Enabling Sustainable Positive Change Through People, Processes, and Places

How can physical places inspire positive change and contribute to the future of convening?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) provide a North Star for positive change on a global scale. But any transformation at a systems level starts with individuals. The SDG Places initiative works to close a triangle that brings motivated individuals together with expertise in facilitation and inspiring spaces.

The SDG Places initiative connects unique places and their hosts with organizations that are working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The initiative supports these places to develop methodologies for gatherings that have the potential to positively inspire participants.

The SDG Places initiative is based on the hypothesis that even large-scale change always starts with individual people.

Therefore, people need to make the journey from a “me-perspective” to a “we-perspective” and from there to a “system-perspective.” To achieve this, we need to step out of our everyday routines and comfort zones, and open ourselves to new perspectives, experiences, and approaches. We need spaces and inputs that appeal to all of our senses and invite us to explore with open minds and open hearts, and to establish deep dialogues. Only then can we tap into the collective intelligence of the many and benefit from diverse perspectives.

To facilitate this journey, a gathering needs to have:

  1. People: An inspiring and diverse group of people
  2. Process: Deep listening and dialogue instead of an echo chamber
  3. Place: A physical resonance room

The SDG Places initiative connects these three elements of people, process, and place by bringing together a wealth of experience from the SDG Places team, partners, and hosts. In this way, they aim to achieve impact on three levels:

  • Me-level: Individuals experience resonance with themselves and reflect on their own roles.
  • We-level: Members of the group resonate with one another, connect with and inspire each other, and establish a common ground for collaboration.
  • System-level: Participants reflect on the meta-level:

In what kind of world do we want to live?
Where do we stand now?
What do we want to achieve?
How can we be part of the solution?

This journey of transition has shown to be effective for people from all kinds of geographic or professional backgrounds and therefore provides ample possibilities to initiate change.

Strengthening connections and scaling outreach

The SDG Places initiative was piloted in 2021 with five SDG Places: Pioneers of our Time (Spain), Bore Place (England), Sinal do Vale (Brazil), Casa Origen (Chile), and Mineralito (Mexico). In early 2022, they were joined by new places in Italy, the USA, Ecuador, Germany, Sweden, Romania, and other regions. While welcoming new places, the initiative has also been establishing learning trajectories to create shared resources and a digital platform to connect places and their hosts with organizations.

The SDG Places initiative is also embarking on a collaboration with the Porticus Foundation, which is contributing its vast experience with their Community Arts Lab (CAL). Artists from the Community Art Network (CAN) will create interventions to enrich the SDG Places initiative with the possibilities that art offers as a means of transformation. After assessing the effects, these interventions and formats can then be scaled in 2023.

A successful kick-off

In September 2021, the first SDG Places event was held in the vicinity of the Pyrenees in Spain. Participants and partners from various countries and backgrounds came together in the remote, but cozy SDG Place “The Home.” They discussed the future of convening and the concept of the SDG Places initiative, while experiencing first-hand the transformative effect of a carefully planned event with excellent facilitation in an inspiring place.

Co-creating the future of convening

A prominent topic that has been of particular interest for the SDG Places initiative is the future of events. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the SDG Places built on long-standing experience and time-proven traditions in event-hosting to make the drastic switch from physical events to digital ones, and then hybrid events.

With its higher accessibility and smaller ecological footprint, will digital be the future of convening? Can such events still evoke the shared experiences of the physical world – experiences that can create the emotional bonds for sustainable connections? And what exactly is the role of a well-facilitated space, be it physical or digital? The SDG Places initiative is exploring these questions while experimenting to find the right balance, rigorously examining when and for which goals each format is most appropriate and effective.

About SDG Places

We started the journey of the SDG Places initiatives with the following partners: the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, and the Porticus Foundation. The iac Berlin served as the initiative’s incubator.


Do you want to find out more about SDG Places or want to become a part of the network? Please do not hesitate to get in touch via: