Category: Research projects

Nudging for Sustainability: Insights for Sustainable Consumption

Regional focus: Kenya & Sweden / The Climate Action Network

Time: October 2023 – April 2024

This small-scale project is the follow up on a Local Democracy Lab with Mombasa County and the region of Västerbotten, where they jointly asked researchers the question: ”How can we use nudging to promote sustainable consumption and waste management by civic engagement (and enhanced capacity building)?

To evolve the lab discussion, this project aims to contextualize global best practices in nudging within the unique socio-cultural and administrative landscapes of Mombasa and Västernorrland, facilitating effective sustainable consumption and waste management strategies.

Research questions:

  1. What are the global best practices in using nudging techniques for sustainable consumption and waste management?
  2. How do experts from Mombasa and Västernorrland perceive the application and challenges of nudging within their specific contexts?
  3. How can the insights from global best practices be tailored and implemented effectively in Mombasa and Västernorrland?

Abstract: This project seeks to explore the potential of nudging as a transformative tool to enhance sustainable consumption and waste management in Mombasa and Västernorrland. Leveraging a comparative expert analysis approach, the research will commence with a comprehensive global best practice analysis to benchmark successful nudging interventions worldwide. This foundational understanding will be enriched by in-depth expert interviews from both regions, gathering insights on the nuances, challenges, and tailored solutions for nudging within their unique contexts. By synthesizing global best practices with regional expertise, the study aims to offer actionable, evidence-based strategies for local governments. The objective is not just to understand nudging in theory but to contextualize its application for real-world impact, ensuring sustainability initiatives are both effective and culturally resonant. Through this rigorous approach, the research aspires to bridge the gap between global knowledge and local implementation, fostering a sustainable future driven by informed decision-making.


  • Jua Cilliers, Professor of Urban Planning, Head of School of Built Environment, University of Technology Sydney

Project Area
Environment/Climate change
Sustainable Development Goals
13 - Climate action
Participatory democracy, citizen dialogues and budgeting

Just, plastic free transition and climate change resilience in Mombasa County

Regional focus: Eastern Africa / the Climate Action Network

Time: December 2023-January 2025

Abstract: Plastic waste is a growing environmental concern in the coastal city of Mombasa in Kenya. Open burning of plastic at dumpsites generates greenhouse gases. Floods dump tonnes of plastic waste into the ocean causing biodiversity and economic losses. Mombasa County Government has developed various policies, strategies and legislations to curb plastic pollution and reduce community vulnerability to climate change. Kenya’s Constitution requires that public policy decisions and actions, must adhere to democratic principles such transparency, public participation and justice. Using environmental democracy as an analytical framework, this project aims to critically examine how plastic governance in Mombasa County creates democratic spaces for civil society and grassroots organizations to engage in plastic pollution and climate change governance. Participatory action research will be used to examine the opportunities, gaps and challenges for the County government to deliver a citizen-centered, just, plastic-free transition.

Research questions:

  1. How does Mombasa City County Government identify and respond to the needs and aspirations of civil society and grassroots organizations affected by and working to reduce plastic waste pollution in coastal areas of Mombasa?
  2. What are the current policies and plans that are implemented by Mombasa City County Government to achieve a sustainable and inclusive plastic waste management, to reduce the vulnerability of coastal communities in the context of climate change?
  3. How do policies, plans and actions by Mombasa County Government engage with local aspirations and needs?
  4. Through what mechanisms does the civil society and grassroots organizations hold Mombasa County Government accountable for its action or in action on ensuring sustainable and just plastic waste governance? How effective are those mechanisms for accountability?
  5. How can citizen engagement processes, actions, policies and plans be improved to lead towards a green and just plastic free transition?

Main researchers:

  • Dr. Richard Dimba Kiaka, CEJAD, Research Associate
  • Prof. Maria-Jose Zapata, University of Gothenburg, Professor
  • Prof. Patrik Zapata, University of Gothenburg, Professor

This research project aims to directly support ICLD’s Network for Climate Action, and specifically the municipal partnership between Mombasa County and Region Västernorrland.

Other ICLD research by the authors:

Project Area
Environment/Climate change
Sustainable Development Goals
11 - Sustainable cities and communities13 - Climate action

Increasing Transparency in Local Governments: Implementation and Evaluation of Citizen Budgets in Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe

Regional focus: Eastern Africa

Time: October 2023 – June 2024

This action research project follows up on previous ICLD research by supporting local governments to implement a citizens budget and adapt the associated Toolbox to African experiences.


This research project investigates the implementation and impact of Citizen’s Budgets at the local level in selected countries. It aims to understand the elements that compose these budgets, the impact they have on the transparency of local government budget processes, and the degree of empowerment they confer, especially to marginalized groups. The study also assesses whether the level of budget literacy in these countries acts as a limiting factor to the effective use of Citizen’s Budgets and explores the most effective digital technology practices for implementing this tool. The methodologies include desk analysis, surveys, interviews, and capacity-building workshops with local government administrations and local communities. The outcomes of this research promise to enhance transparency, accountability, citizen engagement, and trust in local government, thereby strengthening local democracy. This project underscores the significance of Citizen’s Budgets as crucial instruments for fostering participative governance and enhancing fiscal literacy.


