Put more eyes on the Goals

UN Development Programme
5 min readJan 22, 2020


Entertainer Josh Horton juggles at the UNDP ‘Eyes on the Goals’ event. Photo: UNDP/Sumaya Agha

It’s 2020. Leaders from every country pledged that by 2030 they would end poverty, rescue the planet and wage peace everywhere. That means we have ten years to achieve these audacious Global Goals.

The only way to get there is to go faster, get louder, speak truth to power and get EVERYONE’S eyes on the Goals. From passionate street protests demanding climate action and human rights, to investors and companies feeling pressure to lead with purpose, not only profit: it’s clearer than ever that getting everyone involved is the most powerful way to spark action.

As part of the Fridays for Future school strikes, youth protest for climate action in New York, August 2019. UNDP/Sumaya Agha

And how do we get everyone informed and involved? One thing is clear — that this requires new ways of spreading the word, and new approaches that acknowledge the realities of a world where we spend hours and hours on digital social networks, bombarded with advertising, hoping to be entertained and excited. This gives us, as communicators and campaigners, so many opportunities to think outside the box.

Here’s some of the unique ways that we are reaching people where they spend their time, so that they can spend it for good.

One great example is the partnership we did together with musical artists and iHeart Media, that created short radio messages about the Goals delivered by leading artists that reached hundreds of millions of people in the United States, as they grooved online and on the radio. Giving creative context to the Global Goals underscores their universality and their importance, especially if the message is coming from your favorite radio pop-star.

At the UNDP Eyes on the Goals event, partners discuss innovative ways to achieve the SDGs. left to right: Alissa Pollack, iHeartMedia Executive VP of global music marketing and strategy; Stacie George, Senior Vice President of Talent at Live Nation for the New York region; Adam Met, Sustainable Partners founder and UNDP Advocate. Photo: UNDP/Sumaya Agha

Another example is the innovative way that the non-profit Sustainable Partners Inc. (SPI) is generating support for action on the Goals, by hacking one of the big hurdles in the digital advertising world: getting consumers to watch more than a few seconds of any online video advertisement. With SPI’s Time for Change approach, the advertisers make it clear through a message at the bottom of a social media video that a complete view of their 30-second pre-roll ad will result in a tree planted in the Amazon, a pound of plastic removed from the ocean, or school supplies channeled to children, all using the Global Goals as a framework. This gives viewers an incentive to watch all the way through — donating their time — in exchange for a donation of money from the advertiser, who gets more eyeballs on their ads.

Advertisers have also played a crucial part in another new initiative led by UNDP, the Lion’s Share Fund, which has enlisted top fashion and consumer brands as partners to raise money to protect nature and animals, protections promised in the Goals. Lion’s Share member companies contribute 0.5 percent of their media spend for each ad featuring an animal, so that their advertising can become a force for good, to conserve wildlife on land and in water.

The Lion’s Share Fund has enlisted top fashion and consumer brands as partners to raise money to protect nature and animals, protections promised in the Goals.

The innovative approach of asking people to donate their viewing time in exchange for tangible action is also at the center of Samsung Electronics’ digital platform to engage millions of people on the Global Goals. By the end of 2020, as many as 35 million mobile phone users across the globe will have on their devices the Samsung Global Goals app, which explains each of the 17 Goals and how they can transform communities around the world. Every in-app advertisement a person watches raises funds to work for the change that they care about. By gamifying the advertising experience, consumers are literally donating their attention, and report they are enjoying it, because they know they are doing good. In one user’s words: “Easy to use. Great causes. All by just looking at some ads…Simple way to help the world.”

The Samsung Global Goals app explains each of the 17 Goals and how they can transform communities around the world.

Another expansive new campaign combining several of these approaches is the Eyes on the Goals social media video series, another collaboration between Sustainable Partners and UNDP. Seven amazing creators — actors, musicians, athletes — with passionate audiences on different social media platforms have stepped forward to create original short films in their own style, each focusing on a major sustainable development issue, including clean water, women’s rights, poverty and inequality. Each video is sponsored: as the video views increase, money is raised to help reach the Goals.

This effort is sponsored by Live Nation Entertainment and The Foundation for Global Sports Development so that for each complete view of each video, US$1 will be donated to a non-profit working on the sustainable development issue that is the focus of the video. Again, this gives people a good reason to come along for the entire piece: being entertained while also learning about the work we must do to protect the planet, while feeling good about themselves because a donation is made in exchange for their time.

Mila Rosenthal, Director of Communications, UNDP and Adam Met, Sustainable Partners founder and UNDP Advocate, at the Eyes on the Goals event on 16 January at the United Nations.

It is clear that engaging with new and seemingly unlikely partners helps to develop new solutions in messaging, action, technology, and policy. Solutions that encourage us to move outside of the traditional social action forms of engagement, traditions that were built for a different time. We have to get a little uncomfortable; break some habits; be willing to maybe fail, or maybe succeed spectacularly. Together we can reinvent the old rules of campaigns and advocacy — so shouldn’t we?

On the subject of individual action, people don’t want to feel helpless about all the big problems in the world. To have an impact, their first question is often: what can I do? Start with 30 seconds on your phone. And then what? You don’t need to do it on your own: watch it, pass it on. Build the momentum. Go from there.

Robert Irwin’s social video focuses on animal conservation. For each complete view of the videos in the Eyes on the Goals series, US$1 will be donated to a non-profit working on the sustainable development issue that is the focus of the video.

By Mila Rosenthal, Director of Communications, UNDP, and Adam Met, Executive Director, Sustainable Partners, Inc.; UNDP Advocate; Member of multi-platinum alternative band AJR