Open Source Tools for Local Action on the SDGs
City of Los Angeles (
Los Angeles adopted the SDG framework in late 2017 with the aim of improving the lives of L.A. residents. We have pioneered two open-source tools for SDG action at the local level: the Open Source SDG Data Reporting Platform (Open SDG) and the SDG Activities Index. While Open SDG was developed for national statistics, L.A. is the first city to adapt it for sub-national reporting. The SDG Activities Index is a searchable and exportable crowd-sourced encyclopedia of organizations advancing the SDGs in L.A designed to build local shared capacity for the SDGs. Both of these tools have wikis and their code can be reused by other organizations to advance the SDGs in their communities.
Cities are hubs for the innovation and action that will be required to achieve the Global Goals by 2030. We approach our SDG work along three avenues: measure, mobilize, and connect. Our open-source tools are enablers for all of these: measuring ourselves to identify where opportunities to mobilize new initiatives are greatest, and connecting with partners and practitioners to build the partnerships needed to so - both locally and within the global SDG community of practice. L.A.’s Open Source Tools are revolutionary, as no other city in the world has created and distributed free technology and methodology for localizing SDGs available to anyone working to advance the Goals. This includes the methodology for localizing SDG targets and indicators, and the wikis to adapt both OpenSDG and the Activities Index for use anywhere.
L.A. is currently reporting data on 160 localized SDG indicators, continuously measuring progress on the Goals. Data reporting allows us to identify areas where specific population groups may be left behind through data disaggregation. The Activities Index helps us build a growing network of actors advancing the SDGs through their everyday work. We are the only city in the world aggregating projects across the public, private, and non-profit sectors and linking them to the SDGs through an open source platform; actively building capacity to achieve the Goals within our community.
Implementation of the SDGs in L.A. was initiated by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation through the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. This initial grant has enabled the development and implementation of L.A.’s work to align and report on the SDGs, as well as both Open SDG and the Activities Index. In addition to the grant funding, we have also received in kind support from five key local university partners: Occidental College, University of Southern California, Arizona State University, University of California Los Angeles, and Pomona College. The Open SDG platform was localized for L.A. in partnership with the Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE), the City’s Information Technology Agency (ITA), and with support from the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. Since Open SDG is not proprietary, there were no licensing costs associated with the deployment of the platform locally. Several modifications were needed to ensure the platform reflected a local government reality. All those changes are recorded in an open Wiki that can be accessed by other cities or organizations that may want to deploy their own platforms. The Open SDG platform is maintained by the project team with support from student interns through academic partnerships. The Activities Index was custom made for Los Angeles using open source frameworks. The code and implementation instructions for the Activities Index are also available in a public Wiki accessible by other cities and organizations, for free and for their own use. The initial list of projects included in the Activities Index was inputted by a team of student interns and additional entries are crowdsourced from the community. Any organization doing work to advance the SDGs in Los Angeles can input their efforts into this growing database.
The data platform currently reports on 160 localized SDG indicators, pulling data from various local and national sources into one place. Where possible, the datasets are disaggregated by demographic and geographic characteristics, allowing users to identify populations that may be left behind. The data platform engages about 250 users per month and it has been used as a source of data for other equity-centered initiatives, including our work in gender and racial equity. The Activities Index currently hosts over 150 local projects making progress on the SDGs in L.A. Since its launch, the Activities Index has had almost 1,000 users. Beyond the numbers, both open source platforms have enabled L.A.'s engagement with a growing number of international cities mobilizing the goals in their own communities. Furthermore, through our open source tools as well as our mobilization projects, we have worked with over 160 undergraduate and graduate students from our partner academic institutions.
The strong political leadership from Mayor Eric Garcetti and his vision that global challenges can be solved locally and that sustainable development starts at home created a strong enabling environment for this work. Additionally, grant funding from the Conrad N. Hilton foundation and in-kind support from our academic partners have been instrumental in our work. The Open Source platform and the Activities Index are built on open source frameworks and do not require a licensing fee. However, some technical knowledge is needed to develop and deploy these platforms. Maintenance of both platforms requires very little technical expertise.
Both platforms have a publicly available wiki that can be accessed and used by other local governments and organizations that want to adapt them to their local communities. Other cities are currently developing Open SDG for their own local contexts and the City of Bristol is the second city to use the platform for their local level SDG data reporting. The Activities Index can be adapted into many different contexts. In L.A., we use it to collect and report information on public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic initiatives across all 17 goals but it can be used to host information on any subset of those sectors or SDG goals. Our plans for the coming year are to expand the usage of the Activities Index in our local community as well as continue to expand features on the data platform so that the data reported is more actionable. We welcome engagement from other local governments who are interested in learning more about these tools.
Since both tools are hosted online, direct impact of COVID-19 has been minimal. However, as our work is supported by students, we had to move our summer cohorts and internship programs into a virtual setting. The virtual setting has actually allowed us to grow our student capacity and in the summer of 2020, we hosted 54 students virtually. The data hosted in the data platform has allowed us to disaggregate data to understand where positive trends may not be distributed equally, driving action to ensure we leave no one behind.
SDGS & Targets
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Deliverables & Timeline
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