Leaving no one behind

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

At the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals is a global commitment to leave no-one behind. A much needed commitment that challenges us all to acknowledge that true social progress lies in the equitable treatment of the most vulnerable and/or marginalised members of society. 

I was invited to give a guest lecture at St Mary's University (Twickenham) and spoke on how civil society organisations can better engage with the Sustainable Development Goals strategically.  It was a highly interactive session, with thought provoking questions asked by the audience about the challenges that will be faced in light of Brexit, and the threat that rising levels of nationalism pose towards the goals.

During the session I touched on this integral concept of leaving no-one behind and below I list four steps that could help civil society organisations ensure that no-one is left behind, in terms of staff, volunteers, beneficiaries and/or other service users.

1)Examine and analyse who is at risk of being left behind in your organisation, and most importantly, why these people are at risk. Consider some of the following major drivers:

Discrimination ––

What biases, exclusion or mistreatment do people face due to protected characteristics?

Geography –– 

Who endures isolation, vulnerability, missing or inferior services due to their place of residence?


Who is affected by inequitable, inadequate or unjust laws, policies, processes or budgets? Who is less or unable to gain influence or participate meaningfully in the decisions that impact them?

2) Empower those who are left behind or at risk of being left behind 

Analyse each stakeholder group –– the needs of each group will be unique although there may be areas of overlap. Most importantly, seek the views of your groups wherever possible and empower them by amplifying their voices.  

3) At a strategic level, enact progressive policies that tackle injustice and inequality  

Tackling injustice and inequality must be addressed at a strategic level in order for it to be effective organisation wide. Consider putting policies in place that help to confront the systemic issues that leave people behind in the first place. Identifying the issues is by far the easiest part, the true challenge lies in putting a plan in place and taking meaningful action. 

4) Monitor and evaluate

Maintain records and figures to monitor progress objectively. Right from the beginning, establish in the context of your own organisation what exactly it means to leave no-one behind and what progress looks like. This should be a continuous process of monitoring and evaluation –– always adapting to changing needs, listening and learning.


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