Last fall, Caroline Cohen joined the NWEI team as a graduate student intern implementing an Applied Leadership Project with NWEI. Caroline spent the academic year working with us to research the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and mapped how NWEI’s work connects with the SDGs. We were excited to find many overlaps – and are looking forward to continuing to weave in the SDGs into our work. We had a chance to connect with Caroline on her project with us, and solicited her advice for others looking to effect change.
1. Tell us about the project you did with NWEI. What were your goals and why did you think it was important?
The goal of my work was to help increase the reach of NWEI’s work by linking their programs with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and communicating that to potential partnering organizations. This is important because the work of NWEI is an impressive tool to shrink the gap between our daily lives and universal sustainability challenges and opportunities.
Additionally, highlighting NWEI’s connection with the Sustainable Development Goals increases the exposure of the SDGs, normalizing them as part the discussion around sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR).
2. What drew you to working with NWEI? What was one of the main things you learned during your tenure with NWEI?
I chose to work with NWEI for two reasons. First, because I know the power of transformative-learning communities and personal behavior-change experiments, and they are the reason I am dedicating my life’s work to environmental sustainability. When I learned about NWEI’s discussion course books and EcoChallenge I wanted to do anything I could to help NWEI reach more people. The second reason is that I saw an environmental non-profit functioning extremely well with a long history of success and wonderful people on board. I wanted to be a learning-sponge in that environment.
3. Tell us more about the SDGs. Why do you think the SDGs are a good tool for the sustainability movement? Businesses?
The SDGs are critical because they are a unifying target that connects us with a global community working for sustainability. The goals recognize that marginal progress is not enough, and that the whole world needs to work together to steer us in the right direction. The United States and other developed nations are responsible for so much of what’s causing global warming, but the impacts are being felt in undeveloped nations. The SDGs give us some tangible targets to relate with and address the toughest struggles in the world, which are primarily far away. It is SO difficult to connect our daily lives to these enormous issues, and that’s where I got excited about my research: the SDGs bring the big-picture perspective, and NWEI brings the connection to the individual, together they can bridge a great divide.
4. In your opinion, what does the sustainability movement need most now?
I don’t often form opinions on such large-scale issues. However, with this prompt what comes to mind is a truly global perspective and network. Environmental sustainability has the power to unite people across any sort of boundary physical, political, or spiritual. What an incredible opportunity! There are already diverse people, who may think themselves opposed in every other manner, who agree on the importance of environmental sustainability. Experiencing a sense of working together for a massive common cause can catapult the environmental movement, and, in my opinion, soften so many other sources of conflict in the world.
5. What advice for other young changemakers do you have?
Start doing something now! Cultivate a passion for sustainability, practice it in your daily life, let it guide your decisions, and let it emulate from you. People around you will see that your life is more happy and satisfying and want to join you. Helping others to change is all about attraction not promotion. Don’t preach but invite.