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Issues concerning SDGs and the emergence of practical solutions

Economics Unit

According to OQSI, project managers, assessors and evaluators have reported problems with the handling of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relating project activities to a large range of factors that need to be taken into account to meet these Goals.

We report on the OQSI's response and approach to extending their Due Diligence Design Procedure (3DP).

What is the issue surrounding SDGs?

The Open Quality Standards Initiative (OQSI) was established in 2010 by the George Boole Foundation to develop guidelines for project cycle and portfolio management. It ran from 2010 to 2015 when a second phase was started for 2015 to 2020. In 2017 OQSI released its first Due Diligence Design Procedure (3DP) for cloud based project cycle and portfolio management services.

The OQSI website section on "Leading edge" developments reviews the forthcoming additions to 3DP. It is reported that OQSI has received a range of comments from practitioners in project design, assessment, some managers and donors that raise issues concerning the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These are described as follows:

"One theme that has been repeatedly drawn to our attention is a rising frustration on the part of project managers and some donors on how to manage project design in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The main concern is that there is a significant gap in analytical techniques to link up the macro-economic perspectives of SDGs to what specific projects should do in support of them. The problem is that SDGs initiatives need to be multi-factorial and embrace many different domains of application and required expertise. This creates significant problems for project design teams and, in some cases, ministries, in being able to assemble the required expertise which also possesses the experience and capabilities is applying appropriate analytical methods to create transparent links between the macroeconomic and microeconomic (project level) activities. Without good design and macro-micro cohesion it is self-evident that project monitoring and evaluation in the context of SDGs is problematic. Project assessors report that many projects are being submitted for funding that use SDGs as headline justifications but which lack any convincing organic or functional content that demonstrates any feasibility of the projects to deliver the stated objectives.

Given the already high levels of project failures recorded to date this state of affairs is of concern.

In response to these facts the OQSI mention that their Due Diligence Design Procedure (3DP) was developed to address this sort of question by ensuring all factors are taken into account and given appropriate consideration in the project design phase.

OQSI states that it is organizing a task force to resolve this issue. The also add that the approach adopted will be to use applied locational state theory to identify a practical means of producing transparent analyses of time-based projections of the state of relevant indicators. These relate to demographic dynamics in terms of population structure and growth as a pressure on different types of resources including:
  • Population growth & density;
  • Land carrying capacity and human displacement;
  • Urbanization;
  • Livelihoods & alternatives;
  • Food and fibre (nutrition) requirements;
  • Food balance sheets;Commodity balance sheets;
  • Water and sanitation requirements;
  • Energy requirements; Housing requirements;
  • Education requirements;
  • Employment requirements;
  • Real income requirements
The announcement also states that one of the elements in transparency, especially when analysis is based on locational state theory, is spatial dynamics. Therefore OQSI have requested that locational state thematic maps (LSTM) become components of the outputs of any recommended procedures to aid understanding of complex interactions. LSTMs are essentially a form of GIS (Geographic Information System) but the theory behind their generation is significantly different. LST (Locational State Theory) was developed specifically for specifying more precise datasets and analyzing complex time-and geographic-based relationships.

To complete this work, prototype algorithms and demos will be supplied by SEEL-Systems Engineering Economics Lab and applied tests will be carried out by Navatec.com to asses their ease of application for users of cloud services. The Task Force will receive reports from both SEEL and Navatec.com on each procedure.

In a personal communication with Ian Ross, Systems Coordinator at Navatec.com, he stated that,

"SEEL will use the current operational prototypes of the 3DP systems as the foundation for their coding to save time as well as to ensure that datasets and data flow remain as required for each procedure. This development might require slight modifications in the gaps and needs procedures as well as the macro and micro organizational elements analyses but the objective is to ensure that users do not face disruptive changes in their input dialogs. Navatec.com will assess the results in terms of ease of use while avoiding any changes in process logic. In principle we don't foresee any issues but we feel that this development will greatly enhance user experience and the relevance of projects in the context of SDGs."

Asked why this was not already part of 3DP, Ross replied,

"OQSI has a policy of relative caution in terms of presuming requirements without practitioner agreement. This SDG issue has taken a little time to become evident and since 2016 they received increasing amounts of information on the issues concerned. We raised this in 2015 along with quite a few other operators. However, we assumed that someone would come up with some form of guideline that provided to be effective. This didn't happen so OQSI's Task Force have initiated this work. I should emphasise that the short list of routines provided by the Task Force is tentative, it covers most elements but it contains gaps and redundancies. These have been identified by the SEEL team who have a long track record in the areas concerned. We will produce a new list, in terms of coverage of essential factors together with the logical flow justification. This will, of course, be submitted to the Task Force for their approval."

When asked about the OQSI announcement concerning GIS development and SEEL's experience in this field, Ross replied,

The OQSI is a specialised division of The George Boole Foundation Limited

"SEEL was established in 1983, but collaborators had worked on GIS since 1968 but in 1972 became involved in designing and implementing remote sensing, aerosurvey and computer-assisted thematic mapping systems covering something like 500,000 km2. The SEEL team therefore has an unparalleled experience in this field. The main advance we are introducing and which conventional GIS systems do not have, is the deployment of Locational State Theory (LSTMs) and Accumulogs which will have a significant impact on the utility of the thematic maps generated; this is an exciting development."

OQSI estimate that this process will be completed by end-July 2018 when they will be in a position to state which procedures will be considered for inclusion in 3DP.