City-University Partnerships in Sustainability

City-University Partnerships in Sustainability

Universities and local governments are stepping up in unison to ensure their communities continue to be resilient in the face of change and uncertainty caused by global climate change. To ensure climate action goals are met, a growing number of cities and universities are partnering to implement best-practice sustainability initiatives and policies in an ambitious, timely, and integrated manner. By working together, universities and cities have helped whole communities accelerate timelines for meeting climate action goals.

How Cities and Universities Are Working Together

City-university partnerships – both in large cities such as Portland, Oregon and small towns such as Eau Claire, Wisconsin – have different collaborative structures, purposes, and objectives across the country. While universities often provide expertise, in some cases these entities also provide climate action leadership. Local governments have provided universities with a framework for project collaboration, as well as internships for hands-on student learning opportunities. Together, these partnerships have generated a variety of benefits and opportunities for surrounding communities to uniquely address how they are threatened by climate change.

  • A common project that city-university partnerships jointly work on is an initiative of meeting 100% renewable energy throughout the community by a precise deadline. While implementation of this shared goal varies among different communities, many have found that collective action is necessary to meet such goals.

How City-University Partnerships Are Beneficial

  • Ability to utilize the expertise of researchers at your local University
  • Opportunity to further connect your community
  • Help achieve climate action goals in a more integrated manner
  • Increase the number of available resources (such as funding) for cross-sector projects, such as those aimed at improving sustainability and/or resiliency
  • Provide hands-on learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students
  • Co-create solutions, make well-informed decisions, and share knowledge
  • Strengthen your networks by joining other coalitions
  • Be a part of the development of local climate action

How ICLEI is Supporting These Initiatives

  • During 2017 and early 2018, ICLEI has guided and supported two interns – Kate Manzer and Sam Krasnobrod – in communicating their graduate research on city-university collaborations in sustainability. Through this internship, they produced a websiteand presented on a webinar .
  • ICLEI USA has recently opened affiliation to U.S. colleges and universities to provide these entities with the same benefits received by their local government members. Some of these benefits include: access to resources and tools, invitations to exclusive webinars and partner events, subscription to their iNews newsletter, and recognition of institutional successes throughout the ICLEI network.
  • ICLEI USA encourages universities and cities to learn about and consider their role in helping this initiative progress. Local climate action has never been more important. By promoting the benefits of city-university partnerships, and the opportunity these provide for accelerating climate action goals, ICLEI USA hopes local governments and universities nation-wide will take action together.

Get Involved!

  • To learn more about these partnerships and other city-university case studies, please visit the City-University Collaborations on Sustainability website, here.
    • This website provides a platform to share your own story about how your local government or university has collaborated on sustainability-related projects. Please visit the “Share Your Story” page, here.
    • You will also find included on this website, a list of resources related to this topic. This includes books, webinars, conference recordings, other online sources, and networks. Please visit the “Resources” page, here, to take advantage of this service.
  • Join ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA as a local government member or higher education affiliate to gain access to tools, support, resources, and networks necessary to set and exceed your sustainability goals, here.
    • By joining as a higher education affiliate, universities and colleges have the opportunity to access ICLEI tools like ClearPath Pro. This tool guides users in conducting greenhouse gas inventories for their own unique campus. This tool may also be used by universities to conduct this type of inventory for nearby cities.

Photo by Allen Forrest