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Mentoring for the Sustainable Development Goals

Eli A. Wolff, Co-Director, Power of Sport Lab, Co-Director, Mentoring for Change initiative. Mary A. Hums, Professor, University of Louisville, Co-Director, Mentoring for Change initiative.
January 13th, 2020
Posted In: Uncategorized

We all continually learn and develop across our lifespan in slightly different ways. Some people learn and grow by reading, others by doing, and still others by observation. Throughout our life journey, we are touched by individuals who facilitate our learning and development. Family members, peers, coaches and teachers all play their roles. In those roles, many of these individuals take on an even more influential presence by becoming mentors. 

Mentoring facilitates access to resources and information and is an important way we learn and develop our knowledge. Mentors help others gain perspective on matters great and small, global and local. One example of how mentoring can influence a global outreach is in its usefulness with respect to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Without mentoring we will not be in a position to mobilize and implement these important SDGs. Mentors act as educators, guides, and brokers to help individuals as they work to promote the SDGs in daily life. Mentoring is a key, yet often overlooked, factor in the conversation on furthering the success of the SDGs.

At the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, are 17 globally applicable Sustainable Development Goals:

GOAL 1: No Poverty

GOAL 2: Zero Hunger

GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being

GOAL 4: Quality Education

GOAL 5: Gender Equality

GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality

GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

GOAL 13: Climate Action

GOAL 14: Life Below Water

GOAL 15: Life on Land

GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

What does the connection between these SDGs and mentoring look like in practice? A mentor can serve as an essential enabler, facilitator or catalyst for social change for mentees with respect to each of the SDGs. Mentors can help their mentees address and tackle personal and societal poverty, hunger, good health and well-being, gender equality, reduced inequality, sustainable cities and communities, peace and justice, etc.  

Someone who can be held up as an example of a mentor who lived with these goals as a life compass is Muhammad Ali. By design, the upcoming International Mentoring Day on January 17 coincides with Muhammad Ali’s birthday, and is part of January as National Mentoring Month. The goal of the Day is to bring awareness to the power of mentoring around the world and the role of mentoring to contribute to peace, development and human rights.

Muhammad Ali served as a mentor to many throughout his life and that influence continues even after his passing. His legacy through the Muhammad Ali Center provides a meaningful voice to the power of mentoring, and his six core principles – confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, giving and spirituality – resonate at the heart of the important role of mentoring worldwide. 

A mentor and mentee relationship can be transformational for the individuals themselves and the lives of others with whom they work and live. Hopefully we can continue to raise awareness of the meaningful impact and influence of mentoring around the world in promoting the successful implementation of the SDGs. Mentoring is essential in the movement toward peace, development and human rights.

Whether we realize it or not, mentors impact our lives in ways large and small, and that is how change can occur. Hopefully we can realize how the power of mentoring can make the world a better place while promoting and implementing the SDGs along the way.

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