Most Failures Are Failures of Imagination: Why The SDGs Can Prove Otherwise

The most important aspect of all of the Sustainable Development Goals has been the triumph of human imagination they represent. Whether in art, science, technology, anti-poverty work or social activism, when there is a failure we often perceive it as a failure of talent, strategy, planning, financial resources or even execution. But those are not really the reasons most efforts fail. Most failures are failures of imagination. This is especially true for the seemingly intractable problems that have plagues us for decades, if not centuries.

Albert Einstein said that "the specific problems we face cannot be solved using the same patterns of thought that were used to create them." Breaking out of those patterns demands a transformative, imaginative leap. As someone who has worked on hunger issues since the Ethiopian famine, that is what I have found to be the deeper value of the goal of ending hunger, and indeed of all of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Overcoming failure of imagination can be an enormous challenge. In some fields -- including the nonprofit sector -- failure of imagination has become routine. In some ways it is culturally ingrained due to severe and debilitating resource constraints. Though imagination cannot be purchased, there are ways to create an ethic that acknowledges its primacy. This can be done by constantly challenging the conventional wisdom and even the most longstanding assumptions. The Sustainable Development Goals do precisely that.

The world seems to have become a more fearsome place than ever. There's no escaping the haunting horrors from Syria and Iraq, the crushing poverty of many nations, and the desperate plight of refugees in many corner of the globe. How are the Sustainable Development Goals relevant to all that?

The Sustainable Development Goals can't solve every problem. But, in the long run, what they stand for can: lifting up the dignity of every human being, investing in the next generation so that every child has an equal chance, demonstrating that we all have strengths to share. There's no shortcut to ameliorating the ignorance and hatred that cause so much suffering. In fact, there is only the opposite: doubling down on strategy to make real the values we represent, recommitting for the long haul, and bringing to each and every action the faith that our own leaps of imagination inexorably yield transformational global impact.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, "What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals," in conjunction with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed set of milestones will be the subject of discussion at the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 25-27, 2015 in New York. The goals, which will replace the UN's Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), cover 17 key areas of development -- including poverty, hunger, health, education, and gender equality, among many others. As part of The Huffington Post's commitment to solutions-oriented journalism, this What's Working SDG blog series will focus on one goal every weekday in September. This post addresses Goal 2.

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