Bridging local-national SDG monitoring gaps: A recap of Data Day 2018

October 3, 2018
Written by Jay Neuner

The gargantuan task of monitoring progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) necessitates the involvement of a wide range of actors across government and other sectors. Attempts to align the work of these actors have exposed many gaps, from the quality and frequency of data to how various stakeholders in the monitoring pipeline communicate. At Data Day 2018, TReNDS shed light on one particular type of gap–that between local and national SDG monitoring efforts–through presentations from practitioners and experts and breakout sessions with contributions from all attendees.

We were fortunate to hear from:

  Alain De Remes La Brely of CIDE presents Mexico’s Cities Index. Source: Jay Neuner for SDSN

Alain De Remes La Brely of CIDE presents Mexico’s Cities Index. Source: Jay Neuner for SDSN

  Jeanne Holm of the City of Los Angeles details the city’s work to align existing sustainability plans with the SDG indicators. Source: Micha Dugan for SDSN

Jeanne Holm of the City of Los Angeles details the city’s work to align existing sustainability plans with the SDG indicators. Source: Micha Dugan for SDSN

The multitude of experiences shared and programs described were clear evidence that there is no single solution to align local and national SDG monitoring, and that issues in financing and collaboration still hamper these efforts. However, many of the solutions out there are showing promising, initial returns and have high potential for scale and replication.

Leadership is key to drive data for the SDGs. No matter if it is at the national, regional, or city level – leadership is the silver bullet to drive the agenda forward.
— Alexandra Silfverstolpe Tolstoy, Data Act Lab

One example is Colombia’s portal illustrating progress on the SDGs at a regional level. This portal was developed in partnership with Data Act Lab, which is building on this work to develop similar portals for South Africa and Tanzania, being launched in 2019. Similarly, CODE’s Brock Fanning showcased a prototype dashboard for the city of Baltimore, Maryland that built off of his organization’s national-level, open-source SDG reporting platforms, which are in use in the U.S. and the U.K.

Throughout the day, an ever-present theme emerged in the push-and-pull between contexts and commonalities in this process of national-local alignment. For example, the unique context of each metropolitan area within a single country can make alignment of multiple cities’ data challenging. As Data Act Lab’s Alexandra Silfverstolpe Tolstoy noted of the Colombian context, “There is vast disparity among districts across the indicators.” But building on commonalities between existing sustainability plans and the SDG indicators can ease the alignment process, as Jeanne Holm from the City of Los Angeles detailed.

Speakers and attendees alike emerged from the event recommitted (or newly committed) to supporting national and local alignment in SDG monitoring and data sharing. Read on for reflections from some of our presenters, as well as available presentations and other resources.


Presentations, Resources, and Reflections

Alain De Remes La Brely, CIDE – Presentation on Mexico’s Cities Index

The index, developed by CIDE and sponsored by Citi Banamex, measures SDG progress of 56 out of 59 metropolitan areas in Mexico.

In his words:

“[The event was] a great journey that led to exploration of concepts and measurements to operationalize SDGs at different levels, […] a great forum to exchange ideas on which SDG could and, perhaps, should be measured.”

Alexandra Silfverstolpe Tolstoy, Data Act Lab – Top-down perspective: Co-designing platforms for use

Data Act Labs worked with Colombia’s national statistical agency (known as DANE) to develop an online portal breaking down SDG data to the regional level.

In her words:

“Leadership is key to drive data for the SDGs. No matter if it is at the national, regional, or city level – leadership is the silver bullet to drive the agenda forward. And that does not only apply to government officials, but also amongst academia, civil society and the private sector. If there is a will, there is a way!”

 

Brock Fanning, CODE – Top-down perspective: Opening national tech platforms to incorporate local data

CODE’s SDG National Reporting Initiative focuses on helping organizations and governments to answer policy or technical questions about the SDGs, and has developed open-source platforms for SDG reporting.

In his words:

“The key takeaway for me was the critical importance of exposing the platform's data in a standard format, such as CSVW or SDMX. Even though these data standards were not directly discussed during the meeting, it became clear to me that interoperability between systems will likely be crucial, and so standard machine-readable data output seems like a no-brainer. Hearing the detailed discussion of alignment (and non-alignment) between global and local indicators really drove this point home for me. I plan to make standardized data output a development priority in the near future.”

Luis Hernán Sáenz, Red de Ciudades Cómo Vamos – Bottom-up perspective: Coordinating cities’ data through the SDGs

Red de Ciudades Cómo Vamos is helping urban areas of Colombia to identify SDGs relevant to them, and is also developing an urban toolkit and dashboard to evaluate city alignment to the SDGs and related performance.

In his words:

“The success of localizing the SDGs will most definitely depend on the capacity of multiple actors to recognize and appropriate the SDG framework as [their] own, and to align and localize it not for the sake of achieving it, but because it's an opportunity to change the way most cities are thought, planned and developed. Identifying relations and accelerators among and between SDGs is fundamental to allow for a better and more efficient prioritization of policies, programs, and resources, and for strengthening collaboration among sectors and actors; local data, understood as an array of resources coming from a vast number of actors and places, is instrumental to achieve this.”

 

Alainna Lynch, SDG USA – Presentation of Sustainable Development Report of the United States, 2018

SDG USA is a think tank building on SDSN’s work to develop global and U.S. cities indices of SDG progress. For the United States, they analyzed 103 indicators across 50 states.

In her words:

“In response to the work done by the Data Act Lab, I’m reflecting on how our future work might be more open or modular to allow administrations or organizations to build upon or add nuance to our analysis. Overall, [I] am inspired by the work and grateful for the discussions had during the data conference and am re-energized to find ways to collaborate and amplify the excellent work being done.”

 

Jeanne Holm, City of Los Angeles and SDSN TReNDS member – Bottom-up perspective: Reporting on the SDGs within a city

The City of Los Angeles has adopted the SDGs locally and is aligning them to existing sustainability plans, with a particular focus on issues such as poverty.

  • Presentation coming soon

  Jeanne Holm of the City of Los Angeles, Brock Fanning of CODE, and event participants discuss technical platforms for SDG reporting. Source: Jay Neuner for SDSN

Jeanne Holm of the City of Los Angeles, Brock Fanning of CODE, and event participants discuss technical platforms for SDG reporting. Source: Jay Neuner for SDSN

 

Melika Edquist, SDSN – Introduction to SDSN’s Local Data Action Solutions Initiative

SDSN’s Local Data Action Solutions Initiative aims to disseminate analysis and information on the use of data at subnational levels. It focuses on four areas: indicator localization, data platforms, the use of third-party data, and national-local data integration.  

 

Resources from all Data Day 2018 participants

Have a resource to add? Email us at trends@unsdsn.org.