Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Teaching Profession Opinion

Using Partnerships to Build a Better World Through Education

By Dr. Jennifer Williams — April 24, 2018 7 min read

Editor’s Note: Today, Dr. Jennifer Williams, co-founder of TeachSDGs, education strategist, and professor of education, examines ways educators can take action on the global goals through Sustainable Development Goal 17 (SDG17): Partnerships for the Goals. Join her on Twitter for #Globaledchat this Thursday, April 26 at 8pm US Eastern time, to more deeply discuss SDG17 and how to achieve it.

“Your efforts to work collaboratively as educators are a good start. Though if we are going to reach these global goals, we must find ways to move beyond working in collaboration alone and instead join together in solidarity.” These powerful words spoken by then-United Nations Ambassador of Grenada, Ambassador Dessima Williams, have stayed with me for well over a year. Said with hands together, fingers interlaced and firmly locked, I believe this word “solidarity” continues to echo for all of us that were in that meeting that day.

Standing outside on the steps that had earlier led us into the United Nations building, with flags of the world now moving in unison as the cold New York City January wind blew past, and after tasked in our meeting by Ambassador Williams and a team of UN delegates to find ways to use education to help realize the Sustainable Development Goals, I remember looking at my colleagues—fellow teachers who also knew we needed to do something, anything, we just were not sure what—and, saying “Well, how about we start with a hashtag?” And, at that moment, #TeachSDGs began.

Charged with advancing the work of the UN in relation to education through advocacy and outreach, we quickly recognized that our group of four educators all from North America, though steadfast and determined, was far from representative of a world that knew many definitions of teacher, school, and system. To meet a universal call to action that ensured no one would be left behind, we needed more voices. So, with no more than a hashtag and a little determination, we set out to find others who were ready to mobilize and get to work in our grassroots efforts to help reach these 17 goals that hold a promise of transforming our world.

Sustainable Development Goal 17: Partnership for the Goals, though last in line numerically in a sequence of goals that we as a world are committed to reaching by the year 2030, is one that is viewed by many as a connector goal binding the 16 before it. SDG17, represented in dark navy blue with five white circles that overlap and converge at many points, prioritizes coordination, cooperation, and global partnership. Though many outside of education are quick to associate only SDG4: Quality Education with teachers, educators today are faced with the need to engage with all the goals as our classrooms of students know poverty and hunger, inequality and injustice. As teachers, we take action for the climate and for clean water, and we seek well-being and peace for our students and for all citizens of our world. We, by design as a profession, are focused on all the goals. As I see it, Global Goal 17, much like the job of a teacher that looks out for all students in a classroom, is the essential caretaker.

Connecting Points: Strengthening Worldwide Partnerships

  • Sustainable Development Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

    • Target 17.9: Enhance SDGs capacity in developing countries.
    • Target 17.17: Encourage effective partnerships.

The complexity of the global goals requires sound infrastructure and unified vision. Inspired by SDG17, we as the cofounders of #TeachSDGs developed a plan to prioritize process and coherence in our efforts to bring global educators together in conversation and cooperation to transform the world. Too, as we believed it was critical to be aware of our privilege and perspective, we worked to move beyond our networks and empower the voices of others. Four soon grew to 17, which then, through a process of pledge-taking, expanded to over 1,200 global educators. Lines on a symbolic map that connected #TeachSDGs would now cross oceans, continents, and borders and pass through beautiful lands with names such as Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, Romania, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Paris, Akungba Akoko, Ghana, Iran, San Diego, Islamabad, Sri Lanka, Buenos Aires, Brussels, and many, many, many other world locations.

Distributed Leadership: Removing Hierarchy to Prioritize Solidarity

  • Sustainable Development Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

    • Target 17.5: Invest in least developed countries.
    • Target 17.14: Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development.
    • Target 17.16: Enhance the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

Sustainable Development Goal 17 calls on us to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnerships for sustainable development. For us, when formulating our efforts and our processes, we could not envision that a system built on a hierarchy of power could effectively allow for transmission of ideas or sharing of knowledge and expertise. Just as the global goals belong to each and every citizen of the world, we believed that #TeachSDGs belonged to all educators. For facilitation of any type of progress, the approach needed to be integrated, equitable, and accessible. To flatten leadership, we knew we wanted to move to a model of leadership by committee, and we were set to keep #TeachSDGs a movement that was for and always by teachers.

Onward: Seeking Out New Ways of Communicating & Innovating

  • Sustainable Development Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

    • Target 17.6: Knowledge sharing and cooperation for access to science, technology, and innovation.
    • Target 17.18: Enhance availability of reliable data.

