Kumu Blog

Tools and practices for tackling complex systems.

A toolkit for mapping relationships among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

A number of the users in our community are working on maps related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (or "SDGs"). Rather than each of you re-creating the wheel to get the icons and colors used to represent each SDG, we decided to put together an SDG toolkit to jumpstart your map.

We're going to build a map of the interconnections among the SDGs inspired by David Le Blanc's work in his paper Towards integration at last? The sustainable development goals as a network of targets.

David used the indicators for each of the SDGs to identify links between major SDGs (1 and 4, 3 and 10, etc.) and then collapsed those individual links into a single link between two SDGs (so if two SDGs were connected by 4 indicators, they would instead be connected by a single line with a weight of 4).

Structuring the data

Although we could have emailed David and asked him for the data, the dataset is small enough that we can quickly re-create it by hand. We'll create elements for each of the SDG goals and then create connections between them, using a "weight" field to store the count of targets two goals share.

Adding icons

The UN has done a nice job creating a color and icon for each SDG so we grabbed the URLs for each icon from the SDG website and created a view that assigns the icon based on the element being tagged with the SDG # ("sdg5" for example).

@settings {
  template: stakeholder;
  connection-curvature: 0;
  connection-color: #999;
  background-color: white;

connection {  
  label: "{{weight}}";

connection {  
  scale: scale("weight", 1, 5);

/* elements:  */
["Tags"~="checked"] {
  color: #74c89e;

["tags"*="sdg"] {
 label-placement: bottom;
 image-size: fit;
 shape: square;
 margin: -10;
 color: transparent;
 label-visibility: none;

.sdg1 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-01.jpg?w=669);

.sdg2 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-02.jpg?w=669);

.sdg3 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-03.jpg?w=669);

.sdg4 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-04.jpg?w=669);

.sdg5 {
    image-url: url(http://i0.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-05.jpg?zoom=2&w=669);

.sdg6 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-06.jpg?w=669);

.sdg7 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-07.jpg?w=669);

.sdg8 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-08.jpg?w=669);

.sdg9 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-09.jpg?w=669);

.sdg10 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-10.jpg?w=669);

.sdg11 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-11.jpg?w=669);

.sdg12 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-12.jpg?w=669);

.sdg13 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-13.jpg?w=669);

.sdg14 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-14.jpg?w=669);

.sdg15 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-15.jpg?w=669);

.sdg16 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-16.jpg?w=669);

.sdg17 {
    image-url: url(http://i2.wp.com/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E_SDG_Icons-17.jpg?w=669);

Scaling by weight

To make it clearer which goals have the most targets in common, we'll scale connections based on the "weight" field. We can even go one step further and use label templates to display the weight directly on the connection.

Analyzing the network

Once we have the network structure created, we can run a handful of network metrics to help identify which goals might be more influential. We chose to run degree, betweenness, and eigenvector.

Degree - We used degree and chose the option to weight the calculation using the "weight" field to get a count of the number of targets a given goal shares with other goals.

Betweenness - Betweenness measures the number of times a goal is on the shortest path between any two other goals. In networks of people, it is a good indicator of influential individuals.

Eigenvector - Eigenvector measures how well an element is connected to other well connected elements. In networks of people, eigenvector usually identifies the leaders in the network.

We also used an experimental metric called "MICMAC" which looks at the level of exposure (degree to which other factors upstream are likely to shift the factor) and influence (degree to which other factors downstream are shifted by the factor) for each element to see if this analysis would provide different results.

Making sense of the results

While it is tempting to think the goals highlighted by the network analysis metrics are the key leverage points, they may more likely be lagging indicators that only move once other goals begin moving. Here's a summary of the most influential factors based on the network analysis:


  • SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 1 No Poverty
  • SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production


  • SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth


  • SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 1 No Poverty


  • SDG 5 Gender Equality
  • SDG 15 Life on Land
  • SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities

How would you interpret these results? If we only had the resources to tackle a single goal, which one should it be? Add your comments below!

Tinker on your own!

If you're interested in using the data and decorations used in this project, you can find the interactive version of the project here:


Use the menu in the upper left corner and then choose "fork this project" to create a copy of the project in your own account.

And here's the raw data in a Google Sheet.

Subscribe for updates

Loading comments...