Learning for Action – Bringing the SDGs to life

On Tuesday 22nd March 2016, Think Global and the British Council were delighted to welcome delegates to the first of our three-part seminar series focussing on the role of education in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


This first session Learning for Action – Bringing the SDGs to life coincided with the British Council’s exhibition on the SDGs. The seminar focussed on raising awareness of the SDGs and looked at the conditions necessary for human behaviours to change. We were privileged to have Alison Bellwood from Project Everyone speak about their mission to make the SDGs famous; and Zhi Soon from the NESTA Behavioural Insights Team provided fascinating examples of actions that can be undertaken to change behaviours.

Having introduced the audience to Project Everyone, an organisation established by film maker and Comic Relief founder Richard Curtis, Alison moved on to focus on her particular area of responsibility – ‘The World’s Largest Lesson’. Established in September 2015, The World’s Largest Lesson engages teachers across the world to educate young people about the SDGs, encouraging them to take an active role in realising the global community’s vision for a fairer world. This initiative will be held every September to coincide with the 2015 launch of the SDGs.009

Think Global played a key role in delivering the World’s Largest Lesson. Working with teacher submissions from all over the world, we developed a series of lesson plans to support the teaching of the SDGs. The plans, created with teachers and in conjunction with other NGOs, are available on the World’s Largest Lesson website to download and use in schools. Think Global also curated a resource bank to support this, found on our Global Dimension Website.

Alison’s talk demonstrated the sheer size and scale of Project Everyone’s mission (and the SDG mission), and its success in engaging international figures to become ambassadors for the Goals. There is a message of positivity and hope in what Project Everyone is trying to achieve, and the World’s Largest Lesson is an exciting vehicle with which to promote this in schools.

Participants rightly highlighted some of the shortcomings of the Millennium Development Goals, and the need to take a critical approach to the SDGs. For us at Think Global, this is very much in line with our approach to global learning in schools and it was great to hear Alison’s response that, although Project Everyone want to make young people hopeful about the SDGs, they are looking to design some more critical resources for the coming year’s event.010

The seminar moved on to Zhi Soon, who introduced us to the intricacies of human nature and how simple steps can be taken to influence thinking and change human behaviours. The NESTA Behavioural Insight Team is a government institution dedicated to the application of behavioural science to public policy and benefit public services. Beginning with a series of entertaining and interactive behaviour tests, the audience soon realised how predictable human behaviour can be and therefore how small changes can have a big impact. Zhi shared a range of empirical examples of randomised control trials that evidence this.

Zhi’s presentation demonstrated the importance of behaviour change in raising awareness of the SDGs and ensuring that people feel empowered to realise them. Perhaps the visual representation and bitesize titles of the SDGs are an example of how clear communication aids and enhances people’s understanding. A simple yet effective change which can impact human behaviour.

It is interesting to reflect on the other ways that behavioural science could be used to realise the SDGs and indeed, other areas of education. In what other ways could these ideas be utilised when seeking to promote the SDGs?011

Both speakers provided a useful insight into how a variety of methods are needed to promote the SDGs and there is not a one-size fits all approach. A more holistic approach, where behavioural science is embedded within longer term education initiatives such as the World’s Largest Lesson could provide young people with the inspiration needed to take responsibility and action for the SDGs.

Think Global and the British Council would like to thank all who attended this event and very much appreciated the thoughts and contributions offered.

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