Accelerating the SDGs


Accelerating the SDGs in Cities: Urban Thinkers Campus. November 13-14, 2019 at Columbia University

Learn More about the UTC


The aim of this three stage project is to help accelerate awareness and take-up of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA).  The ASK + learn Survey explores how the SDGs are traveling among City Makers in education, the professions and civil society. Preliminary Survey findings and recommendations are available in the Working Paper. Stage 2, ACT + learn, invited City Makers to engage with the SDGs through local projects that responded to one or more SDGs. Stage 3, SHARE + learn, will disseminate outcomes:  on line, at international and local events through conferences, exhibitions, and via publications.

Project Stages

Stage 1: City Maker Survey

2018, ASK + learn

Click to view City Maker Survey Working Paper

Stage 2: Local Project Challenge

2019, ACT + learn

Click to view the Local Project Challenge gallery.

20+ civil society projects; 30+ education projects; 40+ professional projects

Stage 3: Disseminate Outcomes

2020, SHARE + learn

Project Rational

The SDGs are the centerpiece of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (2015) and the New Urban Agenda (2016) the world has a roadmap towards a more sustainable, equitable, and better designed future. Goal 11 (make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) shines a bright light on cities. Many of the other 16 goals connect to Goal 11 and also apply to life in cities.

The increase in extreme climate events along with the IPCC’s 12 year warning in 2018 makes it clear to millions around the world that climate action cannot wait. Many cities, if not governments, are taking action. Civil society is increasingly active. Town Halls are being held around the US., Sunrise, and Extinction Rebellion are just some examples of groups calling for immediate action.

Young people around the world are rightly demanding action. On March 15, 2019, 1.3 million school kids took to the streets. Children are suing governments for their failure to protect them from climate change. Biodiversity loss is reaching critical levels.

These calls to action are being heard in many places. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called a Climate Action Summit on September 23, 2019. The SDGs are a vital plank that can support and guide climate policy and action, be it a Green New Deal or any other ‘deal’.

This project began to take shape in 2018 at the ‘Implementing the SDGs’ World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur. Accelerating the SDGs builds on the participatory design and planning principles of Global Studio (2005-2012) and the knowledge sharing approaches of People Building Better Cities (2013-2015). The three projects are summarized here.

To complement this project, in partnership with Asia Initiatives and the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization, CSUD hosted an Urban Thinkers Campus: “Accelerating the SDGs in Cities”, November 13-14, 2019.


Project Team

Principals: Anna Rubbo,  Elliott Sclar, Jacqueline Klopp,Center for Sustainable Urban Development, The Earth Institute, Columbia University | Geeta Mehta, GSAPP, Columbia University | Vera Regina Tangari , Faculty of Architecture, Federal University, Rio de Janeiro.

 Elaine Angeles, USA/Philippines| Jennifer van den Bussche, South Africa | William Chan, Australia | Merlyn Mathew, USA/India | Maria Palomares, Colombia | Devangi Ramakrishnan, India | Silvia Vercher, USA/Spain