Back in August, RESULTS supporters were asked to contact local schools, asking them to take part in the World’s Largest Lesson to promote the new Global Goals. But as RESULTS staff members, have we ourselves got anything to learn about the global goals? Just because you work in an international development organisation that has been promoting the Goals all year, doesn’t mean you have nothing to learn about them. So led by Policy Officer Laura Kerr, we decided we would do what we’ve been asking others to, and have a collective lesson about the Goals and what they mean for our work.

So what did we learn?

We already knew that the Goals provide an ambitious framework which, if achieved, will see absolute poverty all but eradicated in a generation. But a couple of months since the Goals were agreed at the UN, and the dust and excitement has long since settled, and we hadn’t had time – or made time – to digest them, and, specifically, the 169 targets.

It’s all about the targets

Some of us learned about the relevance of the Global Goals to our subject specialisms for the first time, but that felt OK. Others already had some idea of what the Goals mean for policy areas such as nutrition and education. But what mattered was that we were talking about them together as a team, and thinking out how, in each area of RESULTS’ work, the targets under each Goal can be used to ensure that progress is being made. The very detailed policy and advocacy work that RESULTS is engaged in every day will, over time, give us the data we need to know if we are on track. And as of today, we feel a little bit more familiar with our yardstick.

Everything’s connected Another lesson was about the interconnectedness of the Goals and targets. For example, issues relating to Climate Risk Insurance, like vulnerability to extreme weather events, access to adequate food and to financial services, and sustainable agriculture appear in Goals 1 (no poverty), 2 (no hunger) and 8 (decent work and economic growth), not only the climate goal (Goal 13). And education (Goal 4) is central to so many development outcomes, not least, the ability of people to participate in holding their own leaders to account for achieving the Goals.

We’ve a long way to go to reach the new targets

But we learned that there are real challenges to meet head on – and soon – if we are to stand any chance of achieving the Goals. A recent ODI study, ‘Projecting progress: reaching the SDGs by 2030’, shows that not only are we way off achieving most of the targets, but on some, we are actually going in the wrong direction. This should be a real wake-up call, and we who work for international development need to feel the urgency of getting to work on this right now, and not wait until politicians choose to engage with to them. A report from BOND, ‘Bringing the goals home’, shows how the UK government must provide real leadership and join up its thinking and action across all areas of policy, domestic and international, if we are to do what we’ve just signed up to at the UN, which is to create a UK sustainable development plan.

If we who work in international development don’t explore these things, can we expect others to? I’d urge anyone else working on international development advocacy to get your staff together, put away your professional pride for an hour, and hold your own small bit of The World’s Largest Lesson!