The Youth Lab


“The goals have grabbed people’s imagination, but they haven’t yet grabbed resources.”

- David Donoghue, Co-Chair of Negotiations in the drafting of the SDGs, 2015

This week, THINKHOUSE participated in a national stakeholder event hosted by Sustainable Media Ireland that included key players from the media, government, business, and civil society to delve into the pivotal role of the media in driving positive progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This week’s 52INSIGHTS sheds a light on where we are in terms of achieving the SDG goals, and specifically how media, businesses and local communities can collaborate to drive a better future not just for young people, but for everyone.


The UN SDGs are a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The 17 Goals and corresponding 169 Targets are, as David Donoghue, the then Irish Ambassador and co-chair of Negotiations in the original drafting of the goals reminded us, “The SDG framework is the only international framework that ALL 193 countries in the world have aligned on in terms of a globally uncontested agenda linked to enhanced social, environmental and social outcomes for all citizens.”

Drafted in Paris in 2015, the goals focus on the needs of people as opposed to the needs of states - with a specific commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ - and while each of the goals are specific to a key element of society, achieving any one goal isn’t something that can be done in isolation - many of the goals intersect, i.e. eliminating global poverty (SDG2) goes hand in hand with enhancing good health and wellbeing (SDG3).


In conversation with Sinead Crowley, Director of Media Development with Coimisiún na Meán, Ireland’s Media Regulator, Donoghue said, “The goals have grabbed people’s imagination, but they haven’t yet grabbed resources. Collectively we have only achieved 15% of the targets.” Ireland has made progress, but not enough. While we are currently broadly on track against 1 through 5, we are still off the mark when it comes to many of the goals (6, 7, 13 to mention a few). Indeed, compared to 14 comparable EU nations, Ireland ranks 8th overall, but comes bottom of the list for SDG13 (Climate Action). And as Dr. Mary Smyth from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) highlighted, “If we, as a wealthy country, cannot meet these targets how can we expect poorer countries to meet them?”


David Robbins, Head of DCU’s Climate and Society Center, in paraphrasing Wolfgang Blau, Co-Founder Oxford Climate Journalism Network, reminded us that, “Whether the media want to our not, it has fallen on them to inform and educate society.”

Similarly, The Media Development Investment Fund in its recent report entitled “The role of media: driving change towards the SDGs” spotlighted the importance of free and independent media as a pre-condition for progress and implementation of all development targets. Its ability to inform, inspire, and hold business and governments accountable paves the way for a more sustainable future. And in a world of misinformation and disinformation its role is even more important: helping citizens with pre-bunking; educating citizens so that they are able to counteract misinformation.

The media is a critical influencer, and enabler, in addressing and driving progress of ALL SDG goals, however, its impact can be further amplified through collaboration with business and local communities. Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, reminded us of the harsh reality of climate science indicating a catastrophic future for all if we don’t act now, and act at speed. Collaboration therefore is needed now, more than ever.


Claire Hyland, Head of The Youth Lab, at THINKHOUSE and Chair of the Sustainability Steering Group at Sustainable Media Ireland, hosted a panel focused on the opportunities to accelerate collective, collaborative action in addressing the SDGs focusing on the role of media, business and community. Echoing themes from the morning, reimagining how we approach everything is key to achieving parallel benefits and collective success:

“Reimagining how we do everything, including how we collaborate is key, not just to a sustainable future for the sector, but for all of us. This starts with asking the right questions, giving space for dialogue and exchange, and opening ourselves up to the vulnerabilities that come with change. I’m inspired by the talent that exists across the Irish media sector and what we can achieve together to open minds, move hearts and drive positive action.”
Claire Hyland, Head of The Youth Lab & Chair of the Sustainability Steering Group at Sustainable Media Ireland


Commit to “the positive”
As Dave Robbins highlighted, “Media is drawn to negative things”, but a commitment to report on and share positive solutions-based stories of human interest, rooted in local action with global impact, can increase people’s exposure to good news and, in turn, increase their likelihood of taking positive action.

