How the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Created Their Biggest Member Benefit


Standard Industry Engagement


Two-year Growth in Activities

The Problem: Facing Climate Change Requires Real Teamwork, not Social Media or Email Groups

The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has been operating since 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. Its charter was to mobilize scientific and technology expertise to promote practical problem solving for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement.  

This global initiative is tasked with researching, monitoring and reporting on sustainable goals like climate change, gender equality and clean water. They must connect thousands of members in an ongoing, lively conversation. And they must keep their membership engaged to fulfill their core purpose.

SDSN started with email groups, but members and administrators quickly realized that the email chains were overwhelming, unfocused and primitive. SDSN needed a system to communicate directly with their various networks AND allow those networks to collaborate with each other. A diverse membership base that crossed demographic and physical boundaries made that goal even more challenging. They needed a platform that met the following criteria:

  • Simple to use / no friction
  • Universally accessible
  • Easy to collaborate and consult on ideas
  • Engaging, organized, personalized content
  • Removes SDSN from being “in the middle” of interactions
  • Makes members feel seen, heard and connected

The Partnership: Lighting Up a True Community

Mobilize was launched in November, 2016. The SDSN team worked with Mobilize on custom on-boarding content and had their community leaders post information and event details. They enriched member profiles and had members introduce themselves, which boosted early engagement. Members quickly realized Mobilize was easy to use (many members only participated through email), which broke through the engagement barrier that held them back for years.

Once communication was flowing and members were participating, SDSN worked with Mobilize on deepening relationships and long term health. This work focused on an engagement plan, which included:

  1. Provide members with unparalleled access to industry knowledge, experts and research.
  2. Enhance the HQ-member relationship by posting the most interesting / relevant events, projects, discussions.
  3. Design an on-boarding process to capture member attention and unlock the community value prop from first engagement.
  4. Boost networking through a registration form and profiles with relevant data, and design easy-to-scan member cards.
  5. Optimize email notifications to boost engagement while reducing noise as the community grows.
  6. Structure engagement plans around the member commitment curve, detailing the content members need throughout the journey.
  7. Build a member leadership program that recruits top members and guides them through moderation, engagement and becoming thought leaders in their local or topic-based group.

At this point, the community started operating like “one system” with easy organization around key topics. Participation went from strong to “off the charts.”

The Results: 4X the Average Community Engagement Levels

SDSN’s investment in on-boarding and building a sense of belonging resulted in a massive increases in connection and participation. While the average community aligns with 90-9-1 engagement (of lurkers-intermittent engagement - heavy engagement), SDSN showed a 60-30-10 model. What's more, the community blows standard community metrics out of the water with a steady growth in membership and engagement simultaneously. So adding more members only increases engagement.

“The Mobilize community has become one of the main membership benefits of this network.”
Dorothea Strüber, Manager of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

By measuring actions from members at all stages, we can see the community’s efficient journey through the member commitment curve and its high engagement overall. 80% of SDSN community members (at every stage of the lifecycle) view posts and over 65% interact with posts. Over 25% of the community participates in private conversations and over 15% of members create or reply to posts, due in part to Mobilize’s inclusive approach, which allows members to engage through web, mobile or email.

Cohort Analysis of Member participation in different activities based on join date

The Mobilize Community Health Report measures belonging through metrics like number of connections between members and event participation. SDSN boasts over 1,000 connections in a community of just over 2,000 people, with a consistent increase in connections over time. With the help of Mobilize’s event management and calendars, event participation is through the roof at a consistent 50% RSVP rate for community members after they’ve been in the community for several months. Together with a host of other key metrics, we learn that the longer someone belongs to the SDSN community, the more invested they become - a powerful insight that drives the community’s future strategy and ongoing success.

Net Connections Over Time


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