RCE North Texas - 2021

SDG Cities Challenge
Basic Information
Title of project : 
SDG Cities Challenge
Submitting RCE: 
RCE North Texas
Contributing organization(s) : 
University of Texas at Arlington
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Meghna Tare
Organizational Affiliation: 
University of Texas at Arlington
Format of project: 
Powerpoint and Class Training Modules
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Additional resources: 
SDGs Cities Challenge


The SDGs Cities Challenge is a comprehensive program for local governments and their urban partners, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2030 Development Agenda.
Framed as a challenge targeting projects connected to targets within SDG 11, ‘making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’, the SDGs Cities Challenge has an aim to contribute to the national and global delivery of the SDGs, via a program focussed on existing urban sustainable development projects.
SDG11 acts as a lens to engage cities and their urban partners with the wider 17 SDGs, while the research project focuses on learning from city participants as they engage with the SDGs, to understand how cities can better contribute to the localization of the United Nations Global Goals , and to design modules for and with cities.

The project invites Collaborating Partners to work with a select group of local governments to learn about the SDGs together through a review of available data, platforms and tools to test the approaches that support city participant’s local urban sustainable development challenges.

The project 7 modules are centered around a series of monthly webinars and two 1 day workshops, using online collaborative tools, invited subject experts and lots of peer to peer knowledge transfer, to give participating cities the opportunity to share their experiences and urban challenges, as well as progress in mapping their work against the SDGs with expert support from a diverse group of urban stakeholders.
Each Module has a different topic that encompasses a different step in the journey for cities to work towards achieving their individual challenge and begin the process of localizing the SDGs. At the end of the Challenge, participating cities are able to take the information created by and shared within the Modules to show their complete journey from start to finish.
Module 1 Introduction to SDGs
Module 2 Profiling your City's Challenge
Module 3 Getting to know your existing strategies, data and networks, developing solutions for your challenge within SDG framework
Module 4 Voluntary Local Reviews and beginning to understand your solutions
Module 5 Communications and engagement of the SDGs
Module 6 Implementation of the SDGs: How do you use your knowledge of the SDGs to implement change?
Module 7 Pathways forward, Implementation & VLR Development

Session Kick-off: Optional in-person workshop during United Nations High-Level Political Forum
2021 • New York City, NY USA


Session 1: Localizing the SDGs: Introduction to Voluntary Local Review Preparation (July 2021)
Participants will be introduced to VLR concepts and each other, including an overview of the Local2030 Agenda and inspiration for the Voluntary Local Review and subnational governments’ role in the SDGs. Following an overview of key outcomes from UN High-level Political Forum 2021, we will provide an introduction to community stakeholder engagement, equitable sustainability planning, and localizing the SDGs. This session will include a showcase of VLRs completed to date with a lead city sharing its case story.

Session 2: Stakeholder Engagement and Public Outreach (August 2021)
Participants will report back on interdepartmental opportunities and challenges to support the SDG-mapping process. A training on participatory engagement will be provided, including gaining elected leadership buy-in, fostering cross-departmental collaboration, and engaging frontline communities. We’ll workshop developing a public workshop schedule and agendas.

Session 3: Mapping the SDGs: Choosing and Tracking Indicators (September 2021)
One-on-One Technical Assistance (October-December 2021)
Participants will work with their regional ICLEI office staff to continue progress.

Session 4: Mapping the SDGs: Round-Robin (January 2022)
Participants will share progress on their VLR reporting, including report-outs from interdepartmental stakeholder and public events. A series of city staff VLR leaders will share their own experiences and help participants overcome challenges.

Session 5: Publishing Your VLR and Communicating Success (March 2022)
This session will discuss report publication opportunities, include design, websites and online dashboards, infographics and communications best practices. A community VLR leader will share their lessons learned and participants will share out on their community workshop experiences to date.

Session 6: Submitting the VLR and Global Engagement (April 2022)
To prepare for 2021 announcement of each participants’ final VLR during the 2021 High-level Political Forum, this session discusses the advocacy agenda, speaking opportunities, and publicizing the final outcomes of the cohort.

Voluntary Local Review ( VLR)
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
United States
Wise, Denton, Collin, Parker, Tarrant, Dallas, Rockwall, Johnson, Ellis, Kaufman
Address of focal point institution for project: 
The University of Texas at Arlington
701 S. Nedderman Drive
Arlington, TX 76019

