VP Research & International

New SFU global engagement framework to advance the UN’s sustainable development goals

March 28, 2023
SFU staff members that led a university-wide project resulting in the SDG Framework for Global Engagement. L-R: Maria Spiliotopoulou, manager, regenerative systems education, SFU Sustainability; Shaheen Nanji, executive director of SFU International; and Salima Jethani, director, global engagement, SFU International.

The Simon Fraser University (SFU) community has shown a deep commitment to pursuing ecological, social and economic sustainability in all that we do—resilience and sustainability are listed as a core value of the new SFU strategy. And now, the new SDG Framework for Global Engagement at SFU can help guide this work.

The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identify strategies to improve health and education, reduce inequality, and support economic growth—while addressing climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. The UN SDGs were developed through a global collaborative process with countries across the world, as well as Indigenous peoples, and represent critical levers for both planetary and human wellbeing.

SFU International—with support from the SFU Sustainability team—developed the SDG Framework for Global Engagement at SFU through an extensive process. They gathered quantitative and qualitative data about SFU’s four core functional areas: research, learning and teaching, operations and engagement, and conducted institution-wide consultation with key stakeholders and SDG experts.

The result is a framework to help guide SFU’s global initiatives and engagement in alignment with the 17 SDGs. The framework also aligns with What’s Next: The SFU Strategy, SFU’s 2023-2028 Strategic Research Plan and SFU’s 2022-2025 Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action Plan.

The new SDG Framework for Global Engagement at SFU presents four principles, four possible levers and four types of partnerships to consider, and is based on the 17 UN SDGs.

How to use the framework

Starting from the middle, replace “Sustainable SFU” with the specific initiative or project. Working outward, the four principles: decolonization, equity, innovation, and mutuality can guide project design. The next ring outlines the levers SFU offers through which to do the work. The navy-blue ring represents SDG 17, Partnerships, and the types of partnerships that could be convened or developed. The outer ring lists the remaining 16 SDGs.

The framework acknowledges that an Indigenous and decolonized approach to global engagement is fundamental to success in achieving the SDGs. SFU’s efforts to develop international partnerships must be grounded in reconciliation work at home, and with consideration of existing “north/south” and “developed/less developed” inequities and the western-centric practices of international engagement in higher education in general.

Guided by the concept of “nothing about us without us,” and using existing documents such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, and the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council’s report, Walk This Path With Us, the framework embraces “two-eyed seeing” and multiple ways of knowing.

“On behalf of SFU International, I would like to thank all who were involved in the process of co-creating our global engagement framework,” says Shaheen Nanji, executive director, SFU International.

“Having a shared language and mutual objectives that align with organizations and communities around the world is one of the most significant benefits of creating this framework. The SDG framework will inform our work and help SFU have meaningful impact in areas where we are strongest, while identifying what more needs to be done.”

Nanji adds that everyone at SFU is welcome to adapt the framework to the specific needs of their unit or area. SFU International welcomes questions and dialogue on how it might be used, and can be emailed at sfui@sfu.ca.

For more information about how SFU is addressing the complex global challenges represented in the UN SDGs visit:  www.sfu.ca/sdgs.

Learn more about Goal 2: Research and the 2022-2025 Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action Plan.