18 January 2021

Private companies join forces with civil society in Northern Ireland to accomplish the SDGs through Global Citizenship Education




Civil Society Organisations working on Global Citizenship Education (also known as Development Education) came together with responsible businesses to find ways to collaborate to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a unique All-Ireland networking forum on September 26th.

The ice breaker: a chance for individuals from both the Private sector and Civil Society to introduce themselves to one another.

The Building Bridges: Cross-sector Partnerships for the SDGs networking forum is the first event of its kind on the island of Ireland bringing together the third sector and the private sector to address the SDGs. It was run as part of a partnership between the Irish Development Education Association (IDEA) and Business in the Community Northern Ireland (BITCNI) via Bridge 47 – an EU project that seeks to build global citizenship in pursuit of the SDGs. More than 70 participants from both sectors took part in the event at Allstate Northern Ireland.


IDEA and BITCNI hosted the forum with the aim to bring their member organisations together and foster dialogue between them as part of their wider efforts to encourage collaboration between the Global Citizenship Education sector and the business sector to work towards the achievement of the SDGs.


The private sector participants, primarily from BITCNI membership, ranged from Small and Medium Enterprises to large multinational companies in the fields of construction, IT, insurance, financial services, communications, banking and agriculture. They included Diageo, ASDA, Lidl, Deloitte, Bank of Ireland and Moy Park.

A roundtable discussion on how organizations can help reduce carbon emissions taking place with CSOs and the private sector. 


Among civil society and education practitioners, made up primarily of IDEA’s members, participants included Concern Worldwide, WorldWise Global Schools, Green-schools, Children in Crossfire, Global Action Plan, Trócaire, the Centre for Global Education and Proudly Made in Africa whose CEO, Vikki Brennan, acted as master of ceremonies for the day.


Frank Geary, Director of IDEA, told participants that the SDGs “apply equally to every country, and can only be achieved if all sectors of society including Government, Civil Society, businesses, and local communities draw on each other’s strengths and work together towards achieving them.”  He emphasised that “Development Education has a fundamental role to play in the success of the SDGs, as it raises awareness, facilitates participation and supports engagement with the Goals.”

Gillian McKee, Deputy Managing Director of BITCNI, stated that the Goals provide “a valuable opportunity for businesses to engage in helping to find solutions to the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges. They offer a framework for companies to shape and communicate their sustainability strategies. And they matter to your customers and stakeholders.” She continued, “Business has a vital role to play and can bring valuable resources, skills and expertise to support the attainment of the Goals. Partnerships are absolutely key to this. Many of the sustainability issues that businesses are tackling are too big to tackle alone and require the skills and knowledge that the NGO sector and government can bring. We need to create deeper cooperation than has existed previously in order to tackle the monumental issues we face.”

Gillian McKee, Deputy Managing Director of BITCNI and Ji Hyun Kim, National Officer for Bridge 47. 

During a panel discussion on cross-sector partnership examples, panellists from Lidl, FoodCloud, Proudly Made in Africa and Deloitte provided insights on how their partnerships came into existence and the benefits that they are gaining from collaborating with one another. 


Participants also took part in parallel workshops facilitated by IDEA members. These workshops provided a deep dive into some of the individual Goals such as Climate Change (Goal 13), Quality Education (Goal 4) and Gender Equality (Goal 5). They provided an opportunity for both sectors to look at possible solutions together.