“Better is Good”: Reflecting on UN Global Goals Week 2017

Spending last week in New York with the Handshake team for UN Global Goals Week provided countless opportunities to hear inspiring, informative ideas from global leaders. But the phrase that has stuck the most from the week was one uttered by actress and activist Robin Wright at an intimate dinner gathering she co-hosted with us: “Better is good.”

Wright shared these words in remarks she gave at the dinner about how to approach efforts to make positive change in the world. Her intent was to emphasize that this type of work is not easy, and the results are not always perfect, but we must remember that every incremental step toward a better world is worthwhile, even if it represents what seems like a small improvement.

It was a sentiment that was shared not only by the other co-hosts and attendees at the dinner – among them, RFK Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy, Cosmopolitan Editor in Chief Michele Promaulayko, Blackbaud SVP Global Marketing Catherine LaCour, ONE Campaign President and CEO Gayle Smith, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation President Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Caterpillar Foundation President Michele Sullivan – but also by influencers at other events throughout UN Week. As we said heading into the events, partnerships are key to achieving great results, but they’re not always easy – we saw individuals and entities of all types show up at UN Week ready to work together to try out new solutions to the world’s problems, and willing to take the risks that come along with doing so. There was a palpable entrepreneurial spirit across Global Goals Week that embodied the idea that “better is good” – working together to bring untested new ideas to life be messy, difficult, and not always successful, but it’s ultimately the key to making progress.

The Global Goals Awards Dinner, hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was one great example of this spirit. The awardees recognized at the event were overwhelmingly young, entrepreneurial, and willing to do the hard work needed to make true change in the world. They included individuals such as Felix Manyogote, a social entrepreneur and medical student in Tanzania who has created a project to improve maternal and newborn health, and Ria Sharma, a fashion student and native of India who founded an organization that supports survivors of acid attacks.

At the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit, there was a call for corporate leaders to rethink how they approach profit-making and try out new and creative ways to make business better for the world. Innovative – and challenging – solutions were proposed, such unlocking capital flows, driving behavior change, taking more data-driven approaches, and investing in human capital. 

It was also notable that Handshake heard from many of our clients and partners at the event that one-on-one meetings they had with potential collaborators were some of the most rewarding experiences of the week. It seems that our clients, partners, and many others came to Global Goals Week ready to find solutions to make change happen, and to seek out partners willing to collaborate with them in that effort.

UN Global Goals Week is an event that has continued to evolve over the years. What used to be a gathering mainly for public sector leaders has gradually broadened to now include innovators, activists and changemakers of all types, including the private sector. As last week demonstrated, this annual gathering is a place for these individuals to come together and challenge each other to do good for the world with their influence, keeping in mind that while the results may not always be perfect, they will ultimately make the world better.