In 2015, the era of the Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) came to an end. While the eight aspirational goals set forth sixteen years ago brought tremendous, impactful changes throughout the world, we must now set our sights forward to 2030 and come together to build a world that is both sustainable and equitable. In 2016, the United Nations introduced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With nine more goals than the MDGs, the SDGs aim high. Some may protest they are too utopian, but with the active participation of national governments, corporations, NGOs, and individuals, the SDGs can and must be achieved.
Corporate social responsibility cannot be relegated to random acts of charity; instead it should ingrain the SDGs within a corporation’s core business model ensuring the company’s future success and the sustainability of the resources and people they depend upon. Companies like Microsoft have led the way. Imparting the importance of shared value on internal stakeholders, they have brought education initiatives to the developing world as a way of opening new growth markets. The media, particularly social media, will be an indispensable tool in organizing the masses around concentrated efforts to achieve each of the seventeen SDGs by 2030. Angry Birds harnessed the power of social media with the hashtag #ANGRYBIRDSHAPPYPLANET, mobilizing individuals across the globe to take action to reduce climate change, and raising awareness of the SDGs. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon leads the way in actualizing the power of national governments, assembling world leaders to take on the SDGs, and motivating them to create powerful international consensus, as with the Paris Climate Change Agreement. All the tools are within reach. With the cooperation and coordination of efforts across all sectors, the Sustainable Development Goals will be a reality by 2030.
Engaging Youth through Media
As leaders in all sectors continue to strategize the most effective ways to implement the SDGs, there is one group whose power and importance cannot be ignored—the global youth. In order to find out how to engage the world’s youth in working toward the 2030 SDGs, AIESEC developed the YouthSpeak Survey. The survey answers the question of how aware of the SDGs youth currently is, and then, what drives them, where they see the world in 2030, what qualities they want in their leaders, and where they turn for information. The survey found that of the 160,292 young people surveyed worldwide, nearly half were already aware of the SDGs. The rest of the survey aimed to determine how to reach out to the remainder of the youth who are not yet aware of the SDGs, and more importantly, how they can be empowered to take meaningful action. One compelling result from the survey is that the same regions that placed the greatest faith in the power of youth-based organizations to influence society, are the same regions that had the greatest awareness of the SDGs—Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. This is a testament to the power of organizations like AIESEC, to raise awareness of the SDGs, and to organize young people around them. The report also finds that the global youth are driven by family more than any other factor, and then, by the desire to find a meaningful purpose in life. The SDGs young people are most passionate about are Education, Poverty, and Health. Young people’s main sources of day-to-day information are Facebook, Google, and TV. Knowing where young people turn for information, it is clear that media will be an incredibly powerful player in reaching them about the SDGs and providing them with the tools and resources to turn the SDGs from goals to realities.
A few media leaders have exceeded in setting precedent for using media for social impact and are transforming the traditional role of the media: raising awareness, building momentum, and inspiring action. Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC, is one of these leaders. By partnering with Global Citizen for Global Citizen Festival, MSNBC and Global Citizen were able to reach millions of people in 2015 to raise awareness and drive actions by individuals and world leaders on the goals of ending extreme poverty and ensuring quality education, among other global goals. Of the tens of thousands of people who attended the festival in person, each completed action journeys. For example, attendees asked world leaders on Twitter to take action in providing clean water to all people in the world, ensuring that, beyond awareness being raised, leaders are held accountable. Over half of the young people who completed the YouthSpeak Survey claimed that they “live” on their smartphones. With that in mind, MSNBC and Global Citizen effectively capitalized on a method of engaging them which required little more effort than the habits they already practice. Another media powerhouse leading the way in reaching youth through technology and social media is Mashable. With 45 million visitors a month and 25 million followers on social media, Mashable has recognized its place as a platform for promoting social change—utilizing digital storytelling to spread awareness and promote activism. This activism has ranged from building momentum for an important petition, to amplifying the voice of a fundraising campaign, to providing young people with tips for becoming successful social good entrepreneurs. As Mashable, MSNBC, and many other media leaders have demonstrated, media has more reach than ever before in 2016, and by continuing to use and expand upon this power for social good, they can bring the youth and the rest of the global community together for a better world in 2030.
PVBLIC Foundation and Media for Social Impact
PVBLIC Foundation, as an innovative nonprofit media organization, believes that media is the new currency, and works to strategically pair media space with key nonprofits at all levels to increase issue awareness and help nonprofits amplify their message. To further strengthen the utility of media for social good, PVBLIC, in association with the United Nations Office for Partnerships, hosted an event called the Media for Social Impact Summit. The Media for Social Impact Summit unites leaders in media, advertising, and creative agencies with high level UN representatives and communications experts to highlight the media’s power to drive social change, and strategize campaigns around the SDGs and other important global issues. By building and strengthening partnerships and collaboration across all sectors, PVBLIC empowers the brightest minds and most powerful players in media to come together to effect the greatest social progress.
A Call to Action
Equipped with the insights gained from the findings of the YouthSpeak survey, now is the time for people across all sectors to utilize every tool available to them to spread the word about the SDGs. We must strive to reach the remainder of youth that are unaware about the SDGs, and mobilize everyone around them for maximum impact. Media leaders must use their position to amplify the message of the SDGs, and share the ways that people at all levels can contribute. Corporate leaders must incorporate the missions of the SDGs into their business models, and use their brand power to spread the message of the cause. Government leaders must take accountability for following through to accomplish the goals, and inspire youth to take up careers in government, as this is the sector which they believe to have the most power to create change, and yet only ten percent of youth surveyed aspire to careers in government service. Nonprofit leaders must continue to foster strong partnerships and engagement across sectors. And lastly, all individuals, as leaders in their own rights, must engage in any and all ways they can. We can all contribute to the SDGs by raising awareness for them, holding our respective governments accountable for working towards them, seeking career and volunteer opportunities to advance them, and taking large and small steps throughout our daily lives to contribute. It is up to everyone as a global community, One for All, to make all 17 sustainable development goals a reality by the year 2030.
Sergio Fernández de Cordova, Co-Founder & Chairman, PVBLIC Foundation.
Heather Galloway is currently a Content Creator for the PVBLIC Foundation and a Project Manager for the Old Seaport Alliance, a New York City neighborhood improvement organization. Prior to moving to New York, Heather worked as a Programs Assistant for Housing and Economic Rights Advocates in Oakland, California. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Politics from Saint Mary’s College of California. Heather is passionate about generating social impact through a combination of community organizing, compelling issue-awareness campaigns, and effective public policy. She is driven by her belief in the power of education and collaboration to unite humanity in common goals and bring about a just and equitable global society.