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Bridging the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals

 The harmonisation among three key factors – economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection – is essential for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved. These factors are not only important for the welfare of people and societies but are also interrelated.

The SDGs and New Urban Agenda (NUA) have called upon cities with vibrant public spaces, clean environments, and active civic participation in the implementation of these SDGs. However, this matter and the tracking of ongoing progress has proven to be a challenge to many cities and their discussions among governments, academics, and other stakeholders.

Today, many activists, grassroots organisations, and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) view the SDGs as an ineffective top-down process. Hence, the level of commitment to ‘The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development' is insufficient to bring about the transformative changes necessary to combat current issues such as climate change, famine, mass migration, extremism, resource conflict, biodiversity loss, and economic instability.

The collaboration between public and private sectors as well as civil society at all levels needs to recognise the positive outcomes that SDGs will have on their lives and loved ones, countries, and the wider global community. 

Citizens mobilising to initiate transformation on local, national, or worldwide levels regularly make up grassroots movements. Typically the first responders during crises, regional authorities and bigger organisations can gain strong support within the local community as they play an important role for the locals. Partnerships can be lucrative when citizens (ground-level affiliations) assemble, while at the same time cultivating a feeling of trust and loyalty in a society is important to foresee development. 

We must look to past initiatives like Local Agenda 21 (LA21) which allows local communities to work together in establishing sustainable solutions. LA21 also focuses on disseminating awareness, boosting capabilities, providing access to participation, and developing collaborations. These global attempts at sustainable development have provided insight into the challenges and opportunities facing us today.

For one, educational institutions play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the SDGs set by the United Nations and grassroots communities. One of the main ways in which educational institutions can contribute to the SDGs is by incorporating sustainable development education into their curricula and encouraging participation in community outreach programmes. This can include subjects such as environmental science, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and sustainable urban development.

Additionally, educational institutions can gain a better understanding of the concerns and potentials of grassroots communities by working with them to close the divide between sustainable development objectives and communities in lower socioeconomic areas. 

This is because locals usually lack the knowledge and recognition of sustainable development due to inadequate resources for them to be involved in decision-making or comprehend the effects and advantages of it. Educational institutions can then design and put into practice lasting development initiatives that are custom-made to meet the unique needs and goals of these communities for fruitful sustainable project results.

As an example, The School of Engineering at Taylor’s University offers integrated modules focusing on sustainable solutions concerning society. This ensures that students are aware of key environmental concerns and sustainable approaches as part of their curriculum. 

Specifically, students will have access to a comprehensive range of subject areas related to energy & water systems, renewable energies, green buildings & urban sustainability, and waste management systems. This will promote critical thinking as well as hands-on experience to foster effective problem solvers who can use current technologies in an ever-changing environment.

Moreover, educational institutions can support the SDGs by engaging in research and innovation related to sustainable development. Driven by this purpose, Taylor’s University has launched its 13 Impact Labs, an initiative governed by the United Nations’ SDGs that is designed to tackle the many challenges presented by global issues like climate change and inequality, to create a more sustainable and equitable future. 

Through this initiative, academics and students will work to come up with innovative solutions that focus on specific SDG goals, such as ensuring access to quality education and promoting responsible consumption and production. Innovative approaches such as community-based projects will give individuals an opportunity to assess their local contexts and develop unique strategies that can make a positive impact. 

By doing so, Taylor’s University strives to create real-world change not only based on sound academic research but also rooted heavily in practical application. Therefore, to bridge the divide between sustainable development goals and grassroots groups' needs, a bottom-up strategy to educate and increase awareness must be applied. This can be accomplished by creating educational resources and seminars that are tailor-made for the unique necessities and settings of local groups.

Educational institutions can be instrumental in helping reach Sustainable Development Goals, but meeting these goals cannot be done by them alone. Everyone, from government agencies to private companies and individuals, must work together to bridge any gaps associated with attaining the SDGs at the local level.

Bridging the gap necessitates engaging and enabling local communities to endorse sustainable development projects, assuring sufficient funds, and heightening awareness of sustainability issues in grassroots societies.

Dr Praveena Nair A/P Sivasankaran is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Engineering, Faculty of Innovation & Technology, Taylor’s University. Taylor’s University through its academics and students is a purpose-driven university that aims to make an impact on communities and industries. The University recently launched its 13 Impact Labs to implement purpose learning across all schools in education, research, and advocacy guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).