In 2017, the LIN Centre’s Narrow the Gap Fund will be awarding grants to projects targeting the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For Vietnam, as one of 193 member states of the United Nations, the SDGs are a valuable development objective. Therefore, in late 2016, LIN began organizing a chain of information sharing sessions to support partners in better understanding the 17 SDGs, and realising the contribution of non-profit organizations in achieving these goals in Vietnam.
Following these sessions, the LIN Centre, in collaboration with Learning through Community Service (under the Hoa Sen University), held a short training session on 23/2/2017 from 8:30a to 12:00p regarding the 17 SDGs. The training was facilitated by Mr.Don Tuan Phuong, director of the Centre for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS). In attendance were 31 representatives from organizations and local non-profits, volunteer groups, students, and businesses with an interest in the Sustainable Development Goals. Training contents included: An Introduction to the Millennium Goals, Introduction to Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, and SDGs within non-profit organizations.
Although the content may seem heavy on theory, feedback from the participants revealed that most of the people felt that the trainer’s innovative activities held throughout the lessons made the content exciting and easily understood. Following an introduction of the individual participants, the training programs, and the "rules of the classroom" of the classroom", the facilitator introduced the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in relation to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, connecting what has been accomplished with the work that still lies ahead. Ultimately, the 17 SDGs will address the unfinished work of the 8 MDGs in new and more comprehensive way. Furthermore, the facilitator emphasized the advantages of the 17 SDGs, as a continuation of the 8 MDGs, for "creating conditions for people and communities in society to have equal opportunities for development, access to shared resources, and to participate, contribute and benefit.”
The introduction of the content and specific targets of the 17 SDGs was made exciting and interactive though an activity in which each of the participants was asked to write down three project ideas which were previously implemented or will be in the future. They were then asked to connect these project ideas with one or more of the respective 17 targets of the SDGs. In this activity, the participants not only had the time to reflect on their previous projects and valued ideas, they also had the opportunity to consult the ideas of other organizations for inspiration on improving project designs or seeking partnership opportunities to increase the positive impact of projects.
Attendees also appreciated how the 17 goals were broken down in five broader groups, under the title 5P (People, Prosperity, Planet, Peace, and Partnership). The 5P’s follow as such: People: goals 1-6; Prosperity: goals 7-11, Planet: goals 12-15; Peace: goal 16; and Partnership: goal 17. Participants then discussed and organized criteria to measure the goals for each of the five groups.
Additionally, participants partook in an activity in which they were given the opportunity to share ideas for projects they planned on submitting to the Narrow the Gap Fund and share resources for project implementation. Participants found the activity to be both useful and engaging. During the activity, participants stood in two circles: inside and outside. People standing in the inner circle shared information to the outer circle for 1 minute, then the outer circle had 1 minute to ask for additional comments. The inner circle then moved to the right and the process was repeated from step one; sharing information followed by a brief Q&A.
This process was repeated 5 times. After the conclusion of the exercise, each participant felt satisfied with the discussion of their thoughts, and collected new ideas and materials to build up projects for their organizations. To review the knowledge learned that morning, the facilitator organized a game called "Peel Onions". For the game, an “onion” was constructed out of a roll of paper containing inside several sheets of paper with questions written on them. This “onion” was then passed around to each person in the circle as music played. When the music stopped, whoever was holding the “onion” would then have to answer a question related to the content they learned about the 17 SDGs. If they could not answer the question correctly or if they missed a component of the answer, the participant was penalised with a fun punishment. For example, hopscotching 5 steps to a person of the opposite sex, taking selfies with people, or singing a song with an illustrative dance.
In summation, the 17 SDGs act as a continuation, and revitalization, of the unfinished portions of the 8 MDGs. The 17 SDGs are also a common language for the different parties involved in development, be it government, business, academia, non-profit organizations, or people. Therefore, the 17 SDGs can be used as a basis for strengthening cooperation, fair and harmonious economic development, social development, and the protection of natural resources and the environment.