Los Angeles City Hall
Los Angeles City Hall - © Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Open-source tools for action on the SDGs


Los Angeles

Main actors

City Government, Private Sector, NGO / Philanthropy, Research Institutes / Universities

Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region


Ongoing since 2017

Advancing the SDGs by measuring local progress and building new partnerships for action.

The implementation of the SDGs in Los Angeles is a multi-phase multilateral project aimed at adopting and adapting the Goals across the city.  Over the past four years, the City has developed a program to embrace the use of a common language with other cities, while sharing data, methodology, and lessons learned. The principals that guide the work being conducted are (1) to use the SDGs to improve the lives of residents and (2) to develop and share tools in a transparent way. Two open-source tools have been developed for SDG action at the sub-national level: the SDG Data Reporting Platform (Open SDG) and the SDG Activities Index. While Open SDG has been developed for national statistics, Los Angeles is the first city to adapt it for sub-national reporting. The SDG Activities Index is a living, crowd-sourced encyclopedia of organizations advancing the SDGs in the city. It is searchable, exportable, and allows residents to build shared capacity and learn about the SDGs.

Sustainable Development Goals

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainableStrengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Guangzhou Award

This project was shortlisted for the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2020.

Los Angeles , United States
Size and population development
According to Los Angeles City Planning, the Population of Los Angeles was recorded at 3,979,576 in 2020. This represents +7.7% growth since 2000. The city covers an area of 1302 km2 and has a population density of 3061 people per km2. The population of Los Angeles County was recorded at 10.04 million.
Population composition
The population of the city of Los Angeles is comprised of 51% females and 49% males. The 0-17 age group is recorded at 21%, 18-64 at 67% and 65+ at 12%. The median age of all people is 35.9 years The ethnicity composition of the population is: 48.2% Hispanic, 28.7% White alone, 11.5% Asian alone, 8.3% Black alone, 2.5% Two or more races, 0.3% Other race alone, 0.2% American Indian alone, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone. The most prevalently practiced religion in Los Angeles is Christianity comprising 32% Catholic, 30% Protestant and 3% Other. There are small groups between 1-3% who follow the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu faiths. English, Spanish and Asian including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese are the most spoken languages.
Main functions
The city of Los Angeles is the second most populous city in the United States. The city is located on a basin in Southern California and surrounded by vast mountain ranges, valleys, forests, beaches and a nearby desert. Los Angeles is famous world-wide for being a major center for film, television and music production.
Main industries / business
Los Angeles has a diverse economy and hosts businesses in a broad range of professional fields including the creative industries, aerospace, technology, international trade and tourism. The city is the largest manufacturing center in the United States and is home to the busiest port in the Americas and the fifth busiest in the world.
Sources for city budget
Local government revenue comes from property, sales, and other taxes; charges and fees; and transfers from federal and state governments.
Political structure
The City of Los Angeles is a Mayor-Council-Commission form of government, as defined in the City Charter, originally adopted by the voters of the City of Los Angeles, effective July 1, 1925 and reaffirmed by a new Charter effective July 1, 2000. A Mayor, City Controller, and City Attorney are elected by City residents every four years. Fifteen City Council members representing fifteen districts are elected by the people for four-year terms, for a maximum of three terms. The new City Charter, effective July 2000, provided for the creation of a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils. The goal of the Neighborhood Councils is to promote public participation in City governance and decision-making process to create a government more responsive to local needs.
Administrative structure
Members of Boards & Commissions are generally appointed by the Mayor, subject to the approval of the City Council. There are approximately 44 departments and bureaus in the City of Los Angeles headed by General Managers that are also appointed by the Mayor, subject to confirmation by the City Council. Most employees of the City are subject to the civil service provisions of the City Charter.

In 2017, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti committed the City of Los Angeles to implementing the SDGs, with an understanding that local governments are critical for achieving the 2030 Agenda. The SDGs are now integrated in the City’s sustainability plan, L.A.’s Green New Deal, as well as departmental strategic documents. In 2019, the City published its first Voluntary Local Review, containing a comprehensive mapping of City initiatives to the SDGs.

The City of Los Angeles believes that cities are hubs for the innovative action that will be required to achieve the Goals by 2030. The approach to this work is by three avenues: measure, mobilize, and connect. The open-source tools are enablers for all of these: measuring ourselves to identify opportunities to mobilize new initiatives and connecting with partners and practitioners to build the partnerships needed to so - both locally and within the global SDG community of practice. These tools overcome a common challenge of local governments in implementing the SDGs and shows the value added in engaging local issues in a global shared language.

