Scotland’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Network began with fifteen people in a room. They strongly felt that the SDGs in Scotland needed a push; momentum had been lost and those at the heart of working with the SDGs were determined to step up the pace with government and the third sector.

The project I led had limited capacity to host a network and this was never in our plans. Yet we saw value in offering facilitation and coordination to get things moving again. Since then, Scotland’s SDG Network has grown to nearly 150 members, has a public website – – that serves as Scotland’s national platform for the SDGs and a new forum for online collaboration.

Facilitated workshops were used to guide the early development of the group. This allowed us to take forward engagement that has been well received, such as our open letter to the First Minister and Scottish Parliament, SDG workshops with the Scottish Government and a briefing paper that laid the ground for meetings with the UK Government and a sense of collaboration with the Scottish Government building.

Coalitions such as Scotland’s SDG Network across the world will need to play even larger roles in the reporting, monitoring and promotion of the SDGs as we move into 2019. It’s been said that we are approaching a tipping point for the potential of the SDGs to be realised.

That’s why the SDG Scotland Network has already begun discussions on how we maintain momentum, build on what’s been set up and bring in some new ways of working that provide ownership, shared responsibility and an inclusive space to make sure we’re as prepared and agile as possible.

Whilst there’s a need for this young network to take a big and exciting step forward in developing its vision and strategy, we’ve only reached this point by sticking to one of our project’s core values during the early stages: openness. Taking an open approach has accelerated our progress, allowed for messy yet quick collaboration and – most importantly – it has helped us to value and learn from each other and figure out what’s needed each step of the way.

I’ll go on record and say that I do not know anywhere near enough about the SDGs as you might think. There are very few people in the world that can know everything about the world’s largest campaign and strategy to end poverty, tackle inequalities and combat climate change. But I know enough to keep the SDG Scotland Network moving, and it’s our members that complement one another in providing the knowledge, skills and experience to help us move forward to get just enough done with the limited time and resources we have.

Together, we’ve built plans in the open for these to be reviewed and critiqued, sought members to step up to working groups, took forward time-intensive work in facilitating the early stages of network development, and we have recently moved to an online forum where all communication takes place – including with working groups – and that is open for anyone to join.

This approach, I hope, has helped promote trust between those people and organisations that are playing a leading role in the SDG Network’s efforts. Never have I worked with a group of people so willing to go the extra mile to see us over the line; I really see a connection between this successful collaboration and our open approach.

Even as we move into discussions about the future of the Network, we’re looking to facilitate those conversations, listen to people’s views and make sure that this coalition can thrive and grow to play an even greater role from today. This means selecting our goals, policies and approaches together in an open way. This Network has been successful, but we’ve only scratched the surface. We need to build on the foundations we’ve set, go back and refresh our initial plans to sustain impact and create a space where our growing and interested membership can lead the way.

Katsuaki Watanabe said: ‘Problems are not the enemy. Hidden problems are.’ By working with an open approach, I really believe that what started as a small, passionate group in Edinburgh can become a movement to secure the Sustainable Development Goals in Scotland and overcome the obstacles that stand in our way.

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