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Navigating SDG implementation with the Agenda 2030 Compass

Whether a business, a government agency or a civil society organization, integrating SDGs in strategic planning can be daunting: options that seem sustainable may have unintended consequences, and it is easy to miss synergies that could bring benefits. The Agenda 2030 Compass allows users to evaluate policies by assessing direct and indirect effects on the Sustainable Development Goals through a dedicated software tool in a process of co-creation.

The 2030 Compass is a scientifically robust process, supported by a specially designed software and carefully facilitated stakeholder workshops. The Compass points the user in a direction which is as beneficial as possible in contributing to the SDGs. It enables any stakeholder to assess how a given strategy might affect the attainment of the SDGs, both directly and indirectly, in a process that can take as little as three days.

The 2030 Compass can be used in a wide range of settings and has been successfully tested in the public as well as private sectors, in case studies involving product design, housing development, and local and regional strategies in Sweden and in India.

I am completely in love with the compass. Valuable in a tangible way, you are simply forced to familiarize yourself with all the goals and think through them all in a systematic way.

Large consultancy

How does it work?

The Compass has two key components:

  • The Context Mapper identifies the potential for positive or negative interactions among SDGs in a particular context (such as a country), based on factors such as socio-economic conditions, the energy mix and the physical environment.
  • The Strategy Analyser provides a simple, robust workshop-based process and toolbox to analyse the sustainability implications of a planned intervention within that context.

Each context map will show how the SDGs interact with one another in that context, based on a combination of empirical data, collective intelligence, and expert panel assessments.

The tool can be used to analyze a single strategy in a single context, several alternative strategies in a single context, or a single strategy across several contexts – for instance, for international projects, or when multiple locations are being considered.

It would have been difficult to grasp the indirect effects and connections between the different goals. We got this through the tool.


Novel approach

The Agenda 2030 Compass has established a new, inclusive, co-creation based process.

While prior work on the topic involved eliciting inputs from small groups of experts or quantifying qualitative studies on SDG interaction, we also deployed an online platform to gather input on SDG interactions from around the world. This enabled greater participation by experts from the Global South in particular, who had been underrepresented in prior work on SDG interactions, which mainly included researchers based in Western Europe and North America.

To ensure that the 2030 Compass produces actionable results, much of the work relies on knowledge co-creation methods, where the project team has worked in close cooperation with the Compass users themselves and a range of other stakeholders.

Overall, the users were positive about the Agenda 2030 Compass tool and the associated co-creation process to assess the effects of a given strategy, policy or project on the SDGs and wanted to continue using it and be part of its future development. Many pointed to the value of listening to each other’s different perspectives on SDG impact and the representation of diverse knowledges and perspectives has fostered a shared learning through exchange of ideas, insights and reflections.

The 2030 Compass project team was uniquely placed for such an approach to be successful as it was a collaboration between the SEI – global leader in SDG interaction research – and the Swedish Iron and Steel Producers’ Association (Jernkontoret) – representative of the industry that has pioneered CO2 free . The team was also joined by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence with extensive experience on knowledge crowdsourcing and Swedish software developer Swedwise.

Agenda 2030 Compass in action

The 2030 Compass shows significant promise as a decision-making tool to ensure stronger benefits across society. The research team is committed to continuing to develop the methodology and make the tool itself more widely available.

In December 2022, a new phase of the Agenda 2030 Compass was launched at Jernkontoret in Stockholm with research presentations from SEI and experience sharing from those who have already used the Agenda 2030 Compass in their work such as the Municipality of Kalmar, Skåne Region and sustainability consultants, Ascend. Other businesses and organisations interested in finding out how the Agenda 2030 Compass can assist in testing the contribution to societal benefits of new product ideas, investments, strategies and reform proposals are welcome to contact Jernkontoret’s Technical Area 86

Timothy Suljada high res
Timothy Suljada

Head of Division: Resources, Rights and Development

SEI Headquarters

Åsa Gerger Swartling
Åsa Gerger Swartling

Head of Knowledge Management, Senior Research Fellow

Global Operations

SEI Headquarters

Katarina Axelsson
Katarina Axelsson

Senior Policy Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Kristian Skånberg
Kristian Skånberg

SEI Affiliated Researcher

Ylva Rylander
Ylva Rylander

Communications and Impact Officer


SEI Headquarters

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