Volunteering to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

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Interested in learning more on this topic? We've partnered with Volunteer Canada for a free webinar exploring volunteering and the Sustainable Development Goals in more detail. Join us on October 4!

Volunteer Canada has been working with Employment and Social Development Canada to explore the link between how Canadians volunteer and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established by the United Nations. Four key elements hold our interest: First, we want to dispel the myth that these goals are for other regions of the world and that Canada has no issue with poverty, clean water, or equality. Second, we want to demonstrate the degree to which volunteers are already contributing to the achievement of these goals. Third, we wondered whether or not using the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for recruitment would be a compelling engagement strategy. Finally, we want volunteer contributions to be included in Canada’s reporting on our progress.

What are the SDGs?

When we look at the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that Canada and others committed to achieving by 2030, there is not a single goal that does not involve volunteers. Volunteers contribute to eliminating hunger, advocating for human rights, protecting the planet, and creating thriving and resilient communities. We began by creating 6 clusters through which to look at the 17 SDGs:

A. Relief of Poverty & Hunger (Goals 1, 2)
B. Equality & Social Justice (Goals 5, 10, and 16)
C. Community Resiliency (Goals 11, 8, 9)
D. Protecting the Planet (Goals 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15)
E. Health & Wellbeing (Goal 3)
F. Education (Goal 4)

The SDGs and you

Not-for-profit organizations, charities, and government departments engage volunteers in a range of capacities. Businesses support their employees to volunteer and educational institutions encourage their students to get involved in the community, sometimes connected to a specific theme or priority. As a starting point, look at the 17 SDGs and select those that most closely relate to your own objectives. Then consider which programs, services, or activities you offer that involve volunteers. You will likely have found 2-3 SDGs to which your volunteers are contributing.

If you think that using the SDGs as a framework for your volunteer programs would be beneficial, consider indicating on the volunteer opportunity descriptions (positions or assignments) that this volunteer role is contributing to a Sustainable Development Goal. If you are using a volunteer searching/matching system, consider adding the SDG alignment as one of the search fields. If you report on volunteer activity, consider reporting on the number of volunteers/hours or volunteer achievements that have been directed to a specific SDG. This can also be incorporated into volunteer recognition, annual reports, orientation sessions, or general presentations.

Many local volunteer centres are taking the lead on exploring the alignment between volunteer activities and the SDGs. There are other resources that can also help you with your exploration:

Sustainable Development Goals – Knowledge Platform
Impact 2030

Additionally, I hope you'll join us for a free webinar on October 4, where I'll be discussing this topic in greater detail.

Paula Speevak, President and CEO, joined Volunteer Canada after serving as the Managing Director of Carleton University’s Centre for Voluntary Sector Research and Development. Volunteer Canada provides national leadership and expertise on volunteerism to increase the participation, quality and diversity of volunteer experiences.

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