The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals are a bold and important declaration of the world’s priorities. But they are merely symbolic if we cannot convert them into a comprehensive strategy that yields maximum social stability for all nations.

A New Way To Prioritize Investment in the SDGs

In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals set an ambitious agenda for solving humanity’s most pressing problems in a 15-year span. But with 17 goals and 169 targets, the well-intentioned effort risks drowning under its own weight. Without a sensible roadmap for sequencing the development goals, governments, multilateral organizations and the private sector lack a way to prioritize their investments. The finite funding available will follow personal biases or be too dispersed to make a difference. Based on a survey of 250 development experts around the world, the social stability model offers a framework for prioritizing the SDG targets to build strong and successful societies.  Read More

Take the Survey Yourself

We have developed a version of the survey for students, activists and the public – inviting everyone to participate in this intellectual and social challenge. Results of the public survey will not be reflected in the expert survey findings released in May 2017, but will be reported separately on Twitter at @greatsocialgood. Instructors seeking more information may contact us.

What We’re Doing

Maslow’s Hierarchy for Society

Two years ago, the countries of the world adopted the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to guide efforts to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. The process of developing the SDGs was wide-ranging and inclusive, resulting in 17 goals and 169 related targets. Obviously, achieving these targets – estimated to cost upwards of $3 trillion US over 15 years – would be served by clear, comprehensive priorities.

Some groups have suggested that their causes – climate change, global health or water scarcity – dictate those priorities; others have put forward economic arguments related to individual targets’ affordability or ROI. We’re after something substantively different.

Experts Around the World

We’re asking: What is the right, most sensible order in which to tackle all of the SDGs and their targets? To help us answer the question, we are surveying approximately 250 experts from around the world in economics, political science and the social sciences – from universities, think tanks, governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector. With their input, we can develop a general model for increasing social stability in any country in the world.

The survey results will be released in May 2017. Next steps include reconciling the general findings with country data to produce country-specific priorities for increasing social stability, and working with computer scientists to engage artificial intelligence in providing real-time, adaptive priorities.


Jeff Leitner, Project Lead

Leitner is a Fellow with Bretton Woods II, an initiative at New America to leverage $250 billion in global, long-term investment for social impact. He is a founder and managing director of GreenHouse: The Center of Social Innovation; lead developer of Innovation Dynamics, the first systematic approach and tool for social innovation; Innovator in Residence at the University of Southern California, in the world’s largest school of social work; founder and director of UX for Good; and founder and former director of Insight Labs. @greatsocialgood

New America

Washington, DC. New America is a think tank and civic enterprise committed to renewing American politics, prosperity, and purpose in the Digital Age. We generate big ideas, bridge the gap between technology and policy, and curate broad public conversation. Structurally, we combine the best of a policy research institute, technology laboratory, public forum, media platform, and a venture capital fund for ideas. We are a distinctive community of thinkers, writers, researchers, technologists, and community activists who believe deeply in the possibility of American renewal. @newamerica


Paris. The mission of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. The OECD provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems. We work with governments to understand what drives economic, social and environmental change; measure productivity and global flows of trade and investment; analyse and compare data to predict future trends; and set international standards. @oecd


Chicago. GreenHouse: The Center of Social Innovation has been partnering with government, corporations, universities and the social sector since 2010 on complex social challenges, including health care, international diplomacy, public education and genocide commemoration. Current efforts include cataloguing social norms related to the treatment of ovarian cancer, charting the future evolution of social good, and updating strategies to reduce the likelihood of nuclear holocaust. Our work has informed development of the first doctorate in social innovation – at the University of Southern California – and Innovation Dynamics, the first systematic approach and tool for social innovation. @greatsocialgood