Solutions to our world's biggest problems start locally and get done when there's a system of accountability. Meet Miami's SDGs Consortium.
Alejandro Burgana manages OBE Power, the US's second-largest electric vehicle-charging network. Sandra Louk LaFleur drives Changemaking Education and Social Innovation at Miami Dade College. Sam Ligeti is a program experience coordinator with Venture Café Miami. Cesar S. Murillo works with Emergent Global Investments. Andreina Weichselbaumer is a senior manager of culture & strategy at Radical Partners. Two years ago, this group of diverse and committed leaders had likely never met before, and now they are part of a new social impact acceleration ecosystem born in Miami – the SDGs Consortium, a collaborative and inclusive space for impact leaders eager to build on their commitment to social progress, economic growth, and environmental protection.
"It's no longer an option. It's a must-have instrument. Governments, companies, academia, schools, and entrepreneurs must start adopting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which offers a holistic, measurable and proven framework of interdependent economic, social, and environmental objectives and that is being implemented in over 185 countries and thousands of cities around the world," states Scarlett Lanzas, a passionate impact entrepreneur and founder of the SDGs Consortium.
During her career, Scarlett worked in diverse areas ranging from the United Nations World Food Programme to social innovation leading Puentes New Orleans, a nonprofit focused on developing economic and leadership-building initiatives for Latinos. Today, she leads Accountable Impact and works tightly with Claudia Akel, founder and CEO of Social Impact Movement, to advance sustainable goals and strategies in Miami.
Claudia and Scarlett are true SDGs champions who, for years, have been educating and challenging our local leaders to make sustainable choices and decision-making for governments, businesses, and communities. Last year, Claudia and Scarlett also launched the SDG Impact Pledge to ignite authentic and meaningful collaboration among SMEs in Miami and adopt the SDGs.
In 2015, the UN announced the SDGs as a call to action for countries, governments, funders, and investors to unite to accomplish 17 global goals to end poverty, protect the planet,
and ensure prosperity for all. The UN has outlined specific indicators to measure progress and a timeframe to achieve them by 2030, both of which help drive a shared understanding and urgency of this work.
Despite our officials’ and established foundations’ reluctance to speak the SDGs language – the goals are persistently absent from officials’ speeches, are rarely referred to or integrated into foundations’ impact reporting or social media –
there are individuals, businesses, educational institutions, and community organizations in Miami that are working to effect change and elevate local-level, community-led societal advancements in the context of the global sustainability agenda.
"Miami is my home, and I want to make sure that our children and our children's children can live and thrive in Miami," says Scarlett. Originally from Nicaragua, she has lived in Miami for over 20 years. "I wish, and I hope that my nephew, in 10 years, when he becomes a doctor, can come down here, and either start his own practice or work at a hospital, and have a good, healthy life."
While Miami is making headlines as the land of opportunity for tech and innovation, we're still battling gender and racial bias and the rapidly occurring and increasingly drastic effects of climate change. In Miami-Dade County, sea levels are projected to rise by more than 15 inches in the next 30 years, increasing flood risk further inland and with greater frequency. Communities of color will likely bear the heaviest burden from the changes brought by climate change, including more deaths from extreme heat and property loss from flooding. And although hundreds of separate initiatives are underway to address all these problems, we won’t scale our impact without an infrastructure of accountability and a collaborative mindset trained on inclusive and sustainable solutions.
"The United States is among five countries, including Haiti, Myanmar, South Sudan, and Yemen, that have never presented a Voluntary National Review, which is a self-assessment of the implementation of the SDGs, other countries started their VNRs since 2016," notes Scarlett. "This lack of accountability must be challenged at every level. The only way to build a system that holds entities accountable is by creating mechanisms of collecting and reporting local data."
Scarlett was “blown away” by the City of Doral's ISO Smart City Certification, investing in high-tech infrastructure that collects, crunches, and delivers data to residents and businesses. In 2016, Doral solidified its Smart City status by obtaining Platinum Level certifications from the World Council on City Data, which includes over 100 measures based international standards for smart and sustainable cities. Doral is the only city in Florida to achieve this certification, and through this internationally recognized third-party certification, Doral joins a network of cities like Boston, Dubai, Amsterdam, London, and Shanghai, adopting a culture of data to drive innovation. In 2021, Doral became one of only 10 cities in the world, and the first in the United States to acquire the ISO 37122 certification for Sustainable Cities and Communities. In addition, the City of Doral has collected data aligned to the SDGs Cities.
Another Florida city that stands out in sustainability and reporting is Orlando. It’s the fourth city in the nation to complete a Voluntary Local Review of Progress on SDG’s.
Scarlett envisions Miami’s progress on reporting and accountability coming to fruition through the SDGs Consortium, which is divided into the three pillars of sustainable development: Social Progress, Environmental Protection, and Economic Growth. Consortium members select a pillar to focus their efforts with the goal to advance two SDGs per year.
“We're building an interdisciplinary and multisectoral, collaborative space for diverse groups of individuals and entities to co-create a common and sustainable agenda for all. They are all committed individuals, entities that care about Miami, and that really want to drive progress, and make sure that our children and our children's children can live and thrive in Miami. We’re going to create a data infrastructure and, more specifically, a powerful community-led and open-source data platform where all the entities that are joining the consortium can share data, produce reports, and effect change.”
The SDGs Consortium Miami: What Members Say
Data holds power to tackle society’s greatest challenges and improve lives across the globe, our institutions must invest in analyzing that data and extracting insights and acting on them. This transformation and impact will not happen overnight; it’s a long journey. Building just, equitable, and sustainable data ecosystems requires time, resources, and a collaborative mindset in defining standards, showcasing best practices, and good and effective governance to drive social, environmental, and economic progress.
“I’m an optimist with a sense of urgency,” continues Scarlett. “We might not achieve all global goals at once, but as former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, our struggle for global sustainability will be won or lost in cities. And I believe together, we can unlock a better future for Miami. So it’s up to us to implement those types of programs and policies to effect the change we need for current and future generations.”
The cover image features the work by Miami-based visual artist Troy Simmons. Wynwood 2300 was nominated for a prestigious CODAaward, given to those who successfully integrate commissioned art into interior, architectural, or public spaces.