Zero, in the context of a healthy world, is the most ambitious number of all. If the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were about making progress to achieve a healthy planet and people, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are about getting to zero, or as close to it as possible. The Global Goals agenda is about creating a world where no one goes hungry, no family lives in extreme poverty, and no mother or child dies from preventable causes – and keeping it that way.
Private sector approaches to achieve the SDGs have been embraced with enthusiasm,passion, and innovation to get to zero within the set timeline, and will need to take many forms. From research and development for new medicines, to partnerships that bring outside-of-the-box actors together, and new approaches to funding, monitoring and evaluation, the resources and resolve to reach zero are in place.
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the approach to getting to zero is the trend toward making the process of innovation more transparent and democratic. This is encouraging because more people, no matter who they are or where they are from, can, and should, have their voices heard and their ideas brought to the table. Think about it. By bringing together the ideas, skills and experience of a nurse and a bioengineer, or an entrepreneur and a social worker, the spark of new thinking can truly ignite a solution for reaching SDG targets.
To turn this vision into reality, Johnson & Johnson launched the GenH Challenge, a social venture competition designed to accelerate everyday ideas to address persistent health challenges. Challenges and prize competitions can generate new ideas and innovative programs, but sometimes the winning ideas leave behind crucial populations and ideas, limiting the insights and diversity needed to form inclusive solutions.
This is where the GenH Challenge set out to do something new and different: standing with everyday innovators and entrepreneurs left behind by traditional models. We aimed to go beyond the usual suspects and make this process as inclusive and transparent as possible. From design through evaluation and implementation, the GenH Challenge applies a human-centered lens, putting applicants and end users at the core of our process. Weaving the perspectives of health workers, technical experts, and entrepreneurs in from the start, we believe we can answer the call to achieve the SDGs by leveraging innovation from the front lines to witness the healthiest generation of humans yet.
Time and time again in low-resource settings, sometimes against all odds, it is a social worker, a nurse, a family member, or a community health worker whose quick fix and sharp thinking brings forth a solution to save a life. Good ideas can come from anyone, anywhere. It’s up to all of us to make sure everyday innovators on the front lines are given the right opportunities to turn their ideas into SDG solutions. Only then will we reach zero.