Sustainable Development Goals

UN SDG Goals

In 2020, the Sundance Family Foundation created Earn & Learn from its evidence-based Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) to accelerate pathways that connect young adults to short-term training programs and sustainable 21st century middle-skill careers. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) provide a framework to identify and map the indicators to measure Earn and Learn’s success.

Minnesota, both in good and bad economic periods, faces the worst financial, economic, educational, and racial disparities in the nation. Yet, in Minnesota, 48% of middle-skill positions can be entered with short-term training, and can provide the sustainable wages and benefits needed to support families. It is projected that these careers also have the highest shortage of workers. Rather than focusing only on job acquisition, as happens in classic workforce programs, the Earn and Learn model includes all the support that is needed by young adults as they attain careers that will sustain families decent careers by young adults.

The eight step Earn and Learn model lays out a three to five year pathway to middle-skill careers with earnings of $55,000-$73,000. Earn and Learn includes:

  1. Career exploration and identification of interest
  2. Practices of social/emotional development to strengthen personal agency
  3. Community/cultural engagement to increase social capital
  4. Short-term training in a specific skill
  5. Field placement with mentoring such as an internship
  6. Job placement in an apprenticeship program
  7. Job retention supports
  8. Safety-net on-the-job services to support young adults.

The inclusion of mentoring, emergency financial assistance, job acquisition and job retention supports are novel additions to this focused workforce system guiding young adults. These elements can be tracked to the indicators in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2015 the UN SDGs were adopted by all United Nations Member States as a call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. This framework of 17 goals was designed over more than 15 years. Indicators to track progress toward each goal are well with suggestions for Complementary National Indicators. While used throughout Europe and Africa, these indicators have yet to be widely used in the United States and by nonprofits working to change public policies.

The theory of change for the Earn & Learn model is aligned with the SDG strategy 8.B.1: Create the existence of a youth specific developed and operationalized strategy for youth employment, as a distinct strategy or part of a regional employment strategy. The logic model, identifies the planned inputs, activities, outcomes and outputs.

In addition to the strategy 8.B.1, five other SDGs are either directly or indirectly projected to be impacted through the use of the Earn & Learn model.  These include SDG #1 End Poverty in all Forms Everywhere; SDG #3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; SDG #4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; and SDG #10 Reduce inequality within and among countries.  In addition to SDG #8, these SDGs define scope of potential program-level indicators and measure the extent to which community goals are collectively achieved.

SDGs indicators and goals can be used to organize data across a long duration of time (three to five years), and by multiple partners. Young adults age 18-24+ can be supported as they move from stage to stage to attain middle-skill careers that can support families. Obtaining Nationally recognized and portable entry-level credentials allows young adults to become employed while moving towards a satisfying career. These measurements also enable philanthropic partners, and other funders to evaluate how their investments into workforce development programs assist the communities they serve in a bold and coordinated new manner.

For more information, contact Peg Thomas at

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