From 2014-2017, the USA Sustainable Cities Initiative (USA-SCI) supported SDG achievement strategies in three US cities by building on ongoing municipal sustainable development planning efforts. New York (New York), Baltimore (Maryland), and San José (California) are global pioneers – the first to develop SDG-based city-level development strategies that have served as models for cities worldwide.

Learn more about SCI Baltimore Learn more about SCI San Jose

City-university collaboration is an integral part of achieving SDGs in American cities in the long term. In the first phase of the USA-SCI, SDSN collaborated with leading academic institutions–including Columbia University, University of Baltimore, University of Maryland, San Jose State University, and Stanford University–to support the technical process of developing long-term SDG-based strategies in each city. 

The project included:

  • Inclusive dialogues, across communities, on the relevance of the SDG process and how SDGs can be made responsive to city-level development challenges and opportunities;
  • The articulation of clear and compelling goals, specific to the city, yet aligned with the global SDGs, covering poverty, jobs, security, education, health, housing, infrastructure, low-carbon energy and environmental protection;
  • Exercises into how to operationalize the goals, through carefully developed targets and indicators;
  • Identification of good practices and encouragement of their scale-up;
  • An “SDG recommendations report” for two pilot cities, outlining how the city’s sustainability efforts align with the SDGs, and offering next steps for achievement. Reports for Baltimore and San Jose were completed in December 2016;
  • A chapter on the design process behind the OneNYC sustainability plan and how that aligned with Agenda 2030 – to be published in the forthcoming book entitled Smart(er) NYC (Columbia University Press, 2017).

Efforts in the three cities have served to demonstrate what is possible with localizing the SDGs. Many tools and resources developed through this partnership can be used as models in other cities that wish to join the SDG effort. See below for examples and a template of SDG mapping in each city.

And read our October 2018 working paper on lessons for city-level SDG action here.

Other Solutions Initiatives

  • Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project

    The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) is an SDSN Solution Initiative co-founded with the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) to prepare national low-emission development pathways to 2050, consistent with limiting the rise in global temperatures to well below 2°C, as agreed in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

  • Agricultural Transformation Pathways initiative

    This SDSN Solution Initiative aims to provide support to countries in choosing realistic targets that are congruent with the new SDGs and developing technology and socio-economic roadmaps for meeting selected targets.

  • Data Reconciliation

    The process of data reconciliation, which stitches together multiple related datasets, can increase the efficiency and achieve a level of specificity hitherto unavailable to most statistics offices.

  • Rio Sustainable Cities Initiative: SDG Implementation in a Metropolitan Context

    The Rio Sustainable Cities Initiative recognizes that comprehensive sustainable urban development necessitates local and national cooperation. Holistic planning cannot be confined to local boundaries. This is particularly important as cities strive to achieve the urban sustainable development goal (SDG 11), to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

  • The World in 2050

    The World in 2050 (TWI2050) is a global research initiative in support of a successful implementation of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. The goal of TWI2050 is to provide the fact-based knowledge to support the policy process and implementation of the SDGs.

  • Local Data Action

    The Local Data Action Solutions Initiative (LDA-SI) is a crossover project between the USA-Sustainable Cities Initiative (USA-SCI) and the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS). Its main initiatives are: Convening practical know-how of sound SDG data localization Creating a living library of case studies and technical knowledge in consultation with city staff, technical partners, and […]

  • Open Algorithms Project

    The Open Algorithms project (OPAL) is led by the DataPop Alliance with partners Orange, World Economic Forum, Agence France du Developpement, PARIS21, and SDSN. OPAL demonstrates a pathway to harness private data for the public good while maintaining the datasets’ privacy, security, and proprietary value. By developing a mechanism for querying telecommunications data behind the […]

  • Virtual Open Schools

    The Virtual Open School project aims to identify and test a model for large-scale, online provision of quality secondary level education in rural areas in an economically sustainable way.