The Global Goals for Sustainable Development, a to-do list for humanity, were approved just over a week ago in New York City. Anyone working in this field is riding a collective high and those directly involved with the drafting of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development have breathed a sigh of relief. But the adoption of the Global Goals mark just the beginning of a long road to hitting the 169 targets approved by 193 countries.

Here are four steps you can take if you want to play your part in tackling the Global Goals:

1. Find your passion

A lot is going on in the 17 Global Goals — from ending world hunger to achieving gender equality, this wasn’t a plan crafted for the faint at heart. Check out the goals here and lay your claim on the one that most aligns with your passion and curiosity.

2. Evaluate your skills and resources

What are you good at? This can be so-called hard skills, like web development, social media or writing, but think bigger than that. Are you a good public speaker? Can you cook? Do you have access to a car? Can you speak a second language? A flexible work schedule?

There are a plethora of resources and skills we all possess. Organizations are looking for volunteers to do everything from mentoring a refugee on how to enter the job market to setting up tables for a gala. A lot of small every day tasks go into making a huge impact.

3. Find organizations that inspire you

There are tens of thousands of organizations tackling issues covered in the Global Goals, and each one has a unique perspective and solution to offer. From faith-based organizations to Fortune 500 philanthropies, there’s something for everyone. Now that you know what skills and resources you’d like to use, you should have a clear idea of whether you’d like to support an organization virtually, locally or globally. Start a Google search that combines your interests and your skill sets, then use a site like Charity Navigator to investigate their efficacy and overall standing in the non-profit world.

4. Connect and be relentless

Hooray! You’ve found the sweet spot where your passions and skills intersect with an organization doing work you care about. Now is the time to reach out and offer up your services. Larger organizations tend to have a regimented process for on-boarding volunteers, and many require a certain level of commitment over a period of time. Smaller, local organizations can be more flexible. Whichever route you go, ensure you’re committed and ready to contribute in a meaningful way.

The Global Goals cannot be achieved without deep collaboration. It’s important to remember that there is no one organization with the solution to today’s biggest crises. And we must remember that nothing exists in a silo — we will need to work across sectors and borders if we are to come even close to seeing a world with no poverty, no hunger, no injustice.

Are you in? Share the ways you want to get involved in the comments below.

Jennie is the Director of Marketing at TechChange and is a 2015 Social Good Summit UNA Blogger Fellow.

A version of this post was published by the UNA Blog.
Featured image credit: DFID Flickr

This article was originally published on Stanford Social Innovation Review. 

By Nick Martin & Christopher Neu

On November 3, 1961, John F. Kennedy’s universal call to fight poverty was formalized in the creation of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Today, the rising cost of education means only a select few can answer that call. At USAID and implementing organizations, higher levels of leadership are mostly closed to those with only a bachelor’s degree. An elite master’s degree is especially costly—a two-year master’s in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School costs $154,688.

Students passionate about building a better future are increasingly being asked to mortgage their own in return. Students share the growing burden of student debt across the country: The median level of indebtedness for a Master of Arts degree jumped from $38,000 in 2004 to $59,000 in 2012, after adjusting for inflation. But the ability to repay debts is not equal across fields: Social workers are, in comparison, highly unlikely to make a salary sufficient to repay those debts without hardship. The result is that students are getting squeezed between inflated education requirements and constrained salaries at a time when the world most needs them to tackle complex global challenges.

To overcome the barriers of insufficient access to education, universities are turning to massive open online courses (MOOCs) to teach about sustainable development. For example, Wesleyan developed How to Change the World, Stanford created Mobile Health Without Borders, and even UC Berkeley has a new initiative to build a Philanthropy University with Acumen and NovoEd. But scaling a lecture hall through video content is easy; it’s creating an affordable and effective classroom experience that’s hard.

Further progress will require a revolution in online pedagogy as much as improved technology, or possibly even an unbundling of the graduate degree from the traditional 40 three-credit courses. As employers better identify the discrete skill sets and competencies they need, students will be empowered with clarity about where they want to spend their time and money to enter the workplace. Education and accreditation have never been more important for workplace success, but the in-person college experience may soon become an unaffordable luxury.

