How the AIS can improve its contributions to the UN’s sustainability development goals: Towards a framework for scaling collaborations and evaluating impact


In June, 2019, the Association for Information Systems (AIS) adopted a new approach to addressing global sustainability issues by establishing the AIS Sustainability Task Force (AIS STF). This initiative focuses on building on the outcomes from the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDG, 2000-2015) and applying them to address the challenges associated with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG, 2016-2030). In this paper, we review the challenges and outcomes from the UN sustainability programs with their potential relevance to IS in general and the AIS in particular to inform and assist increased efforts to achieve the global sustainability goals. The initial event, the AIS Sustainability Summit held at ICIS 2019, provided a forum for AIS groups and communities to share their current interests, plans, activities, and experiences relevant to the MDG and SDG. The event primarily focused on facilitating opportunities to scale the AIS’s sustainability activities through multi-disciplinary collaboration across the AIS and its communities. Members from four AIS special interest groups and the STF’s Education Workgroup presented exemplary projects at the summit that demonstrated how one can apply applied IS and research capabilities to address sustainability challenges. The sustainability summit’s also explored opportunities to achieve positive impact in addressing the SDG’s global challenges through applying AIS members’ knowledge, skills, and capabilities in relevant ways in collaboration with suitable organizations outside the AIS. Potential organizations include business, government, societal groups, and UN bodies. We presented and discussed the AIS STF’s aims, plans, outcomes, and impact. By analyzing details and options for cross-organizational collaboration, the representatives of organizations at the sustainability summit developed a proposed framework for scaling contributions and evaluating impact. Finally, they drew conclusions about the proposed activities, approaches, and framework for the AIS to improve the scope and scale of its contributions in addressing the SDG. Critically, the AIS needs to ensure that its proposed activities, contributions, and impact are examined by an internationally recognized independent process. We propose a model for the AIS to realize this requirement for evaluation in 2021.

In Communications of the Association for Information Systems