Solving the stakeholder engagement challenge

UKSSD’s partners working with local communities use a variety of approaches to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from informal networks to working with local councils. Here we share five common ways they work to implement the SDGs through stakeholder engagement.

1. Find an anchor

If you want people to engage consistently in your work on the SDGs, you need to have a go-to place for your stakeholder community. It could be a physical space like the 2030Hub in Liverpool or the way that the SDG Network Meetup London has become a go-to place for people wanting to explore their own role and potential impact on the SDGs.

2. Go where the energy is

Trying to ‘convert’ people who don’t see the importance of what we care about can be an uphill battle.

When we started UKSSD our first step was to work with our natural allies - those who were already engaged with or aware of the Goals. As David from 2030Hub Liverpool puts it: ‘We go where there is energy – the early adopters.’ By prioritising the people or organisations most likely to understand and take an interest in the SDGs and you will quickly grow your engagement rates. You will then be able to leverage more support to influence those that need convincing.

3. Focus on awareness raising first

Our partners can attribute a lot of their success to an initial focus on awareness raising. Rather than trying to get their stakeholders to do something, like creating an SDGs action plan, they help their communities understand what the SDGs might mean for them.

Once enough stakeholders are engaged, its easier to co-create or collaborate on practical action.

4. Listen and identify what is mutually beneficial

It’s clear that listening plays an important role in stakeholder engagement. Understanding the needs of your stakeholders is crucial if you want to identify the best way to work together and have an impact on the SDGs.  

In local communities, understanding needs and opportunities so that SDG activities have a tangible impact is essential. But it’s very easy to assume we know what these are. It’s the same within an organisation or even at a national or regional scale. By listening we can find a way to work in a mutually beneficial way or collect the evidence we need to decide what’s best.

A brilliant example of this is the work Bristol Green Capital Partnership is doing with the city council and university to understand perspectives on the Goals in Bristol and produce the UK’s first Voluntary Local Review on the SDGs.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face meetings

In our increasingly digital world it’s easy to focus our efforts on digital communications – from videos and social media posts to webinars and conference calls.

If you want to make your engagement efforts more effective, don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face meetings or events. These can provide a much more open and inclusive space and help you quickly build the rapport you need to manage a relationship. They’re also a brilliant way to build an online community to maintain momentum.

The events organised at 2030Hub Liverpool and the SDG Network Meetup involve inspiring projects or speakers who shed light on the different ways the Goals might be delivered. They help people connect, share and learn from each other and build informal networks which can be mobilised when needed.

Our partners working on local engagement regularly share learning and experiences with each other through our local action programme. Sharing these experiences with you is just one of the ways UKSSD is helping to accelerate action on the SDGs in the UK.