Digital Pedagogy post photo

Chris Neu and Norman Shamas facilitate a TechChange course in the TechChange studio

At TechChange, we believe that we can achieve a guided student experience, a network of dedicated alumni, and an expansion of career opportunities all online. Fortunately, our students believe the same. In the last month, we’ve seen record enrollments in our new low-cost online diploma program, with more than 120 applicants from more than 40 countries already signing up for our 16-week program on technology for monitoring and evaluation. These students come from organizations and governments such as UNICEF, Mercy Corps, Peru, and the World Bank. Employers have similar confidence in this model; several are sponsoring group enrollments in the diploma program.

Online educators have much to learn from one another. In building out the program, we have drawn heavily from in-person and online models of education that are pushing boundaries, including:

  • Amani Institute: Has a five-month post-graduate certificate program in applied skills for changing the world (now in Kenya and Brazil).
  • General Assembly: Known for its intensive, 12-week boot camps in computer programming and design, and has a great track record at placing graduates in better-paying jobs.
  • Khan Academy: Set the standard for engagement in online learning through quality content and personalized learning paths.

There is no clear answer to the problems of unsustainable careers in sustainable development. Universities are expensive, and these jobs are highly complex. However, by unbundling the graduate school experience, and examining how we can recreate and improve it online, educators might just find new methods for launching the next generation of development practitioners unburdened by lifelong debt.

Last week, the United Nations hosted the Sustainable Development Summit in New York and convened interactive dialogues on six themes including ending poverty and combating climate change. Perhaps it’s also worth discussing how we ensure that the careers of the people required to address these problems are also sustainable. Rethinking graduate school seems like a good place to start.

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Nick (@ncmart) is the founder and CEO of TechChange. He is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown and George Washington Universities.

Chris (@neuguy) is the COO of TechChange. He holds a master’s in democracy and governance from Georgetown University.

This article was originally published on Stanford Social Innovation Review. Featured image credit: Russell Watkins, DFID Flickr.

3D printers make creating new prosthetic limbs look easy. Smart systems enable farmers to perfectly plant, fertilize, water and harvest their fields. Innovative analytical tools allow governments, NGOs, and businesses to see trends like never before, and cloud computing technologies allow the terabytes of information created daily to be shared from partner to partner across the globe. Worldwide, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) increases output and productivity.

If utilized effectively, these technologies will build the capacity necessary to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2016-2030, lifting millions out of extreme poverty as we move toward a healthier, brighter, global future. The SDGs expand upon the foundation laid by the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by taking a more holistic approach to development issues and approaching economic, social, and environmental development as pieces of the same puzzle.

NetHope_SDG_ICT_Playbook_Final_Page_12

The SDG ICT Playbook guides organizations in the development sector as they leverage the power of ICT to achieve these goals, providing the context for:

  • Governments to build new, innovative, and sustainable ways to connect their populations to technology, thus enabling improved connection with their citizens, making processes more transparent, democratic and efficient, and improving the accessibility of government services.
  • NGOs to utilize this new suite of tools to conduct better research, plan more effective initiatives, and analyze their impact.
  • Entrepreneurs to enter into emerging markets with innovative products in an efficient, cost-effective manner that supports sustainable development.

In our work toward the SDGs, all actors should support policies, within organizations and on a national and international level, that make technology more accessible to the public.

We must create cross-sector partnerships to build the infrastructure that makes ICT possible and use those partnerships to enhance the efficacy of ICT solutions. From businesses, to governments, to organizations focused on agriculture, health, education, WASH & power, disaster relief, and environmental protection, we all stand to gain from it wouthe increased use and availability of ICT.

Acknowledging that organizations within the ICT field are situated to lead the charge on technology’s accessibility, the SDG ICT Playbook was spearheaded by a partnership between NetHope, Catholic Relief Services, Intel, Microsoft, CDW, and TechChange. While we all occupy a diverse array of organizations, we believe that our institutional differences are what give us, as a group, the holistic view that technology needs to be made accessible from a variety of perspectives, in order for it to be accessed by a variety of potential users.

