Community owned solutions and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

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The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are a universal set of 17 goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators that United Nations member states will be expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years. Despite the problems in measuring indicators, nation states are, at this moment, working furiously to implement the targets and collect the data to monitor and evaluate their actions for sustainable development. How would a community owned solutions approach help address some of these goals?


Contribution of community owned solutions approach

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

We have shown that system health or viability is maximised when a diverse and synergistic set of livelihood strategies are employed by local communities. Maximising system viability helps to reduce vulnerability and build resilience, by supporting strategies that can be implemented without ongoing external assistance.

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

We have highlighted local sustainable and traditional forms of agriculture and fishing as key community owned solutions for sustainable resource management today and in the face of climate change.

4. Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

We have tested the implementation of community peer-to-peer knowledge exchange as a way of empowering communities to face up to local environmental and social challenges. The promotion of community owned solutions through community peer-to-peer knowledge exchange may deliver more long-lasting, socially and ecologically integrated, and investment-effective strategies compared to top down, expert led and/or foreign-led initiatives.

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

We have shown that the use of participatory video and participatory photography, techniques that are at the centre of our community engagement process, is an opportunity for girls and women to showcase their distinctive skills and understanding. This is empowering in situations where women and girls are more often than not discriminated and marginalised.

11. Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

The community owned solutions approach has been shown to not only be relevant to communities in rural settings. Successful pilot projects have also been carried out with slum dwellers in Brazil and other marginal groups, such as immigrants, in urban centres in Italy.

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Community owned solutions are low impact practices that either produce minimal greenhouse gas emissions, or sequester carbon as is the case with traditional rotational farming that contributes to the charcoal rich ‘black earths’ in the Amazon. However, the approach also encourages and showcases adaptability to emerging challenges. ‘Adaptability’ is one of the six strategies within our system viability framework and is therefore a core component of the approach.

15. Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

We have evidence that supporting community owned solutions helps to maintain the whole social-ecological system, such as forest or wetland systems, in a sustainable form. We have promoted the integration of different worldviews and forms of resource management into local, national and regional policies.

16. Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

Using community owned approaches to identifying their livelihood strategies and priorities allows local communities to represent their own visions of development. Using participatory visual methods, such as participatory video, allows greater participatory governance and accountability.

17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Our work on cross-scalar analysis of governance reveals the synergies and conflicts, namely the trade-offs, between sustainable development policies at different scales. This allows the identification of areas for greater policy coherence. We work in partnership between public, private and civil society organisations to promote and strengthen shared goals of sustainable development.

Follow Jay Mistry:

Professor of Geography - Royal Holloway University of London

Jay has more than 22 years’ experience in teaching, researching and building capacity for natural resource management with local communities. Her particular interests include supporting local livelihoods and biodiversity conservation, local environmental governance, action research using participatory video and capacity building for natural resource management.