The aims of the initiative are:

  1. demonstrate the City’s commitment to measuring progress toward the SDGs,
  2. disaggregating this measurement to identify where members of our community may be being left behind as progress is achieved for the City as a whole.
  3. utilize these tools to create new partnerships, initiatives, and action toward the SDGs.

Open SDG is an initiative to collect and analyze data on the City’s progress on the implementation of the SDGs. We are reporting on over 150 indicators with local data. Over 30 of the indicators are disaggregated by various demographic characteristics including gender, race, and age. The Activities Index currently has 153 different projects and organizations across all 17 goals. We also track the number of users of the Open SDG platform (250 monthly) and the SDG Activities Index (350 monthly).

Cloud hosting is maintained by the City’s Information Technology Agency. Maintenance and innovation of the platform is facilitated by a full-time team in the Office of the Mayor with support from the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. All work is recorded and maintained in a live Wiki via Github.

The initiative focuses on the City of Los Angeles but in some cases, we report data at larger jurisdictional levels including the County of Los Angeles and the State of California, especially for policy-linked, non-statistical indicators, and for those functions that reside outside the City’s immediate authorities, including Public Health and primary/secondary Education.

The next step in SDG monitoring and mobilization is to use the data to identify gaps to 2030. We are currently innovating in this space and developing new analysis and visualization tools that will help us and other cities to do so. In our data platform, Open SDG, we are prototyping a trend analysis tool that will help us project the quantitative data to 2030 to help us identify indicators and targets that need accelerated action.

The Open SDG platform was developed with the support of a multi-sector partnership. The stakeholders are residents, partners, researchers who can access the data sources reported on the SDG platform and want to support the city in this work. Students from local universities have been instrumental in the implementation of the platform as well. While our primarily stakeholders are focused on Los Angeles, our users span the globe.

The initiative is the product of multi-sector partnerships between government, philanthropy, nonprofits, private sector, and academia. The program is funded jointly by the City of Los Angeles and a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, administered by the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. The Amazon cloud hosting is supported by the City of L.A.s Information Technology Agency. Five university partners, Occidental CollegeArizona State UniversityUniversity of Southern California, and University of California, Los Angeles,  have also supported their students to work with the City in developing these tools. Both tools are free and entirely open source to other cities.

Open SDG and the Activities Index are powerful tools for action on the SDGs. The Activities Index has been developed to aggregate community-based activities on SDG mobilization, which was also built in open source and shared on GitHub. Though Open SDG was developed for and by national governments for national-level reporting, it is flexible for other use cases including local government reporting. Other cities have already approached Los Angeles for support in their own development of their local platforms. All the modifications that have been made to the platform have been recorded and published in an open Wiki that other cities can follow. The project team continuously participates in webinars and learning sessions to showcase both tools and share lessons learned. As interest and focus on localization of the SDGs grows, it is important that cities continue to innovate tools and methodologies for and by cities.

Some major challenges include ensuring that SDG target and indicator language include local governments, finding data sources that adhere to the international standards or can serve as proxy measures, and marketing the SDG Activities Index to ensure its continued growth and usefulness.

These challenges have been overcome by developing a methodology to revise the SDG target and indicator language for our own reporting, working through our Open Data Portal and GeoHub and with partners to identify proxy data sources, and engaging with the City’s neighborhood councils, non-profit council, and community-based organizations to ensure awareness of the Activities Index.

Building these measuring and reporting tools provided the foundation from which to identify where and who is being left behind and partners that the City can work with. However, new initiatives and the capacity to build and sustain them are required to work further towards achieving the Goals.  Cities like Los Angeles. are helping to define a new role for sub-national governments in an international development agenda, while using the shared language of the SDGs to bring the community into the work of this global movement.

The City of Los Angeles has a population of approximately 4 million people, however, this initiative is relevant to the 10 million residents of Los Angeles County and the 19 million residents of the region. Furthermore, at least 13 cities in the UK and 1 city in South Africa are in the process of adapting this platform for their use and for the benefit of their millions of citizens

- Guangzhou Award application form

- https://sdg.lamayor.org/

External links / documents

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Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation
Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation

Institution | Urban Award

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