UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


IIPP convenes SDSN UK members to discuss progress towards the SDGs

5 May 2023

More than 40 Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) UK members and stakeholders met to build momentum for the contribution of UK higher education institutions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dr Kate Roll addresses first convening of SDSN UK

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) UK, hosted at UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), has convened its membership and collaborators in person for the first time since its launch.

SDSN UK was set up to bring together UK knowledge institutions around practical solutions that contribute to the implementation of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the first part of the event, on 26 April 2023, SDSN UK members gathered at IIPP to review the first year of activities and achievements of the network, which has now grown to more than 20 UK universities and research centres, and discussed strategic orientations for 2023-2025. 

Held in a hybrid format, participants were able to join virtually from across the UK and actively engaged in the co-creation format led by IIPP Associate Professor and SDSN UK Network Chair Dr Kate Roll and UCL IIPP researcher Anca Tacu. The workshop identified opportunities for more collaborative work in the network and the need to improve coordination among UK universities to accelerate progress on the SDGs. 

Common themes included strengthening the voice of the network and its role of bridging policy and practice, identifying new channels to disseminate shared learnings and meaningfully contributing to the education of sustainable development (ESD) in higher education institutions. New ideas brought forward will be taken over by various working groups in the coming months.

The afternoon session focused on the initial findings of a SDSN UK research project carried out in collaboration between IIPP, Newcastle University and the Office of National Statistics (ONS), entitled ‘SDG data gaps and weaknesses in the UK’. Funded through UCL’s SDG Initiatives, the research project aims to improve the collection and availability of UK government data for the SDGs. 

Dr Roll and Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University Dr Graham Long presented the initial findings of the research to a group of 40 stakeholders representing multiple sectors, from academia, the public sector and civil society organisations, who gathered online and in-person at the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment. Building upon the publication of the Measuring Up 2.0 report in September 2022, the research focuses on key challenges faced by stakeholders and barriers to addressing data issues related to the SDGs.

An SDSN UK stakeholder group in discussions during the breakout session

As a way to overcome these challenges and identify practical solutions and next steps in the UK, Dr Roll and Dr Long led breakout discussions with the stakeholders to further engage with the initial research findings and the ONS work. 

Dr Roll said: ‘‘The event allowed us to strengthen ties within the SDSN UK network and demonstrated much enthusiasm and ideas towards our strategic orientations. We are also very pleased of the response from partners and collaborators to engage meaningfully with our research on SDG data and the work of the ONS.’’ 

As the UK prepares to attend the 2023 SDG Summit next September, this day of exchanges was a good moment to reflect on the role of UK higher education institutions to support the UK’s progress, leadership and vision for implementing the SDGs. IIPP MPA students and SDSN UK research assistants Charles Beaudry and Daniela Alvarado recently launched a blog series to explore this topic further.