Five Ways to Help Reach the Sustainable Development Goals Through Your Political and Advocacy Efforts – #SDGSandME

Petra Barbu

Petra is a content marketer passionate about social enterprise, impact investing, and microfinance.

In this article of the #SDGSandME series, we’re going to explore the effectiveness of political movements, and how you can use your Political voice to help the world reach the Sustainable Development Goals—no matter how big your voice is. In previous articles, we highlighted easy things you can do in the Professional and Personal aspects of your life.

One of the most lasting ways to create change is to affect policy. One of the most successful community-based fundraising programs is the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life program. In its prime, it involved over 3 Million volunteers and raised over $400 Million every year for cancer research. That’s an incredible amount. The American Cancer Society also advocates the government. In one legislative change, the U.S. Government increased cancer research spending from $1 Billion to $2 Billion. To be able to affect policy is to have power.

But, you don’t have to be a politician in order to make changes—informed citizens are the bedrock of political movements. If you are committed to helping the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, then in addition to your personal and professional actions, you have to engage in the political spectrum, too. Here are 5 ways to do just that:

We can achieve the SDGs through politics if we work to shape it by the people and for the people.
We can achieve the SDGs through politics if we work to shape it by the people and for the people.

Step #1: Learn More

Stay in the know by following the Global Taskforce for localization of the SDGs. As the Roadmap for Localizing the SDGs explains,

“While the SDGs are global, their achievement will depend on our ability to make them a reality in our cities and regions. All of the SDGs have targets directly related to the responsibilities of local and regional governments, particularly to their role in delivering basic services. That’s why local and regional governments must be at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.”

Check out this inspiring and informative article on my making political change does not have to come through top-down steering of national governments— real changes happen when everyday people unite for a common cause.

Setting off a domino effect in your community can start with informing just one more person.
Setting off a domino effect in your community can start with informing just one more person.

Step #2: Inspire Others to Get Involved

To quote Thomas P. O’Neill, “All politics is local“. So once you learn more about local efforts, the world needs you to engage your friends, too. As Yvon Chuinard, the founder of Patagonia, shares in his essay Why Voting is Not a Waste of Time: “In the United States, only 60 percent of eligible citizens bothered to vote in the last presidential election. Of those, many voted only for president and left the rest of the ballot blank.” Inspire others to get involved by:

  1. Circulating information and resources about the SDGs with your friends and family
  2. Host lunch and learns to educate co-workers and friends about local opportunities to advocate for the SDGs
  3. Invite peers and colleagues to a
  4. Setup your own meetup group, like this in London, to mobilize other people in your community
Local efforts can be the most effective.
Local efforts can be the most effective.

Step #3: Help Localize the SDGs

Bring the issues to your community! If you are passionate about sustainability, help your community by protecting urban ecosystems like lakes and forests. To help work towards a world without hunger, volunteer at a local soup kitchen or contribute to microfinance efforts in your community. Share the Roadmap for Localizing the SDGs with your local government by attending local meetings with elected officials.

As Colin Murphy, a climate policy advocate at NextGen Policy, explains,

“Climate change and sustainable development are problems which will ultimately require collective action to solve. While there are steps an individual can take to reduce their environmental impact, many challenges are bigger than what individual action can solve, such as investing in clean energy and water systems or protecting natural lands. Through strong policies, consensus building, and social investment, governments can make significant progress in these areas, so working through political and community systems is essential.”

Your representative is supposed to represent you and your community: call if they're not!
Your representative is supposed to represent you and your community: call if they’re not!

Step #4: Call Your Representative (all of them!)

An easy way to make a difference in politics is to call your representative. Calling rather than emailing a legislator is one of the most effective ways to petition your representative to support the SDGs in their policy. If possible, showing up in person is even better. If you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of online guides for your city, state, and national representatives if you do a quick google search – like this Call the Halls guide.

Representatives often have offices in their home district, and make public appearances in town halls and public office hours. Ensuring that you treat the opportunity as a respectful conversation instead of a rant session creates the best environment for change. You can also speak with staff if your representative is unavailable, and you might have more of an opportunity to have a long discussion about the details of an issue. If calls inundate the office about a position that the representative has not taken a public stance on, representatives are much more inclined to speak out in support in order to keep their office running effectively.

As Emily Ellsworth, who answered phones for several Republican representatives, explained to the New York Times in this article, “It brings a legislative issue right to the top of the mind of a member,” she said. “It makes it impossible to ignore for the whole staff. You don’t get a whole lot else done.

If you don't like what's going on in politics, be a part of the change.
If you don’t like what’s going on in politics, be a part of the change.

Step #5: Run for Local Office (or support people that are embracing the SDGs)

There’s only so much that one can do as a citizen to help further the SDGs through policy. People often report that they feel that they cannot trust politicians, including their own representatives. If you want to make real change in politics, you need to be involved. Becoming a part of local government is a great way to put into motion changes that will help bring the world closer to the SDGs, one community at a time. The She Should Run initiative provides guides and support, and this guide from Local Victory has some of the best tips to make your voice heard.

Next week, the #SDGSandME series will continue as we explore the things you can do in the Philanthropic aspects of your life to contribute to the SDGs.