Abstract for: A Systems Dynamics Tool to Assist in Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations has developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to track the progress of nations towards social, economic, and environmental health and well-being. SDG scores are an aggregate of the quantitative values for numerous SDG targets. Unfortunately, these targets and scores are trailing indicators, which alone cannot provide insights into how to leverage the dynamics among the goals. This paper develops the causal relationships between the SDGs using relationships among the SDG targets to build a System Dynamics model that leverages the goal-gap modeling archetype. Data is collected on the SDG scores from 1997 to 2021 for three representative countries: a developing country, a BRICS country, and a developed country. The System Dynamics model is calibrated using this data to identify the nations’ priorities for decision-makers. Then the calibrated model is used to project the achievement of each of the goals to 2026 by harnessing the interrelationship between SDGs . The model can optimize overall improvement by 2026 through maximizing the lowest performing SDG score. We find that this “rising tide” investment strategy will have synergistic effects on many other SDGs. We believe this model may be helpful to national leaders and policymakers who wish to obtain the best results by prioritizing the effort expended to improve their sustainable development.