Ever since UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, many people have been engaged in a global effort to raise awareness about what the SDGs are and what we need to know to achieve them.

In Belarus, for example, the UN 70 Express train attracted thousands of visitors and offered a variety of activities to inform people about the UN and the SDGs in each of seven city stops in 2015. In Congo, a television programme has focused on telling people about what the 2030 Agenda means for the Congolese. In Haiti, a comic book was developed to convey the SDGs by using a popular local character, while another comic book portrayed young people as characters inspiring them to be ‘Heroes for Change’.

Surely, people, businesses, civil society and governments need to know what the SDGs are and what is expected of them in order to act differently to create a sustainable future. But our work only begins there. 

Raising awareness without getting people to drive lasting change will fail to bring about a better world, according to a recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Stop Raising Awareness Already”. We need people not simply to know what the Sustainable Development Goals are, but to take action to achieve them — or move our leaders to do so.

For proponents of the SDGs, this means a number of things. We must develop strong, context-specific messaging with clear calls to action. Furthermore, our outreach should be part of a larger strategy designed to achieve concrete, measurable objectives through behavioral change, social mobilization, or policy advocacy.

Ultimately, we must persuade people to take action to drive change to bring about a better world.

Peter Serenyi is a Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist at the UN Development Operations Coordination Office (UN DOCO) and was one of the trainers during the Communicating as One on Sustainable Development course at the UNSSC Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development.