This post was written by class one alum Joe Ballard, and was originally posted on Global Daily.
In 2015, the world’s leaders came together at the United Nations to set forth an ambitious agenda for ending poverty, protecting our planet, and promoting global prosperity for all through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Although we just held our final Annual Meeting in September, the Clinton Global Initiative’s mission has been to turn powerful ideas into action. Since its founding by President Clinton in 2005, the Clinton Global Initiative has been driven by a simple, unifying principle: the time to work together and take action on the world’s most pressing challenges is now. CGI members have made more than 3,600 Commitments to Action, or a specific plan for addressing a significant global challenge – such as climate change, opportunities for girls and women, global health, or displaced populations. Globally, the lives of more than 435 million people around the world have been improved as a result of these commitments. What does this mean? It means increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation for more than 33 million people, more than 13 million girls and women reached through empowerment initiatives, nearly 35 million people with access to information technologies, and the protection or restoration of more than 401 million acres of forest.
We know the great opportunities that come with sharing and analyzing our data to learn as much as we possibly can about what worked (as we did in September 2014), what didn’t (as we saw in June in 2016), and what trends can be identified to help guide practices for the broader social sector. For example, we know that our most successful commitments were the result of cross-sector partnerships, where members of the CGI community leveraged their unique expertise, resources, and capabilities to combine efforts and maximize impact.
As the Clinton Global Initiative convened its final Annual Meeting this year, and with the dawn of a new era in development, Corporate Social Responsibility, and philanthropy through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, we asked ourselves: what have CGI commitments done in service of these goals through the years?
Our commitments data team poured through the data and categorized every commitment ever made through CGI to form our new report, “Analysis of Commitment Portfolio Alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.” Each commitment was designated a primary affiliation with one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
We gleaned a few insights that we believe can be helpful to the broader development community and social impact space.
You don’t need to recreate the wheel
There is a tremendous amount of work that can be built upon and advanced – and CGI commitments are a good place to start if you’re looking to make a difference. Over the years, CGI members have worked to achieve many of the same targets adopted by the SDGs with a particular focus on quality education (SDG 4), economic growth (SDG 8), and good health and well-being (SDG 3). As a result of CGI commitments, more than 52 million children have access to a better education; more than $1.6 billion has been invested or loaned to small- and medium-sized enterprises; more than 114 million people have increased access to maternal and child health and survival programs; and more than $318 million in research and development funds has been spent on new vaccines, medicines, and diagnostics. Commitments focused on these areas comprise over 50% of our portfolio – and are a good place to look to glean lessons from the field moving forward.
Create a clear focus that fits with the mission of your organization or central goal
When CGI defined a clear focus – such as Haiti, Ebola, refugees, youth unemployment, or oceans – the number of commitments in service of that focus increased. For example, after forming the CGI Oceans Action Network in 2013, the number of commitments aligned with SDG 14 on life below water increased substantially – generating 31 commitments specifically dedicated to this single issue area (with overlap across other various commitment areas). As a result, CGI commitments like “Blue Guardians” and the “Billion Oyster Project” are protecting our oceans, seas and rivers, increasing coastal resiliency to climate change, and improving marine and fisheries conservation efforts.
Partnerships are critical – and more are necessary
In 2014, the Commitment Portfolio Analysis discovered that completed commitments that were implemented by multiple organizations working in partnership exceeded their goals, while projects implemented by a single organization generally fell short of their targets. We recently released a new case study, “Engaging Smallholder Farmers in Value Chains: Emerging Lessons,” on how the power of partnerships have positively impacted smallholder farmers and supply chain management. And, we identified a set of promising practices for all organizations looking to form new or strengthen existing partnerships.
Understanding how CGI commitments have aligned with the broader agenda laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals helps us identify how more of the world’s leading companies, nonprofits, and governments can come together to create meaningful change. You can read more about our report on the topic here.
Photo Credit: Juliana Thomas / Clinton Global Initiative.