Circles of 17: An inspiring new SDG project

Wednesday the 8th of November the first version of Circles of 17 took place. This is an initiative by Worldconnector Alide Roerink and Veronique Swinkels. Worldconnectors intern Eveline Winkel attended the meeting and wrote a report on it. 

On the 8th of November 2017 a group of 14 people met at Iona in Amsterdam for the pilot version of Circles of 17. This is a project initiated by Global Goals Accelerator. The goal of these Circles of 17 is to bring the 2030 agenda to all layers of society.  In these circles, a group of people will come together, in which every person is goalkeeper of one or two SDGs.  During these sessions the participants will discuss their SDGs and think about the challenges and solutions. Through these Circles of 17, more knowledge should be raised about the SDGs. The circles should clarify these goals for the participants, and encourage them to take further action on their goals when the circle is over. There should be 1000 of these Circles of 17 in 2020.

Wednesday the 8th of November was the first time this idea was put in practice. The participants where invited by those who started the initiative. They are all people who could contribute to the development of the project. The goal of this first circle was to test and discuss the concept. Every participant chose one or two SDGs of which they wanted to be goalkeeper for the day. Everyone introduced themselves and explained why they chose this goal. All participants already knew a lot about the SDGs, and most of them were already working on the SDG they chose.

Next, the SDGs were discussed in pairs. The goal of this brainstorm was to come up with a persona that would benefit from the realization of your SDG. Every participant was given a paper on which they could write down their thoughts on their SDG, for instance the reason you chose your SDG, projects you knew that are working on this SDG and what you could think, feel, say or do about your SDG. People came up with creative answers and the persona they thought of were mostly very original. The future generations were mentioned as a persona a few times. Moreover, during this conversation the connections between the 17 SDGs were emphasized. This was an interesting way of thinking about the SDGs and effective in letting you think about the meaning of the SDG you chose, what could be done about it and who would benefit from its realization. Next to that, it was interesting to hear the perspectives of the other participants and get inspired by this. According to one of the participants this was a good exercise to write down pop-up thoughts in a more inspiring way. Those written pop-up thoughts helped to connect the dots, narrow down essential points.

Next, this first circle of 17 was organized in order to discuss the future of the project. A day before the meeting, the participants were asked to think about the following three questions:

  1. What do you think could be the added value of a Circle of 17?
  2. What do you think is needed to have a Circle of 17 functioning well?
  3. Do you know of relevant projects, initiatives or structures in place which are directly related to the SDGs?

Those present were positive about the idea, but also had a few critical notes. What should be avoided is too much similarity to existing initiatives projects, even if those do not specifically focus on the SDGs. The added value of the Circles of 17 would be to bring people together to work on SDGs that they feel connected with. This way they can actively work on this and be inspired by the other participants. Eventually they will be able to reach more people and motivate them to also work on SDGs.

To make a Circle of 17 function well, varying strategies might be needed in order to reach different target groups, let them contribute to a circle, and motivate them to do more with the SDGs afterwards. Furthermore it was mentioned that it would be a good thing to put people with different, varying perspectives in one circle to bring them together and make them work together. This way, they can learn from each other, get to know other ideas and inspire each other. One of the participants voiced the opinion that a discussion to continue is how to frame a work program. Should it be framed around individual goals (or groups of goals) or should it be framed around burning questions?

Finally, at the end of the meeting, an assessment was started in order to make an overview of relevant projects and initiatives that already exist, that the participants knew of. In this manner a clear overview can be made with local, national, European and global initiatives. This first circle, which is called Circle of 17: Originator, will function as an advisory board for this project.

To conclude, it was an interesting meeting where thoughts were exchanged on the SDGs and the project itself in a creative way. It is definitely a promising project, with which much can be accomplished when it is further developed. One of the participants stated that there is a lot of potential to accelerate progress towards the global goals, using the very broad range of contacts, skills and knowledge within the wider group. It is a positive sign that this group has decided to continue their meetings in 2018 to work on this!

For more information about this project please contact Alide Roerink (alideroerink@earthcharter.org) or Veronique Swinkels (v.swinkels@doorvriendschapsterker.nl).