Enabling delivery

4.1 People and culture

Our organizational culture lays the foundation for the way we work with partners and with each other. Our culture is grounded in our development ethos and commitment to resolving sustainability challenges, from local to global. It stands for transparent and inclusive decision making, for building and maintaining trust, for empowering our partners, for giving space to diverse voices, and for delivery of the highest quality. It holds us to ethical standards of integrity, collegiality and respect in all our professional interactions.

Qualified and engaged people are SEI’s most important asset, and the impact and quality of our work is a direct result of the skills and commitment of our colleagues around the world. SEI’s global human resources policy is called the People Agenda. It describes our ambitions and the steps taken to ensure that SEI provides a safe, professional and creative workspace for all colleagues, fostering well-being.

Photo: Anneli Sundin / SEI, Flickr.


Diversity enriches our organization and grounds us in different countries and regions of the world. SEI strives to attract employees from different disciplines, with diverse cultural backgrounds, and of different nationalities. Not only do we need researchers, we also need professionals who, among other things, focus on the policy interface, on project management, on communications, on financial management and on human resources.

Equal opportunities

SEI is committed to providing a safe, professional and creative work environment for all colleagues. The SEI Equity, Gender and Diversity Policy clearly states our ambition to build an inclusive, accommodating and diverse work culture, and we conduct annual follow ups. All our employees are required to act in a manner consistent with our global Code of Conduct.

Professional development

Professional development is seen as a right at SEI. We develop, support and train our employees to grow in their roles and raise their capabilities. We recognize that ongoing opportunities for professional growth and recognition is crucial for employee retention. Our mentorship programme strengthens cross-centre development, and we ensure constructive and thoughtful feedback on performance to support professional growth. An SEI Leadership Model is focused on leadership skills for those with management responsibilities.

Associates and internships

SEI’s capacity and expertise is extended through a network of external colleagues who work with, and in the same spirit as, SEI. When mutually desired, the relationship with external colleagues can be formalized into the position of SEI Associate. We also work with higher-education institutions and take on students as interns and offer master’s and PhD thesis supervision.

4.2 Global operations for collaboration and innovation

Our centres focus on different areas of research determined by the regional relevance of our work and the niche expertise of research staff. This model ensures that we can be relevant to and respond to the needs of regional partners. Employees from different SEI centres collaborate in projects daily, making sure that SEI’s diverse competences are deployed effectively. Over the strategy period we will enhance our supporting systems and procedures to make it simpler to operate as one global organization. Such systems include our intranet, internal knowledge hub, skills database, and collaborative online workspace for projects and initiatives.

Formal organization

To enable delivery and accountability, SEI has a formal line organization that spans the global organization of headquarters and centres, as well as in the individual centres. SEI is headed by a Board, which receives advice from a Science Advisory Council. The Board sets the strategic direction in terms of general objectives, planning and programmes, and on operational issues of major importance. SEI’s rules of procedure, policies, instructions, and guidelines detail how we govern research, operations and project management.

Networked organization

At the same time as ensuring operational efficiency and accountability through clear line management, SEI maintains features of a networked organization, with softer structures that support innovation and cross-fertilization of ideas across teams. SEI invests in strengthening the interfaces between innovation and operations in order to mobilize teams to bring new ideas to life and turn them into projects. Processes that strengthen innovation include our annual Science Forum and our internal seed and innovation funding scheme.

4.3 Monitoring, evaluation and learning

An enhanced Results and Learning Framework for 2020–24 has been set up to more strongly link the monitoring and evaluation of our research and operations to our organizational learning. This allows us to continually improve our relevance and usefulness to partners.

Photo: Anneli Sundin / SEI, Flickr.


Our monitoring framework is organized around the four levels of our strategy, which guide the planning, implementation and follow-up of our research. We monitor whether we deliver according to plan, follow required standards, and whether we are doing so as effectively as possible. We also monitor the extent to which our audiences are aware of, accessing and sharing our work. After collecting evidence of our impact on agendas, capacities and decisions, we develop and share “change stories” to report to our stakeholders and enable internal learning. Lastly, we assess whether we are following our strategy, by tracking whether our work is in line with our priorities for change (see section 2).


The way we evaluate our work is structured around five main activities. For external evaluation, we invite external critical observers to make recommendations on how we can strengthen our delivery and impact over the longer term. SEI’s Science Advisory Council regularly examines achievements and progress in key research areas. In the strategy period we will formalize how we gather partner feedback through annual surveys that will invite partners to provide structured and critical feedback on their institutional engagement with SEI. During project implementation we invite stakeholders to give feedback on an ongoing basis, and all programmes, initiatives and large projects are required to carry out end-of-project evaluation.


An important part of organizational life at SEI is about learning. We enact change inside the organization based on insights from monitoring and evaluation. This means adapting our focus, our approach and operational processes. As a learning organization we are continually enhancing our capacity to deliver results and nurturing new, creative, collective knowledge and patterns of thinking.

