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‘A choir is made up of many voices’ CoDesRes report published

Summary: The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development require governments to take ownership and establish frameworks for the achievement of the 17 global goals. Ireland has mapped existing policies and programmes against each of the 169 SDG sub targets, setting out a roadmap for achieving the goals. CoDesRes developed and explored a series of proof-of-concept methods and from this created two toolkits. As interventions, the toolkits (community peer-to-peer learning and place-based STEAM education) localise the implementation of the SDGs and offer insights into adaptive opportunities to engage the public. Read Full report here

Executive Summary: The climate crisis is the defining challenge of our time. (DT,2020). There is no easy answer, technology nor geo-engineering will not solve everything. The economy, social inclusion and environmental protection must be attended to as parts of an interdependent system. Effective messaging and models of practice that supports all citizens to take action, rather than overwhelm citizens into inaction, will be key to effective behavioural change.

‘Co-Designing for Resilience in Rural Development through Peer-to-Peer Learning Networks and STEAM Place-based Learning interventions’ (CoDesRes, 2018 - 20) was one of five EPA funded projects exploring novel approaches to implementing the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The principal aim of this study was to transfer an existing culturally situated co-design placemaking methodology, the permaCultural (pCr) resilience praxis[1] (McKeown, 2015) to education and self-organised community contexts as an approach to localising the SDGs.

As a suite of tools, the pCr praxis reframes problems, ideates and iterates toward better solutions in a socially, economic and environmentally equitable way to affect change in behaviours towards meeting the SDGs. CoDesRes embedded an interdisciplinary research team, on the Iveragh Peninsula, South Kerry, Ireland using an disruptive arts-led approach to encourage self-organisation to re-imagine local possibilities and explore a ‘beyond-compliance’ engagement with the SDGs through nine distinct actions:

  1. Seven proof of concept[2] interventions and step-by-step plans for community projects

  2. Series of formal and informal education interventions to localise the SDGs

  3. Open source SDG resources for educators and communities available at

  4. Caherdaniel River Restoration project National and Cultural Heritage Strategy and Implementation plan and pilot project

  5. Muinín Catalyst legacy funding to build out and trial the education SDG toolkit - €50K

  6. Successful Rural Regeneration Development Fund bid in partnership with Kerry County Council - to develop ‘shovel ready’ feasibility for place-based STEAM education and Placemaking Research Development and Innovation centre of excellence in Cahersiveen

  7. Development and transfer of the project’s circular economic focus and co-design through the EPA funded sister project MARplas; addressing marine plastic waste in coastal communities through innovation and local sustainable enterprise continuing to contribute to six part-time employment positions and additional learning resources

  8. Upskilled research team within local context, with economic impact further evidenced through employment positions and new professional collaborations

  9. Educational development spin-out company, Future Focus

Given the unpredictability of the global context and all this entails, collaborations that bridge field-specificity and engage all abilities and knowledge available should be considered a necessary and logical response. Over the lifetime of the project, CoDesRes delivered 183 activities; had direct engagement with 4503 people (ave. pp cost, €36); raised an additional €359,100 for legacy projects and €41,200 in-kind, (investment €565,000 into the region), multiplied the initial investment by approximately 2.25 and contributed to the employment of ten people, eight of whom were local residents.

CoDesRes provides proof of concept for an approach to localising the SDGs and investing in locally embedded interdisciplinary research teams to support building local capacity. The report recommends a national beta-testing programme of the educational resources in Transition Year to address the Senior Cycle’s systemic deficits in Education for Sustainable Development; embedding trained teams within all local authorities’ Creative Ireland’s teams, linked to localised Quadruple Helix (Government, Academic, Industry and Civil Society) networks, focused on systemic approaches. The report concludes that culturally situated disruptive approaches, in combination with embedded expertise focused on local strategic actions, would be a cost-effective solution towards a Just Transition, not least in the face of Ireland’s fiscal penalties for climate inaction.

[1] A critical praxis integrates a process of action and reflection (self-reflection, reflective action, and collective reflective action) that is applied to theory and practice to affect behavioural change. [2] A proof of concept is used to demonstrate feasibility and the research considered how the pCr methodology would perform and how it could be developed for delivery on localising the SDGs and new ways of contributing to their targets.

Identifying Pressures

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda, are not legally binding, however, they require governments to take ownership and establish frameworks for the achievement of the 17 global goals that call for equitable economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. The global goals are aspirational. Despite the lack of mandatory or legal requirements for countries to deliver on the goals, Ireland has mapped existing policies and programmes against each of the 169 SDG sub-targets, setting out a roadmap for achieving the goals. Although Ireland has had a sustainable development policy for over two decades achieving these goals in a meaningful way, the development of a ‘beyond compliance approach’, which engages civil society, will be necessary. Furthermore, to move beyond a top-down policy approach, localising the SDGs will require new approaches to policy engagement and participation, easily translated and enacted through collaborative action between all sectors of society. A systemic approach to the integration of national social, economic and environmental policy and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is required.

Informing Policy

Moving the SDGs from a theoretical set of goals from a national plan to a localised tangible vision requires confronting a number of challenges. The global goals offer an opportunity for all sectors of society, civil, government and business to collaborate towards shared aims and policy delivery. However, how to do this effectively will be an ongoing dynamic process rather than any single solution. Novel creative methodologies and processes that create local opportunities to participate in the national delivery of the SDGs and capture these efforts are under-researched, due to the relatively recent creation of the 2030 agenda, a 15 year programme, in its fifth year. To date, CoDesRes: CoDesigning for Rural Development through Peer-to-Peer Networks and STEAM Place-based Learning Interventions is the only research project in Ireland that has considered and sought to integrate a place-base STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) educational interventions with arts-led community development activities. CoDesRes adapted a novel, innovative and systemic methodology that contributes to localising the SDGs by creating knowledge exchanges and building capacity to re-imagine locally engaged activities.

Developing Solutions

CoDesRes developed and explored a series of proof of concept methods and from this created two toolkits. As interventions, the toolkits (community peer-to-peer learning and place-based STEAM education) localise the implementation of the SDGs and offer insights into adaptive opportunities to engage the public. The project considered the rural context has a vital role to play in developing viable realistic alternatives to urban dwelling and support citizen-led resilience. CoDesRes sought to re-imagine equitable green-blue opportunities within a rural area. The Iveragh Peninsula, offered a prime location to explore the opportunities for citizens to localise the SDGs within a rural setting and utilise existing policy for local resilience.

Through STEAM place-based educational interventions, community activities and peer-to-peer knowledge networks, the process trialled an adaptive change model for complex systems. CoDesRes utilised creativity, innovation and practical processes to develop home-grown solutions to global concerns from the inside-out. In this project, beta resources (structured around SDGs 4, 11, 14 and 15) built capacity for systemic approaches, encouraged self-organisation and localised resilience through re-imagining local and rural possibilities towards the 2030 sustainable development agenda.

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