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Who's Responsible?



This 30 minute activity encourages pupils to consider who is responsible for ensuring we achieve the Global Goals (also known as the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs).

It consists of four downloads:

  • Teacher's Guide
  • Global Goals-Stimulus sheet
  • Global Goals - Ideas cards
  • Global Goals - Blank Cards.

Students adopt the role of various organizations and are arranged in circles designed to illustrate the connections between the organizations they represent and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The lesson provides students with the opportunity to strengthen their skills in critical thinking, evaluating options, and taking and defending a position on an issue.


The SDGs are an effective framework with which to introduce students to the challenges faced in creating a more sustainable world. Once those challenges are acknowledged it is necessary to understand the players involved and how they can meet the challenges. This lesson make a beginning in that direction with a pedagogical approach that will engage students.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The lesson has relevance for those units of study that deal with the general issue of sustainable development and serves as an introduction to the Goals and the issue of sustainability. It therefore should be used as an introduction and followed by other lessons that will explore the issues raised in greater depth.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • British Columbia
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    • Grade 11
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Explorations in Social Studies 11: Social justice initiatives can transform individuals and systems
    • Grade 12
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Justice: Social justice initiatives can transform individuals and systems
  • Manitoba
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    • Grade 9
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Canada in the Global Context
        • Canada in the Contemporary World
        • Canada in the Contemporary World: Opportunities and Challenges
    • Grade 12
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Citizenship and Sustainability: Area of Inquiry: Social Justice and Human Rights
        • Global Issues
  • Nova Scotia
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    • Grade 9
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Citizenship 9: Engaged Citizenship
        • Citizenship 9: Global Citizenship
  • Ontario
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    • Grade 10
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      • Civic Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Civics and Citizenship (Open): Civic Engagement and Action
    • Grade 11
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      • Social Studies
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        • Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice (Workplace Prep.) Promoting Equity and Social Justice
    • Grade 12
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Challenge and Change in Society (Univ. Prep.) Global Social Challenges
        • Equity and Social Justice: From Theory to Practice (Univ./College Prep.) :Personal and Social Action
  • Prince Edward Island
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    • Grade 9
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interdependence: Atlantic Canada in the Global Community: Human Rights in the Global Community
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
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    • Grade 11
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 20: World Issues -Human Rights
  • Yukon Territory
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Explorations in Social Studies 11: Social justice initiatives can transform individuals and systems
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Justice: Social justice initiatives can transform individuals and systems

Themes Addressed

Citizenship (2)

  • Community-Building and Participation
  • General Guide to Taking Action

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

The key activity in the resource has students assume the role of various organizations who participate in an exchange with other  students in which they explain how their organization can or should contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The exercise serves to reveal the competing perspectives and allows students to challenge their colleagues position. 

The exercise has the further advantage of having students recognize the interdependence among those responsible for achieving the goals.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

Before beginning the lesson, students must have some basic understanding of the SDGs. Such an introduction may be expected to make students aware of the economic, social, and environmental scope of the SDGs. That realization will be further strengthened in the role playing exercise in which the case for responsibility achieving the Goals is discussed and debated. 

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

An examination of the issue of responsibility in achieving the SDGs may be expected to help students understand that the goals are  ambitious, the players numerous, and the challenges mighty.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good

As students discuss the role of individuals, schools, families, consumers and governments in realizing the SDGs, it should become apparent that they are players in this venture and can make their contribution in a variety of ways.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Very Good

Discussion of the SDGs raise many issues related to justice, inequality, and fairness and the issue of individual responsibility for creating a more sustainable world.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

Student discussion of the sustainable development goals such as No Poverty, Gender Equality, Good Health and Well Being should raise their awareness of and empathy for those who struggle to realize these goals.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered

Discussion of the natural world may arise as students consider the implications for the environment in achieving the SDGs but this is not the focus of the resource.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The trust of the resource is to have students consider how their lives and that of their school and community intersect with the achievement of the SDGs. The message is therefore that the Goals are not some abstract concept but have relevance for the individuals and their communities

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

The lessons invite students to consider their role and that of others in realizing the preferred future represented by the SDGs. 

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The resource is organized around an activity in which students create a visual web of interdependence in which they suggest and defend their declarations as to how the individuals and organization in the web are related in the effort to achieve the SDGs. The lesson establishes the framework for the discussion, but it is the students who determine the direction of the discussion.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Very Good

A discussion of the SDGs draws in any number of disciplines and that discussion about the implications of the SDGs and the responsibility for their realization will reveal the interconnections among the Goals and the links in the web of responsibility for their achievement.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

The resource asks the question, Who is responsible for attaining the SDGs? The answers and the defense of those answers is given to the students.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

The lesson borrows from the classic simulation used to illustrate the web of interdependence that characterize ecosystems. In the original web, students role played the elements of an ecosystem, while in this instance the web represents various organizations and individuals that might be expected to contribute to achieving the SDGs. In each case, the exercise is intended to give visual representation to the role of the elements or organizations and the interdependent nature of their relationship.

This is an effective activity because it requires that students take and defend a position and because it makes visceral the learning intended. 

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

The resource rejects the role of learners as passive recipients of information in favor of a simulation that requires them to think about and argue for a particular perspective on the issue of responsibility with respect to the SDGs.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

The responsibility web activity is carried out by students organized into groups of 4 or 5 and requires they work together if it is to succeed.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

The interaction and exchanges among students during the web exercise will allow teachers to gain an appreciation of their understanding of the issue of responsibility with respect to the SDGs.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Good

Students learn from their classmates who the players are in realizing the SDGs and the relative role each has. 

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Poor/Not considered

Each of the organizations that students investigate and represent in the web exercise might be regarded as a case study or the beginning of one.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Very Good

The teacher's role in this lesson is to facilitate student learning by setting a framework that encourages student exploration and exchange on the question posed by the resource - Who is Responsible.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.