Key Points

The United Nations 2030 Agenda creates an opportunity for philanthropic foundations to become more collaborative and transformative in their work toward global goals. Thus, since 2016, the extent to which foundations adopt the Sustainable Development Goals framework in their functioning has become a topic of interest. Although survey- and case-based research shows increased rates of self-reported adoption and several tools are available to help foundations to act toward the goals, there is a lack of systematic evidence about the purposes of and processes for adopting the goals among foundations.

This void is particularly relevant for community foundations, as they have been proposed as natural champions for the 2030 Agenda. This article provides global and national context to the process of adoption of the goals by Canadian community foundations through a multiple case study, tracing it back to its origins and disentangling its antecedents, enablers, and effects during the early implementation phase. Special attention is paid to the roles played by collective action by Community Foundations of Canada, by grassroots actors, and by innovative practices in that process of adoption.

Conclusions point toward bottom-up social innovation originating in grassroots work that is diffused horizontally by Community Foundations of Canada to its member foundations, as a key antecedent. Enduring collaboration dynamics involving community foundations, prior engagement with data collection and a shared measurement framework, and space for local discussion and adaptation around the framework are identified as key enablers for adoption.

Finally, early effects of adoption for mapping, reporting, and aligning purposes include reframing current work and promoting new activities and leadership roles, paving the way for new partnerships, and providing a coherent planning framework and strategic focus to grantmaking.


This article has been translated into Spanish and can be viewed here.

Open Access