The 17 Sustainable Development Goals cover a complex range of issues that involve people with different needs, values, and convictions. The SDGs lay the groundwork for a vision of what is preferable to happen, but the progress along this vision is not very clear yet: it seems we lack the inner capacity to deal with this increasingly volatile world. Fortunately, modern research shows that the inner abilities we now all need can be developed.
This was the starting point for the Inner Development Goals (IDGs), a not-for-profit and open-source initiative founded by the 29k Foundation, Ekskäret Foundation, and The New Division. The IDGs represent an essential framework of transformative skills for sustainable development. It contains 5 categories and 23 skills and qualities which are especially crucial for leaders who address the SDGs, but fundamental for all of us.
Michael Wernstedt (Associate Director, Inner Development Goals), is a social entrepreneur and former lawyer. He was also the co-founder and leader of the political party The Initiative, a value-based and process-oriented party with the ambition to create a new political culture by inviting the public to co-create the policy. Michael is a frequent speaker on inner development, democracy, and environmental issues, acting also as the Chair of End Ecocide Sweden.
Michael shared valuable insights related to the power of inner development that helps accelerate the work towards the SDGs.
The interview was published in November 2022, in the bilingual yearbook Community Index Magazine no. 4. The publication can be accessed here: https://communityindex.ro/flip-book-2022/
1. In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gave us a comprehensive plan for a sustainable world by 2030. However, it seems too many individuals lack the inner capacity to deal with these increasingly complex challenges. This was the starting point for the Inner Development Goals (IDGs) initiative, a framework that aims to research, collect and communicate science-based skills and qualities that help us live purposeful and sustainable lives: www.innerdevelopmentgoals.org. Can you share with our readers what the IDGs movement is all about and why it is essential for each individual?
The starting point of the IDG movement is to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the same skills are also essential for organizations, skills that help them be competitive and attractive employers as well, as for individuals.
One of the reasons why it is essential for an individual to develop these skills is that the world is increasingly complex. 30 years ago, if someone said that they eat healthy food, we would probably know what they meant. They probably had a good balance between protein, carbs and fat and ate a lot of vegetables and fruit. Today, having a healthy diet can mean a lot of different things. It can be a 5-2 diet, an LCHF diet, a vegan diet, a raw food diet, or many other different things.
This is true for almost all areas of life. Where we before had one story to make sense of things, we now live in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) world. Therefore, it is essential for us as individuals to develop the Inner Development Goals to make sense of, function, and thrive in this world.
2. The IDGs framework consists of 5 categories (Being, Thinking, Relating, Collaborating, Acting) and 23 skills and qualities that are crucial for leaders who want to accelerate the SDGs. In which particular category do you see major lacks that need improvement?
All the skills in the framework are chosen because they are essential, so it is hard to choose one over the other. However, the most “dangerous” leaders are the ones with high cognitive skills (Thinking) and low Being and Relating skills. In short, one can say that without Passion nothing happens, but without Compassion, the wrong things happen. However, Compassion is also not enough if it does not translate into Action. Hence, all the skills are important and interlinked.
We suggest that the IDG framework can be used as a diagnostic tool, where individuals, organizations and communities reflect on what they are strong in and what they need to develop. After that, a suitable intervention can be chosen.
3. The IDG initiative has co-creation at its center with ongoing input from experts, scientists, practitioners and organizations around the world. For example, Costa Rica was the first country to officially adopt the IDGs framework. How do you envision this movement in 10 years’ time from now?
The overarching goal that we envision is that, in 10 years, decision-makers within the public sector, business, academia, and civil society unite around the fact that human capabilities and skills are a prerequisite for sustainable and inclusive societies. Also, that internal development is available for ALL individuals, through language, art, and humor, despite background. Perhaps, the most important direction is to contribute to helping humanity reach the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. If we make this a bit more concrete, a few things can be mentioned as signposts on the way to reach this overarching goal.
When we think something is important in a country, we usually have a minister for it. This is true for education, finance, healthcare etc. However, even though the research has shown for the past 50 years that we continue to develop our whole life, there is no minister that can say that they are responsible for “adult development”. So, our aim is that, in 10 years, to persuade at least 50 countries to have a minister responsible for “adult development”.
We also envision that inner development is so accepted as one of the preconditions for creating a sustainable world and that the next framework that comes after the SDGs has Inner Development as one of the Goals.
Finally, we hope that the IDG framework will become as famous (or even more famous) as the SDGs – and that this is driven by the demand from employees and citizens worldwide to actively train and develop the IDG skills.
4. The first edition of the Inner Development Goals Summit 2022 brought on stage renowned scientists, poets, economists, mathematicians, and leading world experts such as Otto Scharmer or Johan Rockström to discuss humanity’s possibilities to tackle its greatest challenges. Which were this edition’s key take-away ideas? What are you preparing for the second edition in 2023?
There were so many take aways, so it is hard to choose a few. I will start with the first three things that come to mind. Bob Kegan illustrated beautifully that when we change our thinking, we also change our being, relating, collaboration, and acting. This shows how interconnected the IDGs are. Another powerful exercise was when Phoebe Tickell let us meet our descendants seven generations from now – so many insights came from meeting those descendants. Finally, Katharina Moser showed our audience how infinitely much more we can achieve when we collaborate rather than compete.
There was also something less tangible that I take with me. A sense of hope, community, and belonging that arose from sharing this powerful experience and ambition with so many others.
The plan for 2023 is to once again gather the world leading experts, thought leaders, artists, poets, and more for a transformative and immersive and interactive experience in Stockholm. In addition, we are also planning to have several regional Summits in different parts of the world to make sure that the IDG framework reaches all parts of the Earth.