The Anthropocene presents a set of interlinked sustainability challenges for humanity. The United Nations 2030 Agenda has identified 17 specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a way to confront these challenges. However, local initiatives have long been addressing issues connected to these goals in a myriad of diverse and innovative ways.
We present a new approach to assess how local initiatives contribute to achieving the SDGs. We analyse how many, and how frequently, different SDGs and targets are addressed in a set of African initiatives. We consider goals and targets addressed by the same initiative as interacting between them. Then, we cluster the SDGs based on the combinations of goals and targets addressed by the initiatives and explore how SDGs differ in how local initiatives engage with them. We identify 5 main groups: SDGs addressed by broad-scope projects, SDGs addressed by specific projects, SDGs as means of implementation, cross-cutting SDGs and underrepresented SDGs.
Goal 11 (sustainable cities & communities) is not clustered with any other goal. Finally, we explore the nuances of these groups and discuss the implications and relevance for the SDG framework to consider bottom-up approaches. Efforts to monitor the success on implementing the SDGs in local contexts should be reinforced and consider the different patterns initiatives follow to address the goals. Additionally, achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda will require diversity and alignment of bottom-up and top-down approaches.
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