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About 2030 Compass CoLab

Compass 2030 CoLab is part of a larger project, The Agenda 2030 Compass Methodology and toolbox for strategic decision making.

That project's goal is to create a tool that provides insights for decision makers into how actions they are considering will affect the likelihood of making progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). 

The tool will be used in workshops that start with a 17x17 matrix showing the nature of the interactions between the SDGs in a particular country or region.

Each cell in the matrix will indicate, using color-coding, whether making progress on one SDG is likely to encourage progress on the other. 

The tool will then show the expected impact of strategies under consideration, thereby offering decision makers new perspectives on the tradeoffs they face. 

Two key principles underlie this tool:

  • Interaction scores
  • Factors

Interaction scores

The method for assessing interactions between SDGs is based on research by Stockholm Environment Institute and uses a 7-point scale, from +3 Strongly reinforcing to –3 Strongly counteracting (See Figure 1). 

Figure 1: Scale used to rate interaction between Sustainable Development Goals Adapted from Måns Nilsson, Dave Griggs, and Martin Visbeck, Map the interactions between Sustainable Development Goals, Nature, June 2016. See also Nina Weitz, Henrik Carlsen, Måns Nilsson, and Kristian Skånberg, Towards systemic and contextual priority setting for implementing the 2030 Agenda, Sustainability Science, September 2017. 


Agenda 2030 project seeks to enable creation of an interaction matrix for any country.

This objective could have been accomplished using a bottoms-up approach, in which polling of local experts informed development of a separate, bespoke matrix for each country.

After considering this approach, the Agenda 2030 Compass team recognized it would be prohibitively labor intensive. 

The team instead chose to apply an alternative, more scalable approach: to create interaction matrices based on key characteristics of countries, which the team called factors.

A factor is defined as a characteristic of a country with the potential to influence the interaction score for one or more SDG pairs.  

Consider, for example, one country that has strong social protection policies and another that does not.

For the first country, progress on SDG 7 Work and economic growth would likely be associated with progress on SDG 3 Health, whereas, for the second, the linkage would be far less certain.

Thus the pair SDG 7 --> SDG 3 would have a higher interaction score for countries with a high rank on the factor social protection. 

After developing the concept of factors, the team faced the challenge of identifying which are most salient.

A panel of 17 experts, one for each SDG, was engaged to contribute their perspectives on which factors they thought most likely to influence interactions between the SDGs. 

That panel submitted a list of more than 700 proposed factors; through clustering of these into like groupings, 18 meta-factors were identified in 5 categories, each tied to a quantititive indicator: 

Economic and social
Per capita gross national income 
Urban population
Gender Equity

Physical infrastructure
Energy access
Water and sanitation
Information and communications technology

Human infrastructure
Social protection policy
Participation in global economy and international institutions

Environmental health and ecosystem vitality
Material footprint

Natural resources
Agricultural land
Fresh water
Marine and coastal
Fossil fuels and minerals

How participants can contribute

Participants can contribute to 2030 Compass CoLab through one of two interfaces:

  • SDG interface (which lists all 17 SDGs)
    Participants can select one of the SDGs to begin a contribution.
  • Matrix interface (in which each SDG pair appears as a cell in a 17x17 matrix)
    Participants can click on a cell in the matrix to begin a contribution. 

After a participants clicks on an SDG or a cell, a form will open to elicit: 

  • Which SDG interaction is being addressed (e.g. impact of success in achieving SDG 3 on likelihood of achieving SDG 12).
  • Which factor from the list of 18, e.g. Gross national income, Governance, Fresh water, etc. is being addressed, or whether another factor, not included on the list, should be added.  
  • Interaction score on a scale +3 (Strongly reinforcing) to –3 (Strongly counteracting) for countries/regions at three different levels for the factor
    • High (top quarter),
    • Medium (middle two quarters),
    • Low (bottom quarter).  
  • Brief description of mechanisms by which the factor under consideration, and variations in its level, can be expected to influence the interaction between the chosen pair of SDGs.