Now, I wouldn’t be an ambassador for social enterprise if I didn’t play devil’s advocate from time to time.
So, let me ask you a question.
Are the SDGs the future of impact measurement?
Yes? No? Don’t know? Don’t care?
Depending on how you answered this will determine how you resonate with my conclusion as to why there’s a major flaw in the SDGs.
But before we get there, let’s explore.
Firstly, let’s look at the ‘YES’ camp.
OK, so it’s true SDGs can help organisations (even small ones) connect to the bigger picture and get clarity about the big goal(s) they are working towards.
With 17 goals to choose from, with a further 170 targets spread across them, it’s safe to say, pretty much everything is covered.
Take Goal 5: Gender Equality for example; your prime focus could be on target 5.1: end discrimination against women and girls. You get the picture.
The goals also provide a framework for organisations that are struggling to move from what they do on a day to day basis to seeing what the wider impact is.
Something I talk a lot about is not jumping straight to the solution and designing a product/service without being clear what impact you want to create, which is where the SDGs can help, however…
…this is where we land on our first glitch, as even though the goals and targets provide outcomes for a theory of change, they won’t replace a need to have a proper system for measuring your impact – a proper system that identifies how you know something has changed.
In short, even though it’s easy to get carried away focussing on the positive outcomes and SDG contributions, you still need to look at the unintended outcomes and negative outcomes that have occurred.
Right, moving on to the no, SDGs aren’t the future of impact measurement camp.
Let’s be honest, the SDGs are huge. Colossal. And to some, they seem just too big and make what they’re doing feel insignificant.
Plus, as not all of the targets have numbers attached to them, if you don’t set any metrics/KPIs against specific targets, you’ll be saying you’ve contributed to lots of goals and targets, but without any real evidence of what you’ve contributed.
And now, you might feel, we’re getting warmer and closer to the point…
The SDGs address global problems and issues, and whilst they are so important to our universe, there may be country, regional, or local problems that are more important to address that are not direct targets within the 17 goals.
Let me clarify that. Good will (or charity) begins at home. Starting from the root is going to effect change best.
So, what’s the fundamental flaw with many of the SDGs, then?
Well, I believe it creates a relationship of those with power being able to effect change and those who receive.
To me, it’s very much based on the idea of rescuing and saving people or the planet, rather than enabling and empowering people to feel they’re effecting change in their own way.
If you’re going to use the SDGs as your longer-term outcomes, then you need to make sure the model of delivery is not creating dependencies, eliminating or negatively impacting other activities and is ultimately having a net positive contribution.
I’d love to know your opinion on this – do you agree/disagree? If so, why so?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org today and let’s get the conversation started.