Blog - May 2019




‘We know more about our community than we did’


Inspiring a 12-year-old girl to research campaigns on climate change is one win for sustainable development following a recent forum.

Another participant said the event, Community Forum: Understanding the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Canada’s Commitment and the Local Connections, was “incredibly transformational.”


“There was a deep appreciation for the diversity in the room — of ages and perspectives, the Indigenous teachings and the variety of expertise.”

These examples are pretty strong signals for Julie Cosgrove of the Kawartha World Issues Centre (KWIC), that the event held earlier in March in Peterborough was a success.

“The Community Forum was bursting at the seams with a highly-engaged and charged room of participants,” Julie tells Electric City Magazine.

“It was pretty exciting. Community response has been really positive. There was a deep appreciation for the diversity in the room — of ages and perspectives, the Indigenous teachings and the variety of expertise.”

The forum, held at The Mount Community Centre, was hosted in partnership by KWICFleming College Office of SustainabilityGreenUP, the Ontario Council for International Co-operation and the Regional Centre for Expertise of Peterborough, Haliburton.

The purpose of the gathering was to gain and understand the context for the development of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), highlight Canada’s commitment and to begin a process of localizing the SDGs and the priorities for the Peterborough community.

The SDGs address global challenges, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.

The event provided the forum for citizens to learn from each other about how local community initiatives connect to the SDGs.

Jacob Rodenburg (Camp Kawartha) invites participants to make meaningful connections with the natural world.

The evening and day events brought together about 180 local politicians, community leaders, academics, educators and students living and working in Peterborough County for education, networking and the opportunity to start identifying those local priorities in preparation for Alliance 2030.

The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, featuring the 17 SDGs, was unanimously adopted by world leaders at an historic UN summit in September 2015. By aligning national priorities with the 2030 Agenda and working together with the private sector and civil society, governments have started to mobilize efforts to end poverty, address inequalities and tackle climate change by 2030.

The Peterborough forum featured an opening conversation with Councillor Lorenzo Whetung and Anne Taylor from Curve Lake First Nation, Director of Trent IESS Dan Longboat, as well as Larry McDermott, the executive director of Plenty Canada.  Participants learned about Indigenous Knowledge & Practices as the ‘Original Sustainability’.

Other speakers included Julie Wright, executive director of the Waterloo Global Science Initiative, Steven Lee from the UN Secretariat and founder of the 3% Project, and Alison Sydney, manager of strategic initiatives for Community Foundations Canada.

Charles Hopkins, UNESCO chair, spoke about the role of the Regional Centres for Expertise in localizing the SDGs.

Panel moderator, Trent professor Haroon Akram Lodhi, provided historical context through his work with the UN in developing the goals.

“We, as Canadians, are committed to reaching targets within each of the 17 goals by 2030 and this can only happen with strong federal and provincial political will and policy, as well as effective grassroots and municipal efforts,” Julie says.

“And the science is pretty clear, we’re running out of time on climate action, which also happens to be integral to the success of the other goals.”

For Julie, highlights of the event included participating with community members of all ages to learn together through active listening and dialogue and watching students lead open-space discussion groups during the afternoon portion of the agenda.

So, what comes next?

As a result of holding the event, there’s now a large regional network of people and a number of opportunities for future learning and partnerships to support the high level of expertise that exists already in the community.

“For many of us, it was the first time to learn about the goals and to explore how they connect to local initiatives. We know more about our community than we did.

“Also, as we reached out to different sectors, we discovered recent initiatives connected to the SDGs, such as through the Peterborough Economic Development Corporation, that we can learn from.”

Looking ahead, Steven, from the UN Secretariat and founder of the 3% Project, will be coming back to Peterborough to lead more climate action workshop with schools.

Meanwhile, organizers have completed summarizing the local initiatives, priorities and resources, both available and needed, and will be sharing the report.

“Some participants have indicated an interest to continue working on particular goals, so we’ll be connecting people and looking to see where the energy and resources are moving forward.”

Lead graphic highlights a portion of the graphic recording by Jason Wilkins.