliver the SDGs.” While this a challenging reality to face for the execution of the 2030 Agenda, I think it’s possible there are opportunities to overcome those challenges in creating, sustaining, and generating the partnerships necessary for the goals.

In the Leverage and Exchange partnership model, partners recognize that there is a complimentary relationship as “one organization recognizes another can provide resources that it needs to employ towards its strategic goals.” This is a commonplace model for a typical CSR relationship and it’s an important opportunity to form relationships. This type of relationship depends on the partnership for impact, but it can be very impactful depending on the entities partnering. For example, large tech firms offering their services to nonprofits which can enable more effective services to its communities by the nonprofit.

The second category of partnership, Combine and Integrate is more comprehensive in the sense that both entities are invested in the partnership in a deeper way: “This takes us into an area of what most people would recognize as a cross-sector partnership… where complementary resources are brought together to tackle a common challenge or shared strategic goal.” In this partnership model, both entities are engaging in the resource exchange, therefore their experience is more integrated in the sense that there is a shared experience, but also this partnership model requires more sensitivity to cultivating a commitment to mutual trust and respecting cultural differences.

The third partnership category, Transform, exists to tackle a goal which will result in systemic change. This is likely a complex environment where “partners bring differing world views and perspectives to the issue.” Stakeholders in this partnership model are essentially negotiating how to create change that is going to be systemic and is politically acceptable and feasible.

There is great value creation to be had for the partnerships across these different models. When engaging in partnerships, organizations can expect the following related to value creation:

Value Creation Across the Three Partnership Models

  1. Leverage and Exchange adds organizational value
  2. Combine and Integrate adds organizational value and mission value
  3. Transform adds organizational value and mission value (potentially at larger scale as this has the opportunity for multi-stakeholder dialogues)

In a 2017 meeting at Davos, Raj Kumar wrote ” …perhaps the most powerful message from the SDGs for this meeting in Davos: at a time of great uncertainty when world leaders and corporate CEOs are trying to find their footing, the idea that the biggest global challenges are clearly laid out, have targets and metrics associated with them, and can only be solved in partnership by all people working together offers a much-need roadmap.” That is the essence of what the Goals represent.

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