SDGs 10: Reduced Inequalities, 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Notes from the Together Creative Team: The Storying Behind the Stories

Amidst the messy editorial work behind the first iteration of Together, we arrived at the mantra diverse people saying diverse things in diverse ways. This vision was informed by our social justice lenses and a shared commitment to the act of storytelling. We share Together as an invitation to engage in conversation and action underlined by our collective responsibility to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

We embrace storytelling, not only for its capacity to foster diversity — in terms of the storyteller, the story, and the story form — but also for its potential to speak from and to a collective consciousness informed by the SDG framework. The metaphor of a ready-at-hand notebook captures a moment in history while alluding to marks already made and stories yet to be told. Pointing to work still to be done serves to highlight the culture of service required to sustain the momentum. With no beginning and no end, Together is a living project that marks the multiplicity of ways we can learn, share, and act in the spirit of SDG solidarity. We launch this collection (and its online counterpart) as a first response to our call to share stories and the consequent interactions that transpired.

 

In the words of decolonial scholar Walter Mignolo, “there is not a world that is represented, but a world that is constantly invented in the enunciation.” With this in mind, our editorial journey privileges collaboration and diverse forms of expression. Our partnering with diverse voices — from local and global perspectives — seeks to model SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals through collective action underpinned by inclusion and diversity. For us, it is not enough to strive for diverse representation strictly in terms of affiliations or identities. We also seek diversity in terms of story format — from illustration, to poetry, to essay, to interview, and beyond. We take up SDG 17’s call to “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development” through an emphasis on capacity-building by building new kinds of partnerships.

 

Our approach also prioritizes SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities. We attend to power differences to not only privilege undermined perspectives, but to open up opportunities for new kinds of collaboration across sectors and identities. We seek not to find stories (as if stories are already made), but to provide a space for a diverse set of stories to unravel — as though in conversation with one another. Since, as the development professional Kleinman has written, “Development is not a science — it is a struggle to try to improve the human condition,” turning to stories serves as a reminder of the incredible complexity of solidarity work. It also points to the great potential that we all have to make a mark on the notebook.

For our editorial team — made up of individuals with various educational, professional, and lived experiences — our approach is marked by a commonality worth noting. We are all unapologetically of the creative sort (disinclined to imitate, critical, and visionary). Students or recent graduates that have recently come to work within the international development sector, we face the challenge (and opportunity) of approaching development from outside perspectives. While this publication is in part about celebrating what Albertans are doing in the name of sustainable international development, we feel an urgent need to look to a future where we don’t require this sector. In such a future, Albertans would no longer be positioned in any way as saviors to the problems of the so-called Global South, and would instead act from the understanding that we are all interconnected. In the interim, international development must take on a facilitator role: towards removing itself.

Our inclusive and collaborative approach is also informed by community members and mentors that continue to guide our process. When first conceptualizing the project in June, ACGC members and partners asked us to shy away from report-like content. Instead, they wanted “real stories,” in all shapes and forms, each with the potential to inspire all kinds of people to act as agents for the SDGs.

According to feminist scholar Sarah Ahmed, society trains us to make claims, yet rarely are we held accountable to transform them into action. We are mandated to show how we meet our claims, which is different from action. Obsession with measuring can indeed paralyze us by limiting us to approaches that promise measurable results. We can extend this understanding to consider the danger of making claims regarding the SDGs, for claiming to achieve a given goal can manifest as non-action. Ahmed calls for action that is not singular, but instead a sustained practice. The lesson here is that it is not enough to claim to be contributing to the SDGs: we must strive to produce the effects that the goals name.

The UN Secretary-General’s report “Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” calls for “a stronger commitment to partnership and cooperation.” Yet the indicators the report forecasts are largely financial, technical, and quantitative. While these measures should not be dismissed, our intervention is to offer snapshots of what the collective impact of commitment to achieving the SDGs can look like at the human level.

This involves recognizing those contributions that are producing such effects through different means and vocabularies. This means privileging storytellers and story forms that are routinely excluded from dominant discourse and institutional norms. We renounce the impulse to claim that Together will manifest as goals met. Instead, we hope that our efforts to model two of the SDGs through principled action and reflection might open up opportunities for new collective synergies to emerge. Our hope is to see Together carry on through continual reformulation by the community as stories upon stories are shared and remade.