Reviewed by Deborah Doane, Partner at Rights CoLab.

Something about the SDG targets doesn’t sit right with me, and now I know why thanks to David Boyle’s aptly named and compelling book, Tickbox, which unpacks how we have become so enamoured with box-ticking style measurement, that we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture

The SDGs have 17 goals, 169 targets and 231 indicators. There are bureaucracies absorbing chunks of funding, dedicated to measurement. Sometimes it feels as if measuring the SDGs is more important than the goals. The indicators themselves are technocratic and arguably biased towards a Western model of development.

The author explains how the tickbox approach of the Taylor school of management and later the McKinsey culture came to dominate our public discourse, through ‘expert’ led development resulting in ‘Tyranny by KPI’. One of the saddest stories in the book is the plight of refugees in the UK who have been victims of the government’s hostile approach, the management of which is entirely down to an assembly line, tickbox mentality: don’t have the paperwork? You’re out.

Next Book review to read

Philanthropic Foundations In Canada: Landscapes, Indigenous Peoples and pathways to change

Alexandra Williamson