This blog deals with the paradox of evaluating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Being goals, one might naturally think that the goal-based approach would be most appropriate. Paradoxically, however, ECDG believes that goal-based evaluation may not be the best approach to evaluate the SDGs.
ECDG believes that evaluation which incorporates the principles of systems thinking would be a better choice. There are two ways that this could be accomplished.
The first is that the object of evaluation could be conceptualized in terms of systems. In this instance, Member States could be thought of as being systems that are composed of elements such as government, civil society, the private sector, academia, and national evaluation organisations.
The structure of the system will, in large measure, determine the types of initiatives that can be undertaken. And, it is the initiatives that will, ultimately, determine progress towards the SDGs. The progress towards the SDGs could be evaluated using traditional methods.
Second, progress towards the SDGs could be evaluated by using approaches that are actually based upon system’s thinking. For example, ECDG has written a guidebook that attempts to adapt Peter Checkland’s Soft System’s Methodology to the task of developing national evaluation capacity.
The preface to the guidebook was written by Michael Quinn Patton and it was illustrated by Chris Lysy. To download the guidebook, click on this link.
 Sterman, J. (2000). Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World. New York: McGraw
 Systems concepts in evaluation: An expert anthology. (eds. B. Williams and I. Imam). (2006). American Evaluation Association.