Hacking the Sustainable Development Goals .

The Problem: How to make a serious dent in the SDGs?

The SDGs have taken on a new urgency, but concrete progress depends on a range of new and more traditional players working together. No one can do this alone.

Big corporates, social enterprises, development institutions, non-profit organizations, universities, and governments are often worlds away from each other and don’t always speak the same language. They haven't truly come together to collaborate on solving these critical challenges.

The thing is, if we want to do something that's never been done before, we're going to have to take an approach that we haven't taken before.

True innovation and disruption requires partnership - new ideas and action - from all of the different stakeholders.

A Solution: Hack the SDGs... with Sandpits.

The Sandpit is an immersive, intensive and interactive workshop that brings together people from different disciplines and domains around a complex question. Each event produces 5-7 actionable, investible, investment ideas that offer new perspectives and solutions to addressing the development goals.

Sandpits are a super-efficient and inventive way to deliver new and actionable ideas by:

  • convening people with very different perspectives and experiences for the first time
  • facilitating a creative problem solving process that dives deep into a specific problem
  • binding new teams together for the first time to pitch fresh ideas
  • providing seed funding to one or more of these ideas on the spot

Because the Sandpit collects a diverse group of engaged people who wouldn't normally interact with each other, it produces unique interdisciplinary projects that would never otherwise have occurred.

The Hack-the-SDG Sandpits would be distributed geographically across the globe, depending on the interest of and energy of the key partners.

The Output

Here’s what our Hack-the-SDG Sandpits will produce:

· 5-7 actionable investment ideas that offer truly new perspectives and innovative solutions to address one (or a combination) of the development goals.

· A network of engaged professionals and stakeholders from different disciplines and domains who would never otherwise have interacted.

· Unique interdisciplinary projects that will spur additional future exchanges and collaborations beyond the Sandpit event.


For investors: generate pipeline projects

For social entrepreneurs: improve ideas with diverse perspectives and experiences

For development institutions: deploy funding more efficiently and with more impact

For corporates: provide new inputs and alliances for corporate venturing for social impact

For governments: improve chances of meeting the SDGs via innovative cross-sector solutions

For non-profits: enhance and scale effectiveness through new strategic partnerships

Read this article about Sandpit we ran in Mexico, or watch this video:

Who's doing this?

Our facilitation team has more than a dozen years of practice at bringing together really smart people from different disciplines and guiding them through a process that always produces actionable solutions.

Maggie Dugan, Lead Facilitator, Inclusive Innovation

Maggie is a facilitator, trainer and workshop architect; her specialty is designing and facilitating events that provoke innovation: creativity workshops, leadership development programs, and helping scientists develop more innovative research proposals. She’s part of the facilitation team at Knowinnovation (KI), and head of its newest initiative, Inclusive Innovation, which uses the same methodology to activate innovation within the field of economic development.

Before she started facilitating innovative meetings, Maggie worked in the broadcast media as a journalist, news director, marketing director and as president of a radio syndication company. Before joining Knowinnovation in 2006, she managed her own practice facilitating creative problem solving meetings, strategy sessions, and branding and new product development workshops. Though American, she has lived outside of the United States since 1992, in Europe and in Asia, and currently resides in Barcelona, Spain.

Maggie, a Brown University graduate, is a member of the community of creativity and innovation practitioners that grew out of the Creative Education Foundation (CEF); and is a recipient of the CEF’s Distinguished Leader Award. She has been a leader/presenter at creativity conferences worldwide, including the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) in the United States, the European Creativity Association conference (CREA) in Italy, European Association for Creativity and Innovation (EACI), the South African Creativity Conference (ACRE) and Mindcamp in Toronto, Canada.

Brigit Helms, Advisor to Inclusive Innovation

Brigit brings nearly 30 years of experience, finding innovative business solutions to development problems in over 30 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. She is currently Vice-President of Technical Services at DAI. Before that, she was the General Manager for the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), an innovation lab within the Inter-American Development Bank mobilizing the private sector to solve complex social and environmental problems.

Prior to joining the MIF, Brigit directed SPEED, a USAID-funded program seeking to improve the business environment in Mozambique. Before joining the SPEED team, Brigit was Senior Expert for Financial Inclusion at McKinsey and Company where she worked with banks and telecommunications companies to build new business models to reach low income clients. Before that, she was CEO of Unitus, Inc., a global non-profit dedicated to financial services in East Africa and India. She spent four years in Asia with the International Finance Corporation where she led the organization’s Advisory Services work in Indonesia, on issues ranging from agriculture development, sustainable forestry, infrastructure, business environment and financial services.

Brigit was a founding leadership team member of CGAP, a global center of excellence for financial services. Brigit has a PhD in Agriculture and Development Economics from Stanford University and a Masters in International Studies from Johns Hopkins SAIS. Brigit is an American citizen, and speaks Spanish and some Portuguese, French, Italian, and Bahasa Indonesian.

What We Need

We're looking for three kinds of partners:

Implementing Partners: Universities, non-profit partners who can work with us to take on some of the fiduciary responsibility and work with us on convening relevant stakeholders across geographies.

Operational Partners: Funding for operating costs of delivering the Sandpits, estimated between $150,000-$200,000 per Sandpit.

Social Investors: To provide seed financing in the form of grants, recoverable instruments for early stage ideas that emerge at the Sandpit, estimated at 3-5 million US$ per Sandpit.

Why are we doing this?

We believe that if we want to make real progress toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the world needs to significantly change its approach to global challenges. We need to collaborate in a way that’s unprecedented. While there is significant buy-in to the SDGs, across sectors – corporate, social and government – buy-in is not enough. The SDGs won’t happen unless everyone works differently, and works together. Our idea to advance the SDGs by running these highly targeted and productive Sandpit workshops will collect diverse people and points of view together to produce cool, actionable, and investment-worthy projects. And we believe that will make a difference!