Target Audience:
Local government/Cities
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
Texas is known the world over for its friendliness and southern hospitality, and for a frontier ethos of taking risks in hopes of big rewards. Cattle ranching, cotton farming and the discovery of oil made Texas an economic and development powerhouse. Today, technology, banking, telecommunications and research ensures Texas is at the forefront of growth. Texas is situated at the edge of the western frontier and stretches into the American Southwest of the United States. Being so large has contributed to a distinctly independent streak. Texas was even an independent republic for some time after gaining independence from Mexico and before joining the United States of America. This spirit of independence even extends to electrical power generation, transmission and distribution, whereby Texas is the only state in the nation to maintain its own electrical power grid. Compared to most states, Texas is physically enormous. As the second most populous state in the nation, the region of North Texas alone has a larger population than most of the other fifty states. North Texas is home to more than 10,000 U.S. corporate business headquarters, which is the highest concentration of headquarters within the United States. This includes being home to 22 of the top Fortune 500 US corporations, spanning 13 industries and fields of business. Some private- sector stakeholders such as PepsiCo have been based in the region for decades; other corporations are newcomers to the region, such as Toyota’s American headquarters.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
The North Texas Cities and members of the RCE North Texas participating in this Challenge are City of Dallas and City of Denton. The sixteen counties of North Texas encompass a diverse and vibrant demographic and economic region. Our region has grown dramatically over the past forty years, and it’s about to get much more crowded, with growth projections indicating a more than doubling in population size from the current 7.2 million residents by the year 2050. In this rapid growth scenario, all sectors of the region have grave concerns which prompt the question, “How will North Texas fare as it confronts the diverse population projections together with the associated environmental, economic, and social challenges that are sure to follow?”

May, 2021
By participating in the SDGs Cities Challenge, cities will:
- Gain new collaborative partnerships with experts in local government, academia, business and community relevant to the SDGs;
- Learn how to lead the development of innovative solutions, an implementation plan and/or reporting framework for your city’s most pressing SDG challenges;
- Create international visibility as a forerunner in contributing to the SDGs;
- Generate ongoing networking opportunities across a variety of SDG relevant groups;
- Establish valuable locally tailored SDGs knowledge and practical partnerships; and
- Be recognised through a prestigious sustainability awards program.
1.Understand how cities engage with, learn about and ultimately develop solutions to local urban sustainability goals, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
2.Increase city knowledge and understanding of localizing the SDGs, including learning about the process of developing and implementing a Voluntary Local Review (VLR), through examining examples of cities that have conducted them around the world.
3.Co-devise and develop the engagement needs of cities in implementing the SDGs into their existing city plans, through the example of the VLR.
4.Understand and enhance the roles and relationships between cities, academia and industry in knowledge creation, capacity building, skills and innovation specific to localizing the SDGs.
5.Utilize existing forums of city-to-city engagement and networking to better engage with issues relating to the localization of the SDGs.
Activities and/or practices employed: 

- Monthly (May -December 2021 with awards in February 2022) online webinars with cities, the project management team and guest speakers to learn and engage with the SDGs, as well as discuss progress, strategies and upcoming activities.
- Meetings between participating cities and the SDGs Cities Challenge team that will be focused on bridging the gap between the scope of local urban sustainability goals and the SDGs.
- In-person or online gathering at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) that will assemble cities and key urban stakeholders to offer practical information, tools, training and other resources about the SDGs provided by local and international experts

Size of academic audience: 
The 2021 SDGs Cities Challenge begins on 14 July 2021 with eight initial cities and counties from the United States: Atlanta, Georgia Dallas, Texas Denton, Texas Fayetteville, Arkansas Maui County, Hawai’i New Haven, Connecticut Orange County, Florid
The SDGs Cities Challenge is part leadership showcase, part capacity-building training, and part research project. Following six months of group-learning and one-on-one technical assistance, the Challenge participants are interviewed to contribute to the knowledge around city-level uptake of SDG themes, programs, and data-tracking. The outcomes from these interviews are recorded in a white paper to be widely distributed through city networks, including across the U.S. in the ICLEI newsletter, reaching 2,225 subscribing mayors, council members, and city staff.

Additionally, during Global Goals Week held in September 2021, Challenge cities were provided with a special social media booster session delivered by United Nations Development Program staff. Each participant posted their SDG-related city photos and stories across social media channels with UNDP amplifying the work.

Ongoing updates were supplied to the wider ICLEI USA network on Challenge progress and outcomes in the ICLEI newsletter. In 2022, the learnings are planned to be integrated into an expanded SDGs Cities Challenge for the U.S. region with the aim to make the project an annually occurring training initiative.
Lessons learned: 
The SDG Cities Challenge works with all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals because it recognizes the diversity of member cities and that a different combination of goals will need to be leveraged in response to the unique issues of each city. However, the Challenge pays special attention to enact SDG 11; Sustainable Cities and Communities. This SDG acknowledges that for an ever-increasing proportion of society, the city has become the principle ecology (World Bank 2017) and so cities must play a commensurate role in creating a sustainable future. In particular, the SDG Cities Challenge works to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and the capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable urban planning and management. It works to reduce the environmental impact of cities, particularly from air pollution and waste, and to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces.
Key messages: 
A key feature of the SDG Cities Challenge is cities’ adoption and implementation of integrated policies that enable inclusion, resource efficiency, climate change mitigation, adaptation, and system resilience.
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
Yes, the RCE North Texas has SDG 11 as focus and City of Dallas and City of Denton are members of the RCE North Texas and participating in this Cohort.

The primary source of funding for the Challenge is through ICLEI USA member dues and is offered to the eight participating cities at no cost. A small grant was awarded by the Tomberg Family Foundation to cover a portion of ICLEI coordination staff time and dissemination of learnings. The Office of Sustainability at UT Arlington and RCE North Texas provided funds to hire a Graduate Student to support this project in research, collaboration, and organization.
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Traditional Knowledge  
Curriculum Development 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 1 - Advancing policy 
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Developing capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Mobilizing youth 
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level