By Nasya Razavi, Post-Doctoral Visitor, The City Institute, York University and Jon Beale, Manager, Sustainable Development Solutions Network Canada
The 2030 Agenda is ambitious. Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires a whole-of-society approach across sectors. Collaborative research partnerships create pathways between practice and research that advance learning towards effective sustainable development solutions. Producing timely and relevant knowledge that informs evidence-based programming and policy is key to meeting the SDG indicators in Canada. However, challenges around research partnerships mean these collaborations happen less frequently than they could in Canada. Additionally, expenditures on research and development in Canada will require a breakthrough to meet the 50% increase in dedicated researchers needed to achieve targets in science and innovation.
Existing contributions to the 2030 Agenda
Nevertheless, existing innovative partnerships happening across Canada provide a starting point to bridge the gap in SDG-related research partnerships. For example, the Alliance 2030 is an on-line platform that creates space for diverse organizations and individuals the opportunity to connect and collaborate. The Blueprint, Generation SDG, an effort of the Waterloo Global Science Initiative, showcases a range of collective actions and local partnerships in Canada working to advance sustainable development. Finally, the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation’s (BCCIC) Movement Map reveals the “invisible mosaic” of organizations contributing to the sustainable development without an explicit reference to the SDGs. This trend exists in academia as well. Scholars are fueling SDG research though their efforts are not necessarily framed as such.
In response to this blind spot, Next Generation – Collaboration for Development, a joint research program between the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) and the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development, has teamed up with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Canada to map areas of research on the SDGs in Canada. This project aims to identify how researchers and their partners contribute to the implementation of the SDGs and to uncover under-represented areas in SDG research. Further, based on emerging research on academic and civil society collaboration, the team has identified capacity challenges for building effective and fair partnerships, and determined the need for accelerated knowledge mobilization and outreach.
Implementing the SDGs in Canada means significant investment in research and development, but also fostering a partnership-enabling environment as shown in a recent policy brief by CCIC and BCCIC. Government and government agencies have a role to play in facilitating exchanges within and between sectors by acting as a convener to support cross-sector exchanges and knowledge sharing. Financing collaborative efforts and capacity building mechanisms can support the transformative elements of the 2030 Agenda, including engaging historically marginalized communities in Canada as partners.
There is an opportunity to leverage existing funding opportunities to better link research and collaborative research projects to the 2030 Agenda. For example, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s (SSHRC) Imagining Canada’s Future initiative focuses on future global challenges facing Canadians that in part reflect the SDGs. SSHRC also provides funding opportunities to support collaboration between academics and non-state actors and manages certain programs that could support the 2030 Agenda. The National Research Council Canada also supports international innovation and collaboration. Bolstering these existing approaches and explicitly linking research to the SDGs could further buttress collaboration. Responsive funding and seed funding to support the capacity to test new ideas could enhance community and non-state actor efforts, leading to new synergies and scaling of successes. Universities across Canada have already started to take on the 2030 Agenda by incorporating the SDGs into their strategies on campus. Universities provide fertile ground for SDG research, monitoring and evaluation, enabling multi-stakeholder partnerships, and importantly, engaging students.
There are great strides to be made towards implementing the SDGs. Promoting a culture of cross-sectoral collaboration and research partnerships presents an exciting opportunity to advance the 2030 Agenda in Canada and abroad.
This opinion piece is part of BCCIC and CCIC’s Good Practice in 2030 Agenda Implementation Series, an initiative funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sustainable Development Goals Program.
First posted on the Government of Canada’s Show Your Colours Blog here.