SDGs project Cross-city learning

Cross-city learning, implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Opportunities to learn, re-think and to ‘think outside the box’

In conjunction with Mistra Urban Futures’ conference in Cape Town the week of Nov 5, the ‘Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) and the New Urban Agenda: Comparative Urban Perspectives’ project (SDGS project) held a set of cross-city learning activities.

Officials and researchers from the seven case study cities were invited to attend the conference in Cape Town and a number of additional activities were organised to facilitate exchange among the cities. City representatives from Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Gothenburg, Malmö, and Shimla, a county representative from Kisumu and the Minister of Housing from the State of Himachal Pradesh in India, were participating. 

All seven cities (which include Sheffield in addition to the ones previously mentioned) were represented by researchers from the project. In addition to the events that took place as part of the conference, which included a panel of practitioners and academics where the importance of integrated governance for achieving the SDGs (sustainable development goals) and the New Urban Agenda was discussed, the SDGs project team participated in the following activities.

Cross-city learning activities

  • Site visit guided by officials from the City of Cape Town to the informal settlement of Dunoon where issues such as right to housing, access to water and sewerage, transportation and public infrastructure development were discussed
  • Two cross-city learning workshops where practitioners and researchers shared their experiences in adapting the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda to the city level; as well as ways forward to continue exchanging experiences
  • A sharing knowledge event hosted by the City of Cape Town during which staff from different departments of the City of Cape Town attended and all the case study cities presented their main sustainability challenges and how they are trying to address them in the context of the SDGs, followed by a panel from representatives from different departments of the City of Cape Town where the city’s land use planning approaches, resilience strategy and SDGs work were discussed. 

The different activities proved to be very fruitful and highly appreciated by practitioners and researchers alike. As one of the participants summarised it as part of the week’s evaluation:“I have learnt that the cities have similar challenges to reach the SDGs, no matter where they are located or even what resources they have”. Another participant summarised the experience as follows: “the knowledge-exchange and experience-exchange parts of the conference have been excellent and give us the opportunity to learn, re-think and to ‘think outside the box’. Great to meet city colleagues and researchers!”

After the conference, informal exchanges between several cities have been initiated asking for follow-up information on topics of interest. In addition, one of the concrete outcomes of these different activities was the agreement to test a peer-to-peer initiative where each case study city team (practitioner and researcher) will prepare a brief document outlining an issue they are trying to work with related to the implementation of the SDGs (for example, adapting indicators for monitoring progress on the SDGs to the local level, developing a multi-actor SDGs lab, creating an awareness raising campaign, to name a few); in turn, another case study city team will review the document and provide constructive feedback based on the experiences in their own city. The first round of peer-to-peer review will be completed in February 2019. The next face-to-face cross-city learning activities will take place during the next Mistra Urban Futures’ annual conference in Sheffield in October 2019. 

Read more about the SDGs and Urban Agenda project

Read more about the Conference Realising Just Cities