Key Points

Drawing on case studies in Canada, this article analyzes the critical role that community indicators can play in philanthropy’s ability to localize the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated Sustainable Development Goals to address complex societal and environmental challenges.

Measurement is an integral component of Agenda 2030, and communities are increasingly using indicators to align their plans, inform granting decisions, and track equity and sustainability outcomes. Canada’s most extensive community-driven indicator program, Vital Signs, uses different types of data to measure the vitality of a community and support action toward improving collective quality of life; and data gathered through the program is used to support evidence-based, locally relevant philanthropy. This article highlights case studies from three community foundations in Canada that have successfully localized the 2030 Agenda by aligning their Vital Signs data and associated programming with the SDGs to coordinate community action.

This article details the technical challenge of localizing the SDGs through community indicators and demonstrates how the localization process itself can help foundations achieve desired outcomes and drive progress at the community level. Altogether, community indicator initiatives like those used in Vital Signs research are useful tools to help philanthropic organizations accelerate community-level SDG implementation and tackle complex, intersecting challenges related to sustainability, equity, and justice. In turn, a data-driven approach to localizing the SDGs can strengthen the philanthropic sector’s ability to target its impact on the issue areas and populations that need it most.

Open Access