Check out NetHope’s press release and blog post about the playbook.


TechChange alumni are always doing amazing things. They have launched mHealth apps to help with HIV prescriptions in South Africa, started mapping projects for maternal health in Ghana and more. Today, we feature an alumna from our Mapping for International Development course, Dominique Narciso!

Since taking our course last year, Dominique has gone on to found her own mapping platform, AidWell. We caught up with Dominique to hear more:

Tell us about AidWell
D: AidWell is a crowdsourced mapping and collaboration platform that would make it easy and simple to know the development stakeholders within a given issue area, such as youth development or water.

What inspired you to start AidWell?
D: During my time at Georgetown’s Master of Science in Foreign Service Program, I began to see the emerging trends in international development, where new players were growing in influence and new types of innovations were being implemented across the globe. I thought to myself, what if there was a way to see how all of these organizations are connected, visually?

Then I took TechChange’s Mapping for International Development course and really saw the possibility of visualizing this information, which pushed me further to make AidWell a reality.

Why a mapping platform?
D: If you are looking to learn about what issues different organizations are working on today, there is currently no mapping tool that consolidates this type of information in an easy and user-friendly way. Right now, it is a tedious process to find that out; you may do some google searches, reach out to your networks, or laboriously look at some NGO directories.

AidWell steps in to make it easier to just see it all in one platform on a map. It would serve US-based organizations looking to make connections with local development stakeholders and for in-country organizations looking to collaborate and learn from one another.

Dom with her team Dominique with her AidWell team

Where is AidWell right now?
D: Since starting-up, I’ve conducted a multitude of informational interviews with international NGOs, foundations, social enterprises, and donors to learn more about the need and potential viability of a mapping platform. Currently, our small AidWell team is conducting mini-experiments to understand demand and pinpoint the major challenges faced by potential users, when looking for local information of organizations.

Where do you see AidWell in a few years?
D: My vision for AidWell is to create the leading stakeholder mapping platform for the international development field, a mapping platform that opens up the possibilities for new connections and innovative ways for sharing knowledge. In the next 3-6 months, the AidWell team will be working on proving the concept, building a minimum viable product, and testing the platform in three pilot countries.

Some potential uses for this platform would include:

  • A first stop for program designers and donors when gathering information to design partnerships, cross-sector collaborations, or collective impact strategies
  • A resource for local organizations to see who is working on the same issues in their country, and potentially a virtual space for collaboration and learning
  • A country stakeholder map service for grantmakers and implementing organizations, that inform funding and stakeholder engagement strategies

Where does AidWell fit in the bigger picture?
D: With the Sustainable Development Goals being released the end of this year, there has been lots of conversations around cross-sector collaboration and public-private partnerships. One goal that stands out in this sentiment is Goal 17: ‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.’

This one goal is a sign that the way development is being done will continually change, as we reimagine the way organizations work with one another, how knowledge is shared across sectors and across borders, and how unlikely players can contribute to innovative approaches for development. I believe AidWell can be a part of this bigger goal, by helping organizations make that first step in knowing and engaging with the right organizations from day one.

Check out Dominique’s platform, AidWell here. If you would like to help with AidWell’s research and/or share ideas on mapping, please get in touch with Dom at dnarciso@AidWell.org with the title ‘TechChange: AidWell Suggestion.’

Interested in learning more about how mapping can impact social good, check out our upcoming course on Mapping for Social Good that begins on October 26, 2015.

About Dominique
dom26
Dominique Narciso is a skilled relationship builder, creative implementer, and forward-thinking leader in the international development space. She has over eight years of experience working on community development initiatives, social enterprise, and economic development. She is the Founder of AidWell, a start-up organization working to catalyze cross-sector collaboration through a web-based mapping platform to connect and map out players in the development space. She worked at Social Impact as a Business Development Manager, designing their international processes for future business opportunities. During her service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica, she co-designed several youth, women, and economic development initiatives with community members and local leaders. She has a Master’s of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a dual BA from UCLA in Communication Studies and Women’s Studies.