Sustainable Development Goals Cohort

The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes that local and subnational governments are key stakeholders to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To better respond to what a city or region is doing to act on the SDGs, cities including Toyama, Shimokawa, and Kitakyushu in Japan, and New York City in the USA, pioneered the Voluntary Local Review (VLR) in 2018 as one mechanism to demonstrate local or subnational action toward a “Local2030 Agenda”. Helsinki, Finland; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Bristol, United Kingdom followed with their leadership in delivering VLRs of their own. By aligning local sustainability actions and plans with the SDGs, cities can advance within a shared framework and communicate to the global community their progress.

In partnership with ICLEI Oceania, University of Melbourne and University of Texas-Arlington’s Regional Center of Expertise on the SDGs, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainabilitywill host an approximately 12-month “learn-do” VLR training cohort for a minimum 5 and maximum 8 local governments (city and county) to train government staff on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) data tracking, community engagement processes, and international collaboration.

Session dates: May 2021 – December 2021 for group instruction; January 2022 – May 2022 for direct support on Voluntary Local Review Development.

At a Glance

Open To:

ICLEI Members

# Participants:


May 2021 through May 2022


400 - Advanced




Low Emissions, Resilient, Equity / People Centered, Nature-Based, Circular


There is no additional cost to participate. ICLEI estimates the value of this instruction at $15,000 per community: 10 to 12 hours of group instruction, 5 hours of individual support, access to tools and peer network, and recognition.


Open to ICLEI members only. Some familiarity with the Sustainable Development Goals is helpful but not required. A desire to work across multiple city or county departments and engage with community organizations is required, including willingness to collect a range of data related to SDG indicators.

Who Will Participate

A minimum 5 and up to 8 ICLEI members from the United States will participate. Communities should be committed to engaging their city or county colleagues across various departments: transportation, sustainability, resilience, community development, economic development, etc. Additionally, community groups and resident-led task forces will have opportunities to collaborate on aspects of the cohort.

Effort Level

This cohort is anticipated to be delivered at a 400 level (advanced). Participants will attend live virtual training sessions and complete tasks between sessions. ICLEI technical experts will provide individual coaching sessions. Expect a minimum 200 hours of effort across approximately 12 months of the cohort duration.


Subject to change based on participating communities’ feedback.

The SDG Cohort will be divided into seven learning modules, each presenting a step in the process of localizing the SDGs. The modules are categorized into three stages of the SDG Cohort.

Stage 1: Learning (May – June; 2 sessions). During this stage, cities will be introduced to the concepts of the Sustainable Development Goals —what it means to localize the sub-goals and indicators, build cross-departmental support and establish community-wide SDG education – and the process for undertaking a Voluntary Local Review

Stage 2: Defining your Challenge (July; 2 deep-dive workshops). Intensive workshops aligned with timing of the High Level Political Forum, when participating governments will identify priority “challenge areas” to work on from three categories: Mapping/management of data; Community engagement and/or Cross-departmental collaboration; Funding/Financing SDG action.

Stage 3: Implementation (August to November; 3 sessions). Participants perform data-mapping for a minimum one SDG, plus implement a component of their chosen Challenge area, which can inform a draft Voluntary Local Review.

Across the modules a number of assets will be produced and delivered: a workbook, monthly webinars, two deep-dive workshops a dedicated forum within ICLEI’s online community platform and Miro or Jamboard (online collaboration spaces) engagement. Participants will work their way through the workbook which allows them to dive deeper into their individual challenges. The monthly webinars will be delivered by utilising multiple modes of engagement – Zoom, and the digital whiteboard application, Miro and supplemented by ongoing interaction in the ICLEI Community platform.

A showcase session will bring cohort participants together to share out lessons learned with the wider ICLEI community during ICLEI World Congress 2021, hosted by City of Malmo, Sweden, and convened virtually April 12-16.


Contact Kale Roberts, ICLEI Senior Program Officer at for details.