Today, we are organized by committee with a focus on responding to the call to action to meet the Sustainable Development Goals through (1) global projects, (2) resources and publications, (3) world events, (4) advocacy and outreach, (5) communications, and (6) partnership. With 104 ambassadors leading the way, we recognize that for our world to succeed in hitting the targets by 2030, we must have sufficient means to access and implement the goals. The goals invite and encourage us to reconsider the ways we communicate and share information. For us, use of collaborative forms of technology has been the accelerator to scale out messages, ideas, and announcements. We have engaged in technologies with free tools such as Twitter, Skype, Voxer, WhatsApp, Empatico, and Flipgrid. We’ve brought global educators together in Twitter chats, in global games with Kahoot!, and in global student learning experiences with World’s Largest Lesson. Technologies connect us and allow us to make data-driven decisions based on people-centered strategies.

Each day, educators take the pledge to teach the SDGs at, and we are working to provide the needed resources to our ambassadors and others that aim to get the message out to those that may not have access to technology or reliable information. Bit by bit, it is through partnership and in solidarity that we move forward. We invite you to join us as a partner in the movement to #TeachSDGs by trying one or more of these ideas framed according to direction provided by Sustainable Development Goal 17:

  • Be supportive: Find a cause that is aligned to both the SDGs and your own work. Contribute time or public support of NGOs or B Corps and tag in #TeachSDGs on social media.

  • Be empathetic: Consider ways to keep people and the planet at the center of all that you do. Invest in relationships and invite people that are representative of diverse perspectives or experiences to conversations and projects.

  • Be inventive: Use available resources to obtain new knowledge, curate and share ideas, and amplify messages of social good and sustainability. Check out SDGs courses and resource collections in the Teach the Global Goals Participate Portal and add your response to this Flipgrid prompt as shared by Sir Ken Robinson.

  • Be passionate: Take action and stay informed. Follow @TeachSDGs on Twitter and get updates on all things global goals with the SDGs in Action app.

  • Be cooperative: Print out the global goals poster (available in the six official languages of the UN: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish) and share them with local community members. Find small ways to join forces and partner with others to take steps to reaching these ambitious goals as part of a united and cooperative world. Following in words shared with us by Ambassador Dessima Williams, “Let us not waste the opportunity.” Take hold and jump in!

You can connect with Jennifer, #TeachSDGs, Heather, and the Center for Global Education on Twitter.

UN SDG #17 image used with permission of the UN Department of Public Information.

Quote image created on Pablo.

Photo taken by and used with permission of Amy Rosenstein, TeachSDGs Co-Founder & Classroom Teacher, NY.

The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools
Head of Lower School
San Diego, California
San Diego Jewish Academy

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion What Your Students Will Remember About You
The best teachers care about students unconditionally but, at the same time, ask them to do things they can’t yet do.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Teaching Profession High Risk for COVID-19 and Forced Back to Class: One Teacher's Story
One theater teacher in Austin has a serious heart condition and cancer, but was denied the ability to work remotely. Here is her story.
9 min read
Austin High School musical theater teacher and instructional coach Annie Dragoo has three underlying health conditions noted by the CDC as being high-risk for coronavirus complications, but was denied a waiver to continue working from home in 2021.
Austin High School musical theater teacher and instructional coach Annie Dragoo has three underlying health conditions noted by the CDC as being high-risk for coronavirus complications, but was denied a waiver to continue working from home in 2021.
Julia Robinson for Education Week
Teaching Profession Photos What Education Looked Like in 2020
A visual recap of K-12 education in 2020 across the United States.
1 min read
On Sept. 24, 2020, distance learners are seen on a laptop held by teacher Kristen Giuliano who assists student Jane Wood, 11, in a seventh-grade social studies class at Dodd Middle School in Cheshire, Conn. Many schools around the state have closed temporarily during the school year because of students or staff testing positive for COVID-19. Within the first week of November 2020, nearly 700 students and more than 300 school staff around Connecticut tested positive, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Teacher Kristen Giuliano assists Jane Wood, 11, during a 7th grade social studies class in September at Dodd Middle School in Cheshire, Conn., while other students join the class remotely from home.
Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP
Teaching Profession Teachers Are Already Getting COVID-19 Vaccines
Some counties in Indiana began vaccinating teachers this week, ahead of schedule.
4 min read
Valerie Kelly, a 5th grade teacher in Vincennes, Ind., receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 28, 2020.
Valerie Kelly, a 5th grade teacher in Vincennes, Ind., receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 28.
Courtesy of Valerie Kelly