Sustainable Development Goals

Introducing the Sustainable Development Goals, and learning outcomes for museums to use


Hello- there’s been some interest in the museum world about finding out more about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how to connect with them, and how museums can contribute. This is great news as they are a tremendous opportunity, and there is a tremendous need to help them along. There was a great report done last year by UNESCO, which is really easy to use. It introduces the background to the SDGs, a super-ambitious agenda to create a world that integrates people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships, with a target date of 2030.  The SGD agenda is an open agenda: no-one needs to be invited to take part, and everyone has a role to play. Museums have some particular roles to play, as they reach large numbers of people, have unique resources, are used as the basis of research, and bring people and partners together. They occupy middle ground between the state and people’s lives, and can provide challenge and support to encourage and empower people to participate in creating the world they want.

ESD learning objectives

The 17 goals should be considered alongside one another: it’s not a good idea to cherry pick a small number of targets without considering the bigger picture. The SDG agenda really is a very beautiful and aspirational agenda that invites people to use their heads, hearts and hands to create a sustainable future.

Target 4.7 is a good starting point for museums: 4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non- violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

I also really like target: 12.8 By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.

The UNESCO report has been very, very cleverly put together, as it recognises that people’s  engagement with topics is not like some kind of class that has a start and finish like a lesson. Rather, people’s ongoing engagement is a combination of cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling) and behavioural (doing) aspects, all operating together. This is the definition of engagement I prefer to use, as its success is defined by how activities support people’s ongoing engagement.

Anyone interested in how the SDGs could be implemented in museums, or anywhere else for that matter, should have a look at the report, as it really is very useful for planning educational activities linked to sustainability and the SDGs.

Good luck!


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