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SDG Synergies Tool

SDG Synergies is a practical tool for understanding how groups of policy areas and targets interact, using systems thinking. Designed by researchers at Stockholm Environment Institute originally to support governments in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG Synergies could be invaluable within and beyond the field of sustainability.
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SDG Synergies Tool Tutorial

This tool is part of the SEI Urban Toolbox for Liveable Cities which has been developed by the SEI Initiative on City Health and Wellbeing. The Urban Toolbox is a collection of tools, developed within SEI or in coordination with SEI, aimed at supporting planning and decision-making for improving the health, well-being and resilience of city residents and urban systems more broadly.

About this tool

SDG Synergies helps you record, visualize and analyse how multiple targets are likely to interact in a given context. In doing so, it reveals deep patterns and relationships that would not be seen by simply looking at interactions between pairs of targets.

How does this tool work?

Based on a participatory, discussion-based scoring process, SDG Synergies develops a cross-impact matrix of interactions between all the targets being considered: how progress on one might affect progress on the other, and vice versa. With intuitive controls it is then possible to regroup and rank these interactions to explore different aspects of the system.

Using advanced network analysis and visualization capabilities, SDG Synergies can surface more complex relationships, such as how the effects of one interaction could ripple through the larger system.

The visualizations and analyses can, for example, inform decisions about how to prioritize or sequence implementation of different targets, or how best to manage potential trade-offs between them. They can also help to identify what cross-sectoral collaborations would be most productive.

Who might use this tool?

SDG Synergies is invaluable for anyone who needs to make strategic decisions that involve multiple interacting targets and interests. To date it has been used by national and regional governments around the world, universities and more. The tool could equally add value in the private and non-profit sectors.

Which stakeholders are involved?

Governments, urban planners, service providers (public and private sector)

What stage of the process does this tool support?

This tool can be adapted to be used at different stages of an assessment:

  • defining the assessment
  • generating ideas
  • developing solutions
  • implementation
  • monitoring
  • evaluation

Tool overview

Every application of SDG Synergies is different, tailored to the context, the targets, and the resources available. But typical SDG Synergies processes feature three stages:


The design stage sets the overall parameters for the process: how will it be done, which targets will be examined, who will be involved. This is also when to decide what expert input is needed to support the interaction scoring stage.

Interaction scoring

Interaction scoring can be done by experts or – especially when the aim is policy setting – by larger groups representing different sectors and stakeholder groups, usually in a workshop. This way, SDG Synergies uniquely combines scientific evidence with participants’ subjective experience and contextual knowledge, so the results reflect the limitations and opportunities of the context in which the policies will be implemented.

In this stage, interactions between pairs of targets are scored on a seven-point scale, reflecting the degree to which they potentially support or hinder each other, and these scores are entered into the SDG Synergies too. The rationales behind the scores are also recorded in the tool to support later discussions and verification.


The analysis stage involves network analysis to identify policy-relevant patterns in the interactions, and discussion about their implications for policy.

Application: SDG Synergies case study examples

Capabilities and resources required

To use SDG Synergies, a user needs a computer or smartphone with internet access. The tool is available in English and Spanish, and the user manual is available in English.

Implementation tips: key enablers and potential barriers

As a reliable internet connection is required for the tool to be used, this could also be a potential barrier.

In addition, the tool is only available in English and Spanish, with the user manual only available in English, so this could be a barrier to using the tool.

Potential integration with other tools

This tool could be integrated or used along side other urban planning tools to record, visualize and analyse how multiple targets are likely to interact in a given context.

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