How Successful Partnerships Will Fuel Agenda 2030
The new Sustainable Development Goals include clear efforts to involve stakeholders beyond member states. This article was first published on Ashoka’s Forbes Channel.
Last week, all eyes were on New York as the UN formally launched its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a new package of economic, social and environmental objectives designed to replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With 17 overarching aims broken down into 169 targets, the new agenda marks an ambitious leap forward, prompting some experts to debate whether the plan for its implementation is realistic.
While the list is certainly bold in length and ambition, the new global goals represent a marked departure from previous agendas in several ways, particularly in regard to execution. In contrast to the MDGs, which focused primarily on government action, the SDG agenda includes clear efforts to involve stakeholders beyond member states — including charities, foundations and the private sector. Goal 17 directly addresses the importance of partnerships, calling for members to “enhance global partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources.”
So what do successful partnership models for sustainable social good look like? One example is the role that large and influential philanthropic organizations such as the Gates Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, play in providing consultation to governments in developing countries, to improve aid distribution, budget transparency and supply chain efficiency.
Another model is co-creation, a style of management that is gaining popularity within the private sector as an active extension of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. Co-creation programs help engage employees in private companies and give them an opportunity to provide mentoring and consultation services to social organizations and enterprises. Global awards and recognitions such as the ‘Co-Creating a Healthier World’ challenge are capitalizing on the emerging force of social and business co-creation to reward social enterprises with funding and support.
Where are these models going to matter the most? Arguably, the swift and successful adoption of partnership and co-creation practices will be particularly crucial in the improvement of health care, both in terms of accessibility and affordability. The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 1 billion peoplelack access to basic health care. Goal 3 of the SDG agenda vows to “strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.”
To illustrate the potential of co-creation in health care, we can look at various examples of successful partnerships in the health tech innovation space: Project ECHO, Medic Mobile, and Reliefwatch are social enterprises that have achieved growth and scaled their models by collaborating successfully with private and public partners outside the health sector.
A pioneer in remote health care access, Project ECHO uses video conferencing to bridge the gap between specialty and primary healthcare providers. This allows expert teams in urban hospitals to interact with primary care clinicians in rural communities. Founded in the University of New Mexico, Project ECHO has now expanded to 22 states in the US and five countries. This is largely because of the strong partnerships it has built: 13 foundations and medical institutions, which include the General Electric Foundation, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and hospitals.
Using mobile health (also known as ‘m-health’) technology, the social enterpriseMedic Mobile allows health workers to register pregnancies, track disease outbreaks, keep stock of essential medicines and communicate about emergencies using simple mobile phone technology. By cooperating with over 51 partners, Medic Mobile has now expanded its operations to 21 countries across Africa, Asia and North America.
Another social enterprise working in the area of health is Reliefwatch, a cloud computing startup that helps health centers in developing countries digitize their inventories using basic mobile phones. Reliefwatch has won recognition from several awards programs and foundations, including the Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneur Award in 2014. Founder Daniel Yu and his team are looking to expand their work beyond the social sector and work directly with the government over the next year.
The Sustainable Development Goals present an ambitious vision for the future; this vision calls for many stakeholders — from governments to private companies and social enterprises — to actively embrace their roles in order to make the goals a reality. While affordable and accessible healthcare is just one of many targets, the emerging trends in partnership and co-creation within the private, public and social sectors, provide hope that we have much to look forward to.
Fiona Koch is Communications Manager for Ashoka Ireland, working with Fellows and changemakers to maximize their global impact.