SDGs: The value of local collaboration

How can the Sustainable Development Goals be achieved in UK communities and how is 'SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals' a priority in community foundation work? We talk to Rachel McGrath from Northamptonshire Community Foundation to find out.

What impact can be delivered through forming partnerships around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

The 17 SDGs were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 to tackle the world’s biggest issues ahead of the 2030 Agenda. By translating action through the SDGs, stakeholders and national leaders alike can better identify and learn from the progress being made to improve thematic issues such as climate, transport, equality, employment, energy, the oceans, the environment, economies, and build stronger partnerships to implement positive change.

Philanthropy plays a significant role in delivering the SDGs. It not only serves as a support system to various government intentions; it also enables communities and stakeholders to take pioneering risks that lead to societal and global development.

Community foundations throughout our network have long-standing place-based connections, partnering with companies, local authorities, individuals, and community organisations for different causes. Their ability to tackle multiple issues affecting communities simultaneously through various funds means that adopting the SDGs is a practical and essential way to bridge local goals with the global movement.

We asked Rachel McGrath, Chief Executive at Northamptonshire Community Foundation, about how SDG 17: Partnering for the Goals has been a driving force for good in her region:

How are you shaping local philanthropic partnerships around the SDGs?

At Northamptonshire Community Foundation, our partnerships and the work they enable are varied.

We’ve hosted events to raise awareness of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) in our county; we’ve cultivated partnerships and projects that zoom in on one specific goal; and we encourage the local charities we fund to support each other and collaborate on their work to do good on their doorstep.


The UN SDGs keep us focused on the needs of both our global and local communities. They allow us to build and maintain partnerships that will make the most impact on the lives of our most vulnerable residents. For example, in our efforts to combat poverty in alignment with UN SDG 1: No Poverty, we’ve facilitated the delivery of Household Support Funds, partnering with several Northamptonshire-based distribution partners including local foodbanks, Citizens Advice Bureau and community cafes. This work ensures that residents struggling to afford essentials such as food or energy and water bills can make use of accessible, no-questions-asked financial help.  

We’re also tackling poverty through our partnership with the Royal and Derngate Theatre. This project, Unforgettable Gift, gave families some much-needed respite and the opportunity to spend quality time together during the festive season. The project provided free tickets to an evening of entertainment at the Christmas pantomime.

How are you incorporating the SDGs into local action?

To raise awareness of the SDGs more broadly, we brought together almost 200 of our partners and community members last summer, for a Community Celebration Day held during Global Goals Week. We hosted visitors at the beautiful Delapré Abbey, encouraging them to get to know their local charities and the great work they do on our doorstep.

The UN SDGs were each represented by local organisations, who led workshops teaching attendees more about our county’s VCSE sector.


Popular activities included:

Q Space, a supportive space for Northamptonshire’s LGBTQ+ community, playing Diversity Dice for SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities.

Fermynwoods Contemporary Arts running experimental digital activities for SDG 4: Quality Education.

Delapré Abbey leading wellbeing walks for UN SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing.

How have you seen community organisations implementing SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals?

Just like us, SDG 4: Quality Education and SDG 5: Gender Equality are key values for two of our grantees, The Spring Charity and Power of the Mind Networks. So, it seemed only right for us to encourage these organisations to collaborate on their digital inclusion work, supporting local women experiencing digital poverty. Their campaign was funded by the Saint Giles Charitable Trust in 2021 and successfully sponsored the digital support of 10 women.

What Partnerships for the Goals are you working on at the moment?

Right now, we’re working on two partnership-based projects.

The first is the Shining a Spotlight on Rural Community Needs campaign. It is supported by our partners, Northamptonshire ACRE, and aligns with UN SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing and SDG 1: No Poverty. This partnership is a two-way street, enabling us to make the most positive impact on the rural communities across Northamptonshire; while ACRE bring the subject experts, Northamptonshire Community Foundation provides a safe environment to highlight and profile the good work happening in this area across our county.

The second partnership is the re-launch of the Rose of Northamptonshire Awards. We’re working with the West and North Northamptonshire Unitary Authorities to celebrate our unsung heroes working tirelessly in their local communities. This aligns with SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, encouraging a stronger social infrastructure by recognising and promoting the outstanding work being done at a local level.

We are sincerely grateful to our partners across Northamptonshire for their ongoing work to improve the lives of our county’s residents. We see our donors and grantees as equal partners in our work to harness generosity and we support all those doing good work on the ground.

I’ve been CEO of Northamptonshire Community Foundation for almost a year now and I’m very proud of our team. They continue to work hard to ensure the generosity, expertise and charitable activity of our partners, donors and grantees make the best impact.


If you would like to know more about the various issues being tackled in your area, reach out to your nearest community foundation.

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