SDGA at UNGA: A Recap

September 23 through 28 brought a flurry of activity for SDSN, with the UN General Assembly, the UN Climate Summit, SDSN’s annual International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD), the first Global Solutions Forum, a meeting the SDSN Leadership Council, and many related events. Throughout the week, SDG Academy team was privileged to participate in and learn from these important discussions about how to move forward towards achieving the SDGs in policy and practice, as well as the challenges we still have to face.

Below are some highlights from the SDG Academy team’s experiences during UNGA week:

Annual Meeting of the Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) Program

Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) program faculty members from around the world convened for a meeting with Lucia Rodriguez, Director of the MDP Programs Secretariat, Chandrika Bahadur, Director of the SDG Academy and President of the SDSN Association, and Florencia Librizzi, the SDG Academy’s Head of Program and Partnerships, to discuss the future of the program at its new “home” under the umbrella of the SDG Academy. The move is a win-win for both initiatives—aligning with the SDG Academy provides MDP faculty and students with access to the Academy’s vast catalog of educational resources; while the MDP program connects the Academy with faculty and students around the world who are committed to achieving sustainable development.

Following a question and answer session on the SDG Academy move, MDP students from academic institutions from around the world shared their thoughts on how to best organize the thousands of MDP students and alumni who are interested in getting involved in the work of the Global Association. The meeting left MDG members and alumni energized, and looking forward to a new, expanded chapter.

ICSD Presentation on SDG Academy MOOCs

At ICSD, Education Manager Neha Sharma presented research on the design and effectiveness of SDG Academy MOOCs. Synthesizing available data from 22 SDG Academy courses on sustainable development, as well as survey responses from 800 course alumni, the study seeks to answer fundamental questions around learner motivations, role of course design, student profiles, and marketing efforts in driving course enrollments and completions; and the impact of these courses on a learner’s life.

While MOOCs provide an effective platform for accessing affordable, high quality education, low completion rates have raised questions about the success of open online courses overall. The definition of “success” itself is a subject of intense debate, as learners enroll with different motivations and their own ideas of “completion.” Our research seeks to address a gap in the literature about MOOC retention and what motivates learners to opt for online courses in social disciplines. The study highlighted the critical importance of course design and marketing efforts for driving enrollment and completion in an online learning environment.

SDSN and the Inter-American Development Bank Launch of new Spanish-Language MOOC on SDG 17

Chandrika Bahadur and SDSN Networks Manager Maria Cortes-Puch joined Matias Bendersky, Chief of the Resource Mobilization Unit at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on stage at ICSD to announce the launch of “Partnerships: A Vehicle for Advancing Sustainable Development” (“Alianzas un vehículo para lograr el desarrollo sostenible”), a new MOOC on the critical importance of partnerships for achieving the SDGs.

The course–developed by the SDSN Networks team and IDB, and hosted by IDBx–serves as a practical guide for the implementation of SDG 17, giving students and professionals alike the skills needed to design and manage institutional partnerships through a blend of theoretical content and real case studies. Learn more and enroll on

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at the SDSN Leadership Council Meeting

Twice a year, members of the SDSN Leadership Council meet for two days of intense meetings to learn about the work of SDSN and provide expert guidance. The Leadership Council is comprised of eminent experts on sustainable development from academia, business, civil society, and the public sector.

Dr. Siva Kumari, Director General of the International Baccalaureate (IB) and new member of the SDSN Leadership Council, joined Chandrika Bahadur for a presentation on the importance of mainstreaming the SDGs into education at all levels. Dr. Kumari highlighted IB’s dedication to educating its 1.5 million students around the world to make a difference in the world using its inclusive and humanistic curriculum.

Chandrika Bahadur updated the Leadership Council in attendance on the recent activities of the SDG Academy, including the launch of several new courses and the integration of the Master’s in Development Practice program, as well as our plans for the future.

Julia Guillemot, Project Lead for SDSN Youth’s Global Schools Program, spoke about the initiative’s work supporting K-12 educators with teaching resources on the SDGs,

Finally, SDSN Director Jeffrey Sachs spoke of the opportunity and need to mainstream ESD into primary and secondary school curricula, highlighting the incredible potential of informed youth to affect change. He highlighted SDSN’s new partnership with the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens to advance SDG 4.7, and proposed a new program that would put an SDG educator in every school. He also emphasized the importance of SDG 4 in providing economic opportunity and alleviating poverty in developing countries.

The Role of Higher Education in Achieving the SDGs

Florencia Librizzi, Head of Program and Partnerships at the SDG Academy, spoke on a panel at a Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) event hosted by SAP, to discuss how higher education–and HESI in particular—can become an engine for action in meeting the SDGs. 

Florencia also shared her perspective on the future of Responsible Management Education (RME) and joined a RME Research Conference roundtable session hosted by Jönköping International Business School. This roundtable brought together many recognized experts in the field who shed light on how RME can become an effective vehicle to achieve the SDGs. 

Finally, UNGA week brought the entire SDG Academy team from both our New York and New Delhi offices together for a busy but rewarding week of learning and connection.