“What do the SDGs mean to you?”: A review of SIDshare’s panel discussion

SIDshare held it’s inaugural Advocacy Week from the 16th- 20th November 2015. Felicia Munde, the SIDshare Committee’s Programmes Coordinator reflects on the SIDshare and Partner panel event, which revolved around the question: “What do the Sustainable Development Goals mean to you?”

By Felicia Munde

Last week, SIDshare presented a Partner Fair and Panel Discussion, as part of SIDshare Advocacy Week. The week in general was great and helped to raise awareness of what SIDshare does and indeed, what our partners do for great causes. We hosted a different event every day, including a whiteboard challenge, a cake sale and two film screenings. However, it seemed that the Panel Discussion proved to be the main event of the week.

The discussion was based around the question “What do Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mean to you?” The SIDshare Committee decided that this should be the topic of discussion because sustainability is one of the biggest global issues of our time and it is something that is relevant to all of our partner organisations. The SDGs were launched in September 2015 and provided a universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states are expected to use to frame their agendas over the next 15 years. It was already clear that the work that our partner organisations do ties into these goals; however the main purpose of the discussion was to establish the practical impact that the new SDG’s have – how the SDGs really work on ground level.

SDGs

The panel discussion involved Olivia from Kids Club Kampala, Coralie from the Sheffield Esteli Society, Nick from WindAid and Wilko from the Sheffield AIESEC Society. Although they all work in different ways for very different causes, something that our panel participants had in common was the passion for the cause that they were representing. All of the panelists were extremely enthusiastic, passionate and knowledgeable, which is why the panel discussion was such a success. Further, the fact that each member represented such unique perspectives from diverse and highly respected organisations, also contributed to the success of the discussion.

When asked whether the SDG’s effect the operations of their organisations, Nick from WindAid simply responded, “Yes, that is very much the case”. The panellists each gave their own opinions on the merits or downfalls of the SDGs; their experiences of working with the SDGs in mind, and the impact that the SDGs have on the organisation that they were representing. Taking a moment to look around at the audience, it became aware to me that we were all truly gripped by their experiences and thoughts on the matter. What became clear was that the SDGs help all of the organisations to carry out their work better. For instance, Wilko claimed, “the SDGs have given us a way to reach out to other people and to teach them.”

For me, however, the most compelling part of the discussion triggered from Nick’s claim; “As organisations we can’t change because of the SDGs. You can’t change what you’re doing because there’s money somewhere else.” All of our panellists agreed that organisations must not disconnect from the communities that they are working with and their needs. In this regard, SDGs can be a double-edged sword; encouraging organisations to merely tick boxes in order to receive funds, when their focus should really be in making sure that the changes are really effective on the ground and for the people whom it matters most. This thought-provoking perspective really created a special atmosphere in the room and made us all realise the reality of the SDGs in common practice. However, the fact that all of our panellists were so against this, gave the audience reason to sympathise and admire the work that they do; ensuring that their organisation really does actually have a direct impact on its target.

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Towards the latter part of the debate, we opened up the discussion to our audience and twitter feed. Our aim was for the discussion to produce lively participatory discussion and debate amongst both partners and students; and it certainly did just that! In fact, it seemed that the panellists and the audience didn’t want the panel discussion to end. Fortunately, we ended the event with a fair, which enabled students to discuss things further with the panellists and to discover the volunteering and work opportunities available to students. 12232662_1528547750796463_6320138602103504515_o12184229_1528547657463139_4506789680430120533_o

It turns out that what was already set to be a fantastic afternoon exceeded all of our expectations- to the extent that the SIDshare Committee have decided to make this a termly event. I would like to thank everyone that got involved; including the fantastic panellists, the SIDshare Committee and all that attended. We hope to see you at our next event!

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