Hyperlocal is the way forward:
The Ours to Protect local radio project is a brilliant example of local, independent radio stations committing airtime to sharing positive stories each week for fifty-two weeks - real stories rooted in practical action at the hyperlocal level.

“‘Ours To Protect’ is a unique partnership that includes 23 local and regional radio stations who collectively have committed to broadcast over 1200 new and unique programmes over the course of a year - all devoted to climate change and climate action. We’re half way through the programme and our collective success to date is in providing clear, factual and honest reporting rooted in the real stories of real people driving change at a hyperlocal level.”
Nessa McGann, Independent Media Consultant and Manager of the ‘Ours to Protect’ project

Focus on the collective rather than the individual:
Recent research from Dr. Brenda Nally at DCU’s Center for Climate and Society into Citizens’ Views of Climate Action in Ireland, specifically regarding insights on Media Use, Trusted Sources and Perceptions, uncovered “the need for communications initiatives promoting collective and community engagement” reinforcing the need of local communities and businesses to work together, with media the lynchpin to amplify positive local success stories that speak to the collective as opposed to the individual.

Join the dots to make meaningful connections:
Media has the power to make meaningful connections, linking cause and effect but doing so in a way that feels less like an education, but more an edu-tainment experience with clear takeouts.

Green procurement is only the start:
Troy Bannon, Head of Property and Services at RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcaster, reminded the audience of the media's ability to amplify its impact by working with business suppliers to achieve better outcomes aligned to the SDGs. As Bannon said, “Signing the contract is only the beginning.”

Diversity starts with an invitation to collaborate:
Broadcaster and activist Emer O’Neill reminded us that, “SDGs are the nurturing of communities and the understanding of others. Change starts internally by ensuring media teams include diverse members, reflecting that what is important to one community is not always important to another.”

Think citizen first:
James Kiernan, Director of Relationship Management at Chambers Ireland, an SDG Champion highlighted the fundamental role business plays at a local level: “Employees are also locals. Businesses that enhance the wellbeing of their workers are enhancing the wellbeing of their communities.”

Location Location:
Place matters. Shout out to the SDG Champions at RTÉ for hosting the event at the iconic ‘The Late Late Show’ studio and to the team at Sustainability Works for coordinating an inspiring event to propel the media sector forward.




This week, we were grateful for the opportunity to present the strategy behind the Good Life 2030 Ireland project (a collaboration with Purpose Disruptors, funded by Creative Ireland) at the 5th National Climate Stakeholder Forum. Hosted by Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, the forum brought together a range of some 200 stakeholders across government departments, agencies, and environmental NGOs on climate action. Laura Costello, Head of Sustainability & Planet Services at THINKHOUSE, spoke about the role that advertising can play in driving climate action by shifting our cultural infrastructure to transform societies and communities for a thriving future. Read more about the forum here.


Stay tuned for 52INSIGHTS March 15th for a report from Austin, Texas where THINKHOUSE Founder Jane McDaid will report on what’s happening at SXSW, one of the world’s most influential festivals of ideas, technology, film and creativity. As part of Enterprise Ireland’s mission to promote cutting-edge Irish businesses and EI clients, Jane will join some of Ireland’s most exciting creative and business leaders to promote Ireland as a nation of thinkers, makers, creators and storytellers.

At Marlow on 6th Street in Downtown Austin, Enterprise Ireland, in collaboration with Culture Ireland, Screen Ireland, Tourism Ireland, the IDA, as well as the Consulate General of Ireland in Austin and the Department of Foreign Affairs will host Ireland’s House’s brilliantly curated agenda that celebrates the richness of Ireland’s culture, creativity and innovation.

Going to SXSW? A Thinkhouse client? Join Jane at a special ‘Happy Hour’ reception in Ireland House - get in touch and we’ll get you on the guestlist.

Interested in the B Corp movement?

Join us on March 21st at 9am in Dublin city centre for B Lab Ireland's first Meet the B Corp event. Learn directly from Irish B Corps and connect with like-minded individuals. Our client from innocent drinks Ireland will be there alongside representatives from other B Corp certified companies including Baileys (Diageo); The Handmade Soap Company, Armada Hotel and THINKHOUSE. GET YOUR FREE TICKET HERE


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