17 Big Bets for a Sustainable Future

From foodtank.com, by Nina Sparling
17 Big Bets for a Sustainable Future

In 2015, at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, leaders from around the world adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the objective of ending poverty, fighting injustice and hunger, and taking on climate change by the year 2030. This month, the Big Bet Initiative takes it a step further with the recent publication of 17 Big Bets for a Better World. With contributions from 17 global leaders, innovators, artists, and entrepreneurs, the book outlines a range of perspectives on critical leaps to take to achieve the SDGs agreed upon in 2015.

The Big Bet Initiative, a partnership between Dalberg, Danida, and the Rockefeller Foundation, asked contributors to the book a simple question: what idea, innovation, or thought would you encourage the world community to adopt to maximize the chances that we reach the Global Goals by 2030? The responses encompass a diverse set of voices and experiences that underscore the multiple facets of sustainable development. There isn’t one simple, quick fix solution; small, incremental change won’t be enough. Instead, the Big Bet Initiative suggests, we need bigger thinking about a range of approaches geared towards developing local solutions with broad adaptability that turn ideas into action.

Each Big Bet addresses a field of action related to its author’s field of expertise. Many contributors focus on how easier access to technologies—whether solar eletricity or unique digital identities—can facilitate equality and sustainable development. Amina J. Mohammed, a former Special Advisor to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, writes about the need to maintain open-source digital platforms that encourage integration and partnerships across sectors and localities.

Other contributors turn their attention to youth empowerment. According to the World Economic Forum, close to 340 million young people are unemployed or not in school. Ashish J. Thakkar, founder of the Mara Group and Mara Foundation, and James I. Mwangi, director of the Dalberg Group, bet that investment in small business and entrepreneurship will create brighter futures for global youth. Fabiola Gianotti, Director-General of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), hones in on the need to invest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education (STEM) around the globe, and empower young people through teaching basic research skills.  

Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg focuses on empowering women farmers to address hunger and food security. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, if women were given the same access to resources as men, they could not only increase yields by 20-30 percent but also end under for as many as 200 million people.

The final Big Bet comes from artist Olafur Eliasson who speaks to the role of arts and culture in sharing experiences and inspiring people to action. He says, “Culture is a unique experience of democracy…[it] is the energy that inspires solidarity and community, it is friction and discussion. A strong cultural sector creates a broader sense of identification, inclusion, a feeling of belonging to a global ‘we.'”

The book is just the first step. Match-up meetings seeking to pair ideamakers with investors “to create fertile ground for civil society and private sector partnerships” will follow its publication as the Big Bet Initiative carries us closer to reaching the SDGs by 2030.