SEI has a scheme of learning activities to ensure that the monitoring and reporting on outputs and outcomes from research activities are fed back into the organization. Such activities include end of project evaluation meetings, topical or operational learning sessions, the SEI Science Forum and cross-centre meetings on the “what” and “how” of our work. Evidence based change stories – which capture the changes that SEI has contributed to, and how these came about – are gathered and shared for learning purposes. We regularly assess our effectiveness in achieving outcomes, capturing key success factors and the dos and don’ts of, for example, stakeholder engagement.

We use SEI’s online platforms to enable wide participation, learning and knowledge exchange, while minimizing travel. These platforms are key for ensuring efficient, transparent and accessible internal communication.

4.4 Communications

We ensure that our communication activities are strategic and agenda-setting and make research insights accessible and actionable. Over the strategy period we will place more emphasis on knowledge synthesis and reaching key international policy audiences. We use our global presence to develop narratives and ground our engagement in local needs, and we help our partners tell their stories – of the challenges they face, and the ways in which knowledge can unlock sustainable development. Traditional communication products are complemented with tools and services that enable practitioners to apply knowledge directly to their decision making or deliberation processes. Our communication will continue to strive to be as accessible as possible and informed by the latest science and technologies available for effective communication.

Photo: Trulights Images Company / SEI.

4.5 Quality, integrity and independence

Effective, efficient and accountable delivery in our projects is the foundation of our operations. SEI implements research and engages in projects with partners around the world, which entails exposure to risks in project management and delivery. Risk management and quality assurance procedures regularly assess and address risks to project performance in project planning and implementation. Over the strategy period, we will continue to invest in strengthening and developing our central procedures and systems for project management, accountability, quality in delivery, and principles of organizational and financial governance.

4.6 Ethical practice

SEI’s ethical practice has as a minimum requirement to avoid harm while aiming to enhance human well-being and ensure we maintain the highest possible quality and integrity in our work. It also provides for an open and constructive space for dialogue and sharing of perspectives. All projects and activities are expected to adhere to the Ethics Statement and the SEI Code of Conduct, which outlines our commitment to ethical practice. To make sure that our work meets the highest ethical standards, SEI provides guidelines for how ethical considerations should be incorporated into project planning, implementation and evaluation. All projects where there is a risk of harm to any participants should undergo a formal ethics approval process by an appropriate third party, or an internal ethics review.

4.7 Environmental policy

Over the strategy period SEI will implement our strengthened Environmental Policy. SEI’s mandate requires us to consider the choices we make within our workplaces, how we plan projects and collaborate, and how and when we travel. SEI expects all colleagues to consider how their actions at work affect the environment and whether more sustainable, yet effective, options are available. A key focus is on air travel, which makes up a major part of the Institute’s environmental impact. The nature of SEI’s work on the international level and doing relevant, grounded work with partners across regions means that there will always be a requirement to travel. At the same time, we encourage ways of interacting remotely, and we have conversations across continents every day. The distributed centre structure of SEI also contributes to efficiency in travel requirements.

The policy requires each SEI centre to develop and implement an annual action plan that charts progress on environmental targets and sets plans for the coming year to minimize negative effects. Importantly, each centre operates within a different context and faces different constraints that influence the sets of measures it can take to reduce its environmental impact.

Photo: Orbon Alija / Getty Images.

SEI monitors and reports carbon emissions from air travel using an approach that encourages each employee to reflect on the necessity, frequency and mode of travel. Where appropriate, online meetings and remote participation in events are prioritized as the primary mode of international collaboration. They are also a fundamental tool not only to minimize our travel emissions, but also to extend our reach to broader and bigger audiences.

Over the strategy period we have set a quantitative emissions reduction target: to reduce the carbon travel footprint by at least 25% per capita from 2017 to 2024 for the Institute as a whole. During this period, we are also examining the potential for deeper emissions cuts by reviewing how we can work and engage with partners in the future, drawing on the opportunities that new technologies offer.

4.8 Resilient and diverse funding base

Many SEI employees take responsibility for fundraising by regularly securing large and long-term research grants. Our Swedish core funding base reflects our mission in the field of environment and development, with one core pillar from environment and the other from development cooperation. This base enables us to ensure quality and sound governance of the institute, to invest strategically and to develop and maintain a diverse and robust funding portfolio, spanning national research councils, EU bodies, international organizations and foundations, government agencies, universities, institutes and NGOs.

Over the strategy period, we will continue to build a strong, resilient and diverse funding base for SEI operations by focusing on:

  • core funding, to enable proactive and strategic investment and co-funding
  • diversified programmatic and project level fundraising
  • quality in delivery as the best way to attract new funds
  • proposal coordination and quality assurance
  • developing new funding models for tools and platforms, and
  • developing lasting and strategic partnerships with funders that have similar goals.
Main sources of funding
Our main sources of funding are core funding, research councils, and other projects.