Call for proposals: Community empowering Voluntary Local Reviews

Open call for proposals for Voluntary Local Reviews with a participatory methodology, led by researchers and conducted together with a local government.


ICLD seeks proposals for the development of Voluntary Local Reviews – documents that monitor and report on SDG implementation progress at the local level – to be conducted as joint research projects between local adminsitrations and researchers, using inclusive and participatory methods with the objective of community development and policy improvement.


Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) have the potential to impact policy-making processes, empowering communities, and enhancing ownership and decision-making​​ by reviewing the local implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is especially true if they are developed through a process focusing on storytelling, perception, and collective experience in the understanding and co-ownership of the SDGs, rather than on an indicator-based, more technical approach.

This is supported by the conclusions of a comparative report after the initial round of ICLD-financed VLRs – a reviewing process which promoted participatory methods to increase local inclusiveness and policy transparency and accountability on the localization of the 2030 Agenda. ICLD has contributed to capacity-building for local politicians, officials, and organizations willing to approach the 2030 Agenda by, among other things, integrating it and the SDGs as the overall working framework in ICLD-financed projects. VLRs as a participatory process serve as a tool for local governments to engage in the global SDG monitoring process, enhancing local policy alignment with global goals and their local population’s priorities. They highlight local achievements, challenges, and practices in SDG implementation, and serve to enable organizational learning for the local government while engaging local communities in an empowering process. The aim of this call is therefore to commission Voluntary Local Reviews that draw on researchers’ experience in data collection and analysis, while contributing to actual change.


ICLD is looking for two separate VLR projects in ICLD’s partner countries, with a preference for localities that have already established a municipal partnership. ICLD encourages proposals that offer innovative strategies for inclusivity and participation. Projects should aim to increase the community’s perception of co-ownership of the political processes that lead to SDG implementation and provide accessible, effective mechanisms for citizens to influence and/or innovate the policy-making structure. It is advised to consult UN Habitat’s Action-Oriented VLR Methodology and ICLD’s Research Report on Participatory VLRs prior to writing the application.

Proposed projects should:

  • Implement participatory methods to engage communities in the creation of the VLR.
  • When reporting on (selected) SDGs, focus on inclusivity, participation, and the empowerment of communities.
  • Address clearly and transparently the challenges to effective community engagement in policy development , and recommend viable strategies to mitigate or overcome them.

Possible questions include:

  • How has the selected local government advanced the localization of the 2030 Agenda? What have been key priorities? What data is available? What kind of data is missing? Are there plans to collect data?
  • How are citizens and other social actors perceiving the implementation of the SDGs? Are they aware of the concept of SDGs – and even if not, do thye share the issues of priority that might be categorized under the different SDGs? How are they involved (or not) in implementation? What are their priorities?
  • What venues or mechanisms are available for community-based participation? Can these affect the implementation process? Have the SDGs brought about more information or opportunities to participate? Are there special means of engaging people living with disabilities & the vulnerable?
  • If applicable: how is the ICLD partnership project contributing to the implementation of the SDGs? How can collaboration and dialogue with ICLD, other international organizations, and other local governments support work at the community level? Do they have other international collaborations in which they work toward SDG implementation?


  • A Voluntary Local Review to be published according to ICLDs guidelines for a Working Paper. The outline of the report should be suggested in the proposal.
  • A short report and presentation on lessons learned in the local governments and best practices in community engagement, and recommendations for replicating CBPR and participatory methods in SDG reporting in different contexts.
  • At least one dissemination activity with relevant stakeholders


The project period should range from 6-8 months from contract signing until report submission, with a contract duration of 1 year to account for publishing and dissemination activities.


Applicants may request up to 125.000 SEK. The budget shall cover personnel costs, operative/fieldwork expenses, and overhead. ICLD approves a maximum of 20 % overhead.


Skills and competencies

  • Applicant research teams should have deep familiarity with participatory research methods as well as with theory and practice around localising SDGs. The use of participatory and inclusive research methods is a requirement; however, if the team lacks deep knowledge on CBPR in particular, they can select alternative approaches.
  • Deep contextual knowledge and understanding of the selected locality is essential and potential linguistic barriers should be addressed in the proposal.
  • Applicants should indicate either which SDGs will be included in the VLR or how these are to be sleected together with the relevant community as part of the participatory research process. It should also note whether SDG indicators will be used.

Anchoring and dissemination

  • Process ownership by the local government in question is essential. Therefore, a local government representative must be part of the applying research team, and a letter of intent from a person in suitable decision-making capacity of the local government must be attached.
  • Main applicant must be affiliated with an accredited research institution. Priority is given to ICLD’s MoU universities. Funds cannot be transferred to an individual and a letter of intent is required stating that the organisation can receive and channel the funds and support in obtaining necessary research permits etc.
  • To increase the chances of uplifting local voices to higher levels of governance and achieve an advocacy effect, communication plans and links to reporting mechanisms on a sub-national or national level are important factors.

Assessment criteria

  • The assessment will be made based on relevance, quality of research and writing skills, demonstrated potential benefits to the community in questions, demonstrated potential to spread good results beyond the municipality/city/county in question, and feasibility of the project.
  • The participatory approach is a time- and resource intense methodology and context familiarity/building of relations is important. Research teams are accountable to their project proposal and it is important to convey what is possible and feasible within the given scope of the project.
  • Priority is given to local goverments that have a municipal partnership via ICLD. Second priority is all local governments in ICLD’s partner countries, especially those planning to submit a Voluntary National Review in 2025 or 2026.

How to apply

The research team should submit a proposal using ICLD’s system SBS Manager. ICLD encourages the collaboration with researchers from its scholarly network and MoU institutions.

The portal requires an account to be made by the main applicant. The account and portal will also be used for contract writing, reporting and other administration around the grant. Make sure to start the application procedure well in advance of the deadline, to leave room for any unclarities and need for support.

In the application you must attach:

  • Proposal using the following template: Research proposal template.docx
  • CVs of the main project members
  • Letter of intent from the local government stating their expressed and explicit intention to collaborate in the project
  • Letter of intent from the research institution who will receive the funds

Deadline for application: August 18th, 2024 (23:59 CEST)


  • Application opens: 31/5 – 2024
  • Open orientation meeting about aim, approach and requirements and administrative matters: 2/7 – 2024: Zoom link here.
  • Application deadline: 18/8 – 2024
  • Decision, (revisions), contract signing September 2024
  • Introductory meeting between ICLD and the research team including the local government October 2024

For questions around this call, please contact

Project Area
Inclusive leadership and governanceLocal economic development, innovation and livelihoods
Sustainable Development Goals
17 - Partnerships for the goals
action research, Forskning, localising sdgs, participatory research, research, utlysning, VLR, VUlruntay Local Review,