Learning to Localize: LDA-SI Micro-Grant Selections Announced

Written by Sandra Ruckstuhl

“How can we localize the SDGs?”  Two and a half years into the SDG project, cities and local government actors are still trying to answer this question.  What we have learned (from projects like SDSN’s Sustainable Cities Initiative) is that data plays an integral role in defining and guiding localization strategies. In setting these strategies, local governments, academics, civil society organizations and businesses are innovating the way data is used to support long-term development goals. City actors are learning by doing and are eager to learn from their peers.

SDSN’s Local Data Action Solutions Initiative (LDA-SI) was established with this primary objective: to promote sound, replicable technical methods for sub-national SDG monitoring that facilitate local action in support of the “leave no one behind” principle (LNOB). LDA-SI focuses on four categories of inquiry:

  1. Indicator localization: What useful, feasible, functional sub-national data indicators can be used to promote SDG action and achievement? How are specific indicators aligned with the IAEG-SDG global indicators, as well as existing city-level data systems? And how does the identified indicator drive SDG action?

  2. Data platforms: What are models (including both function and design) for data dashboards that can provide granular (e.g., block level) data on SDG (or SDG-aligned) indicators?

  3. Third-party data: How can third-party data be used to fill gaps in sub-national data systems (considering, for example, citizen-generated data or telecom data)?

  4. National-local data integration: What are methods for aligning and integrating national and sub-national SDG reporting systems?

Now in our second phase of work, LDA-SI has launched a micro-grant initiative aiming to seed and support local data innovations in these four areas, and to promote the dissemination of lessons from these experiences to inform sub-national SDG data efforts worldwide.

Following a call for proposals in late January 2018, SDSN received dozens of quality submissions, touching every corner of the globe, and representing an extraordinarily wide selection of data activities and technical expertise. This diverse pool of applications illustrates the incredible breadth and depth of SDG data localization initiatives underway worldwide.

The final selection of grantees was determined based on several criteria: clarity of concept; applicability for actions toward SDG target achievement; and transferability, replicability, adaptability, and affordability of the proposed methodology. Proposals were also assessed to determine the strength of the applicants’ local partnerships, in order to ensure the proposed data products would be relevant and utilized. Additionally, the selection team considered the applicants’ plans for long-term action, beyond the life of the grant. The chosen group of awardees is diverse in terms of geography and development contexts, types of technical outputs, and inclusive approaches (promoting the principle of Leave No One Behind). Furthermore, SDSN is proud to be partnering with awardees who boast strong reputations as knowledge partners, communicators and educators.

These five proposals were selected:

  • For Aruba, Wolfs Company will build on existing TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) and SDG analysis in Aruba to create a framework and an online data dashboard that will track land and marine socioeconomic and ecological indicators and inform SDG achievement efforts on the island. The model, which will align with data systems of state agencies within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, will provide an example of how tracking ecosystem services can support SDG achievement in a hyper-specific geographic location and will provide a replicable methodology that will be of particular interest to small island contexts.

  • For Brazil, the Metropolitan SDG Observatory (METRODS) and Nossa BH Movement will collaborate with the Metropolitan Agency of Belo Horizonte, Centro Universitário Newton Paiva and other local partners to collect data and analyze a set of 80 indicators that focus on SDG #11 achievement in the Belo Horizonte Metropolitan Area. The indicators will allow the establishment of a long-term, practical tool for informing political decision-making and development investment, and for educating civil society so that they can understand development conditions and monitor their priorities for the region. This effort will offer an innovative model for including marginalized areas, as the geographic focus will incorporate peripheral areas of the Metropolitan Area and will maintain the objective of reducing localized inequalities through a strategic approach to data collection, analysis and dissemination.

  • In Colombia, Red de Ciudades Cómo Vamos and Fundación Corona, with the support of graduate students from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), are developing a public online data tool that will track SDG indicators and goals for 19 Colombian urban agglomerations (over 35 municipalities), covering over 40% of the country’s population. The tool, which will add and contribute to national and sub-national data initiatives led by the national government, provides a unique example of a civil society-led project to create a common set of sub-national indicators, which must reconcile local variances in capacity and development across numerous locations within a country, while providing citizens the opportunity to learn, track and monitor SDG progress at the local level.

  • In India, Community Systems Foundation's OpenCities Institute will work with the city of Patiala (Punjab) to create a proof-of-concept package for SDG localization: a model indicator framework that reflects municipal human development objectives across sectors, hosted on a prototype data dashboard. Building on previous work in Patiala connecting road safety indicators to the Global Agenda, this project will set a precedent for using the SDGs to frame development priorities across sectors, in Indian cities that have less exposure on the global stage. It will serve as a first step towards a full-scale SDG observatory, encouraging the city to define (through an inclusive process) the particular human development challenges that "business as usual" planning is ineffective at addressing.

  • In the United States, the City of Los Angeles has committed to integrating the SDGs into the city’s long-term sustainable development strategy. To achieve their aim, L.A. has partnered with Occidental College to explore how the city can incorporate the SDGs into the city’s plans, projects, partnerships and budgets. Working with students from Occidental and other local universities, the City of L.A. is mapping key sectors and stakeholders–including non-profits and businesses–to build an activated network around local targets and indicators. The project will produce a multi-sector monitoring plan and identify new ways for cities to adapt global indicators to the local level.

Over the next several months the grantees will implement their work plans to develop sub-national SDG data solutions. In late 2018 each party will release a learning brief explaining the methodology behind their data solution, providing a blue print for local initiatives in other locations to replicate and adapt. News and information about these activities will be shared via the LDA-SI and SDSN websites, and via social media, so stay tuned.

For further information about the grantees, or about the long list of applicants, contact LDA-SI Program Manager Sandra Ruckstuhl.

NOTE: Applications are no longer being accepted.

Originally published at UNSDSN.org on May 1, 2018.