North American Organizations Exchange Lessons in Localizing the SDGs
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The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) organized a webinar on localizing the SDGs in the North American context, featuring examples of sub-national efforts in British Columbia, Hawai’i, Winnipeg, and Baltimore.

Online platforms that were launched before the SDGs are working to update their projects and link with SDG indicators.

22 February 2018: The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) organized a webinar on localizing the SDGs in the North American context, featuring examples of sub-national efforts in British Columbia, Hawai’i, Winnipeg, and Baltimore.

Jennifer Temmer, IISD, moderated the discussion and highlighted that all of the initiatives participating in the webinar seek to bring the SDGs “closer to home in order to stimulate and inspire progress at the local level.”

Kusum Wijesekera, Global Empowerment Coalition of the Central Okanagan (GECCO), outlined the SDG Scorecards Initiative led by GECCO and the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC). The project provides a snapshot of progress made at the community level within BC, according to indicators. Like a school report card, she said, the results highlight areas where a community is excelling, and where more focus is needed, and a strong overall score requires attention to all areas. The larger ambition in bringing the SDGs into BC communities is to “get us to look at what we are doing to the planet and each other,” and to inspire solutions that use science, technology and creativity.

Celeste Connors, Hawai’i Green Growth, presented the ‘Aloha+ Challenge,’ a statewide commitment for 2030 to put Hawai’i on a green growth pathway. It was launched eight years ago, before the SDGs were finalized. The online dashboard tracks specific indicators and seeks to educate students and next-generation leaders on how to use the data to innovate. The project also enables private sector actors to see their impacts at the local level. She reported that, like Hawai’i’s state legislation to adopt the Paris Agreement on climate change adopted in 2017, an effort is underway to formally sign onto the SDGs through a statute.

As an island economy, Hawai’i has a culture of looking at linkages across systems, and can help teach others to do the same.

Connors noted that localizing the SDGs has benefits for both the community and the global framework. She said that for Hawaii, being connected to the SDG framework can “uplift local priorities” and create a broader network of action. At the same time, as an island economy, Hawai’i has a culture of looking at linkages across systems, and can help teach others to do the same: “sometimes you need to go old to go new,” she said. In addition, she stressed that the state’s success depends on the world’s: even if Hawaii achieves all its goals, global behavior change is required to protect the island from climate change and other threats.

Stefan Jungcurt, IISD, presented the PEG Community Indicator System for Winnipeg, Canada, which is led by a partnership of IISD and The United Way of Winnipeg. With the PEG portal being established in 2009, Jungcurt reported that creation of “PEG 2.0” is underway, in order to link the indicators to the SDGs. This is expected to help to make the link between what is happening in Winnipeg and what is happening in other communities, and provides a tool for localizing the SDGs. The project also plans to include alternative data sources, and to better showcase the data that actually helps to change behavior. He added that the platform shows results both in graph and map form, so users to compare indicators over time or by neighborhood. The project also produces an annual report on how Winnipeg is doing overall.

Baltimore, Maryland, US, is another city that has sought to localize the SDGs. Seema Iyer of the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance said her organization was invited to explore whether and how this could be done. She said the Alliance reviewed the 169 SDG targets, and selected those targets that best applied to Baltimore after determining which issues the city’s neighborhoods most wanted to track. A focus was selected for Goal 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). The effort to measure the selected indicators revealed important data gaps, which Iyer said has been a benefit of applying the SDGs.

Iyer outlined a “feedback loop” of assessing local needs, mapping them against the global framework, and finding the gaps to bring back locally. She also said that, through this process, US cities are realizing that the SDGs are a tool for communicating about themselves to the rest of the world. As another lesson learned through the process, Iyer said the SDG targets should not feel like a limit on communities; in Baltimore’s case, a key measure of SDG 11 is the number of vacant and abandoned buildings. Despite that not being an official indicator of the SDGs, it is an important indicator for Baltimore and has been included in the local monitoring process. In April 2018, she said the project will release its sustainability plan, which will connect to the SDG framework, taking inspiration from New York City’s One NY Plan. [Webinar Information] [Webinar Recording] [IISD Blog Post on Lessons Learned]


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