In the year 2000, 191 of the world’s leaders gathered at the Millennium Summit in New York City to adopt the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a bold set of eight goals for tackling the most crucial challenges in global development by the year 2015. This was the first time that quantifiable development measures had been endorsed on the world stage, presaging a move towards more data driven strategies. Goal 2 was to “achieve universal primary education.” Over the next 15 years, net enrollment increased dramatically, from 83% to 91%. Though it fell short of universal enrollment, this represented an impressive (nearly 50%) decrease in the number of children out of school globally.
Goals do focus minds, but not always on the right priorities. While more kids attended school, in many countries the quality of education actually declined. And as of 2015, over a hundred million youth still lacked basic literacy. Learning from the MDGs and mindful of new challenges in the twenty‐first century, the next‐generation SDGs for 2030 focus on the quality of education, with Goal 4 to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.”
Establishing a goal seems as if it should be straightforward. After all, in business the goal is typically to increase profits. Wouldn’t the analog for a mission‐driven organization be to increase social benefit? Yes, but it doesn’t turn out to be quite so easy.
When I started leading the mobile ...