18 January 2021
Brief Explores How LA Leveraged University Partnerships for SDG Progress
Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
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Several colleges and universities in Los Angeles, US, have engaged students in SDG-related fieldwork, courses, and projects focused on issues of interest to the LA city government.

Both the city and the universities benefited from the projects, with the students and faculty gaining an opportunity to conduct applied research and the city gaining capacity, expertise, and an outside perspective.

The second brief in the Brookings Institution’s ‘City Playbook for Advancing the SDGs’ series explores ways in which the city of Los Angeles, California, US, has leveraged partnerships with universities and their students to make “measurable and shareable progress on the SDGs.”

Sanjeev Khagram, Occidental College, was the first university partner for the City. The brief highlights that he brought his professional network and expertise in building multi-sector partnerships. Additional university partners that have subsequently joined in LA’s efforts to implement the SDGs include the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Southern California (USC), Arizona State University, and Pomona College.

These colleges have engaged students in sustainable development fieldwork, courses, and projects focused on the SDGs. Student-led projects for clients in the Los Angeles City Hall have included research on global best practices to improve indoor air quality, creating a journey map for LA residents experiencing housing insecurity, and developing data sets and decision support tools for 21 of the 23 indicators in L.A.’s Biodiversity Index.

The brief’s authors are Erin Bromaghim, Director of Olympic and Paralympic Development and Hilton Fellow on the SDGs, and Angela Kim, SDG Program and Data Manager, both in the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles. They highlight that the partnerships began by identifying champions at each university. They note that to ensure the projects added value for all involved, it was important that the City clients were committed to keeping the projects on track, that projects were scoped appropriately for the amount of time available, and that expectations were shared regarding the skills, support, and level of interaction required of all parties to achieve the desired outcomes.

The authors note that both the City and the universities benefited from the projects. The students and faculty gained an opportunity to conduct applied research and engage in service-based learning. The City gained capacity, expertise, and an outside perspective in response to the challenges the university teams addressed. [Publication: How universities can help cities achieve the Sustainable Development Goals] [SDG Knowledge Hub summary of the first brief in the “City Playbook” series]

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