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Welcome to BLOG17 an opportunity to bring the huge amount of value, experience, innovation and engagement from the SEVENTEENx community together in weekly articles written by some of the most inspiring changemakers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals, is possibly at the same time the easiest and most difficult global goal for us to achieve. But it’s inside this goal that success of the other sixteen will be found.  And this is why this Blog exists. To bring contributions from global leaders and home grown heroes for the 2030 agenda and the vital role that business plays in achieving a sustainable future.

Each week we’ll hear from the amazing SEVENTEENx community as they share with us their purpose, how they are delivering outcomes and inspiring us to follow in their footsteps.

It’s 2022 in a post pandemic world where the awareness and engagement of environmental and social inequalities are perhaps the highest they have ever been; yet the most critical outcome now is how to turn this engagement into action and create real, long term outcomes for the better of society and the planet.

Partnerships and collaboration sits at the heart of the opportunity that lays ahead of us to create a sustainable future for our little rock in space. Sir David Attenborough stated in his powerful address to the COP26 audience “ if operating as individuals we are a force powerful enough to damage the planet, then surely working together we are powerful enough to fix it.” 

I listened recently to Brene Brown interview Simon Sinek on her podcast and they were discussing finite and infinite worlds. One thing that stood out for me (also because I’m a parent of 2 young boys) was Simon was discussing the finite and infinite world in game play. If you think of sports, with a score and a timeline and an outcome, it operates within a finite space. There is a winner and a loser. However games without finite boundaries, like say Lego are infinite in their outcome.. You don’t “win” at Lego. Thus when his kids are playing infinite games like Lego there is no conflict.. The minute you introduce finite parameters , conflict ensues. 

Business for the last 200 years has been no different. Shareholder supremacy and focus on the bottom line is a finite approach, however as Simon puts it… you don’t “win” at business however we’ve spent so much time in a finite mindset on how we run them. 

The argument within is that by looking past the bottom line and beyond the shareholders of the company, we can see the infinite opportunities with what a business should be here to do, what our teams can create and what a collaborative approach to an infinite outcome, then perhaps we can really start to use business as a tool to change the world.

And.. this is where opening ourselves up to partnerships , and the deep blue block SDG17 can help us move into the 21st century of business as an infinite force for global change and “bigger things” .

So here are my 5 reasons partnerships can save the world:

  1. Investment and action between business and govt

Bill Gates discussed with Rashida Jones on their podcast “Ask Big Questions” the challenge of climate change and the burden on both the environment and society it now poses. In his dissection of the problem in a very Bill Gates kind of way, he outlines that issues like climate action are so far along, that the solution first requires governments to step up and contribute through funding and policy. However it is the business community and research sector who then need to take the baton for the necessary innovation that is required. 

We’ve kind of been engineered in our thinking as business operators for the last few hundred years to go against the government and kind of “do it our way”, the whole public vs private sector argument. Sell more stuff… pay less tax… push the limits of the laws so we can maximise our profits. The old way of running business separate from the government needs to change. It’s now time for Government and Business to work together to co-create solutions for the future of our planet and people.

Yes ..Working together though is trickier said than done. Especially where business and government are concerned. Ultimately Gates puts it simply. The investment required to fix these issues is large, and requires governments to fund it; however it is dwarfed by the cost of doing nothing. 

2. Competition vs Collaboration

Ask any business in the social enterprise space, what one of their most stand out practices they witness working in this space. The answer you’ll often get is the openness to collaborate and work together.  Sharing a purpose or mission for impact is a huge opportunity even for traditionally ‘competing’ brands to work together and collaborate for solutions.  As the problem and the outcomes are bigger than the brands and founders themselves, the social engagement between people running these brands is huge. 

We see it with SEVENTEENx, both within our brand and within our audience. Our brand is built on partnerships. We are an absolute case study for SDG17… using partnerships to solve big problems. Our business is connecting people with other operators who share the same values , look to solve similar problems and create a business models that do so, every single day.

To achieve the 2030 agenda and beyond, the requirement is for brands to share knowledge, innovation, research, ideas to build a future that we can all work into together. Collaboration is an infinite solution because there is no winner and no loser. It’s the long term game that we can play forever. 

3. Social facilitation

We all know the proverb that if you want to run fast, run with someone who runs faster than you. Or even the amazing story of the 4 minute mile and Roger Bannister. When we work within groups, collaborate and see other people leading the way… we rise to the challenge, we speed up , we ideate and solve problems faster and with more intent. 

This is a psychological phenomenon known as Social Facilitation. The improvement of our performance in the presence of others. We step up and raise the bar of effort and work with more focus to the outcome of the group. It’s a neat outcome from collaboration. 

We often ask sustainability or ESG consultants on our podcast what key advice do they give to founders out there looking to solve SDG related issues with their business. As with our good friend Jen McLaughlin from Purpose LT on our recent podcast panel chat Talk2021 and on several other occasions the answer has been; “You don’t have to do it alone. Get around other people and companies that believe what you believe and work with them on the shared outcome” 

4. Knowledge sharing becomes easy

I once heard Professor of Physics Brian Cox, the famous rockstar physics professor, describe science as an acceptable level of ignorance with a continuation of learning enough to keep us interested for more. 

The stark reality is that no one person or organisation has the answers to everything. We all cannot fix these challenges for the future alone. Partnerships, and the collaboration of a collective purpose ensures that we teach each other, share knowledge , experience date and research to build a successful outcome. 

Innovation and progress comes from partnerships, cross border sharing of information is critical to the success of the 2030 agenda and beyond. Much like in parts of the world’s response to the COVID pandemic, resources and solution sharing is pivotal to achieving shared outcomes AND the best part, is that is comes very naturally. 

5. Partnerships foster a societal approach - what can we achieve together?

If you’ve been to one of our SEVENTEENx events or heard me speak at any stage, you’ll have heard me saying my favourite lesson of late is how easy the “I” becomes a “We” in the social enterprise space. The collective approach to problem solving is very natural. And true to this form, also is the shift in focus on what can “I do for myself” to “what can WE do for others”. 

There is a fast moving adoption of the planet and society being included into the stakeholders to which businesses are responsible. Tabitha Jane from Earth Self, based in Scotland, talks in ep #41 our SEVENTEENx podcast interview about putting the Earth at the centre of stakeholder engagement, thus at the centre of strategic decision making and key objectives. 

We as a business community have now a responsibility to look outward from our business as usual operations, from our entire footprint from supply chain through to book keeping and where our ripple effect impacts. By partnering with values aligned and like minded operators , the solutions here are more innovative, agile , fast moving and readily available to “plug in” to our operations. 

The best part is that this outward focus is a natural outcome from partnerships and working within shared value. Our purpose becomes bigger, wider, longer in reach and the funny part… well, as we create outcomes for “others” … well low an behold our business begins to flourish.

Turns out that doing business for good…is actually good for business.

So , your task today, tomorrow and beyond, is to reach out, connect with brands, leaders, consumers who believe what you believe, are values aligned and simply ask  “what can WE do together for our shared purpose? 

SDg17 for the win.

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