Policy Process Support

The iSDG model is a broad and integrated tool to support the design and assessment of effective strategies to achieve the SDGs. It does not seek to replace sector-specific models, which can include a higher level of detail on selected issues and policy options, but excels at analysing the interaction between sectors. The model’s results inherently embed a high degree of uncertainty, being long-term in nature (a large variety of unforeseeable changes can take place); and is broad in scope (includes a large number of parameters with uncertain future values). Because of such characteristics, the iSDG model is not to be intended as a substitute to short-term or sector-specific models that are used in support of various phases of the policy process, but as tool to support policy-makers in establishing policy coherence and building an integrated view on development strategies.

The policy process can be very different across countries and sectors. In most cases, however, the process can be organized around five main steps [1]:

  1. Agenda setting / identification of issues

  2. Policy design / formulation / assessment

  3. Policy adoption

  4. Policy implementation

  5. Policy assessment / monitoring / evaluation

The iSDG model can be used for different purposes in the different stages of the process, although it has been designed especially to support Step 2. When developing a SDGs strategy or program, such step can become very complex as alternative options of resource allocation across different sectors are assessed, discussed, and negotiated. For instance, the iSDG model can be used to provide quantitative background to explorative discussions on the key areas of intervention (also for live simulation as part of multi-stakeholder events). The base run of the model provides a first assessment of the progress on each Goal by 2030, highlighting the areas in direst need of intervention. In addition, the set of policy interventions included in the core version of the model can be rapidly simulated (either within the model or using the user interface to assess their relevance with respect to the strategic objectives. The model also provides an initial assessment of the financial resources requirements for these interventions.

As another example, the model can be used in a more advanced phase of policy formulation and assessment, when details of policies and implementation mechanisms are defined. As interventions in each area are elaborated by sector experts (by way of detailed, sector-specific models) the iSDG model can be used to simulate such interventions in isolation and in combination in order to assess cross-sector synergies (positive and negative) [2] and fine-tune interventions to increase their effectiveness (might require model modification to represent policies as defined by sector experts). Such an exercise also provides an estimation of the development impact of the combined interventions and enhances strategy coherence.

The iSDG model can also be used to assess the alignment of existing national strategies and budgets with the SDGs. This involves the simulation with the iSDG of the fundamental interventions included in existing national strategies (some model modification may be required to represent such interventions as defined in the strategy) in order to assess the extent to which such interventions facilitate the country’s progress towards the SDGs. Major gaps between goals and simulation results indicate the necessity of adjusting resources allocation over time and/or envision additional interventions. A similar exercise can be carried out on the national yearly budget.


[1] Adapted from Howlett, M. & Ramesh, M. (1995) Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles and Policy Subsystems, Oxford Unversity Press.

[2] See the following publication for a more detailed discussion of how syerngies can be analysed: Pedercini, M, Arquitt, S., Collste, D. & Herren, H. (2019). Harvesting synergy from sustainable development goal interactions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116, 23021-23028.