Viktor Mitevski, Executive Director, ZMAI (Association of Research and Analysis)

Dragan Tevdovski, Professor, University St Cyril and Methodious University Skopje

Elena Trpkovska, Economist, The Social Services Improvement Project in the Republic of North Macedonia (SSIP)

Related publications:

Project Area
Inclusive leadership and governance
Sustainable Development Goals
17 - Partnerships for the goals5 - Gender equality
Digitalisation and e-governance

Local Democracy and Resilience in Ukraine: Learning from Communities’ Crisis Response in War

Regional focus: Ukraine/Eastern Europe

Time: October 2023 – June 2024


Amidst the devastating impact of the full-scale Russian invasion, Ukraine has retained its sovereignty. Enabled by decentralization reforms from 2015-2020, local self-governance bodies have played a crucial role in Ukraine’s resilience, offering essential services and backing defense efforts. This phenomenon is puzzling in light of conflicting evidence about crisis management in decentralized states. This research aims to comprehend the relationship between local self-governance and democratic resilience, spotlighting participation, equity, transparency, and accountability as factors influencing conflict resilience on the local level. The research outcomes will shape recommendations for international development practitioners and policymakers. While employing a mixed-methods approach, the study involves quantitative analysis of original local authority surveys and qualitative analysis of online interviews and focus group insights. By building upon prior surveys conducted in the pre-war time in 2021 and in the first year of the full-scale invitation in 2022, this research uniquely tracks the evolution of local democracy’s role in resilience.

Research questions:

  1. How do municipalities’ roles and conditions for local self-governance change during an interstate conflict?
  2. What has been the role of citizen participation & equity, transparency and accountability structures in local decision-making processes during the interstate conflict?
  3. What are important factors to consider for international actors engaging in international cooperation for conflict resilience at the local level?


Dr. Oleksandra Keudel (PI), Assistant Professor, Kyiv School of Economics

Dr. Oksana Huss (Senior Researcher), University of Bologna

Myroslava Savisko (Research Coordinator), Project Manager, Kyiv School of Economics

This research project aims to support ICLD’s municipal partnerships in Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe during and after its implementation.

Related research projects:

  • Keudel, O., & Huss, O. (2023). Polycentric governance in practice: The case of Ukraine’s decentralised crisis response during the Russo-Ukrainian war. Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice, 1(aop), 1–26.
  • Rabinovych, M., Brik, T., Darkovich, A., Savisko, M., Hatsko, V., Tytiuk, S., & Piddubnyi, I. (2023). Explaining Ukraine’s resilience to Russia’s invasion: The role of local governance. Governance, 1(20).

Other ICLD research from Ukraine:

Project Area
Inclusive leadership and governance
Sustainable Development Goals
16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Tactical Urbanism for inclusive transport

Regional focus: East Africa/Kenya

Time: July 2023 – January 2024


In 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution that established 47 autonomous counties leading to an accelerated development of urban areas and an increased pressure and demand for inclusive and sustainable interventions to cater for the rising population and motorization rates. Flone Initiative conducted a safety audit in Machakos Town to assess the state of the existing transport infrastructure in terms of safety, usability and design with a focus on women, children and persons with disability. The study revealed that the existing infrastructure was in need of improvements in accessibility, safety and universal design features. A key lesson learnt is that safety audits should be followed by low cost interventions that counties can easily pilot and implement. Premised on the concept of tactical urbanism, this action research study aims at proposing and piloting low-cost interventions to enhance inclusiveness, safety and usability in urban and peri-urban centres.


Naomi Mwaura, Flone Initiative, Tanzania

Note: this project builds on the toolbox by the same author:

Project Area
Urban planning
Sustainable Development Goals
10 - Reduced inequalities11 - Sustainable cities and communities
Gender Equality


Regional Focus: Europe

Time: May 2023-2026

ICLD is part of a consortium of European organizations to undertake a large-scale research project on inclusive nature-based solutions (NBS).


TRANS-lighthouses aims to gather evidence on material and immaterial results of NBS in order to rethink and reframe the main elements that compose the complexity of creating social and ecologically just NBS. More than a driving process, the collaborative work on planning and making NBS functional might stimulate a more concerted response towards environmental and climate crises, increasing the commitment of different stakeholders and upscaling their own spheres of action. TRANS-lighthouses adopts a nonlinear perspective and opens up space for the adoption of a fluid and organic position that is able to integrate the diversity of subjects, institutions, knowledge(s), practices and values. TRANS-lighthouses’ ambition is to become a European reference on sociopolitical challenges for supporting NBS projects and solutions. The socio-politics dimension will be part of the public agenda for NBS towards SYSTEMIC CHANGE. This ambition will be achieved by assessing the benefits and limitations of NBS co-creation that have already been implemented and designed, tested and disseminated economically and socially fairer guidelines for NBS implementation. For this purpose, the project will conduct a thorough assessment, grounded on a transdisciplinary approach and critical analysis. Constituting a well-oiled network of citizens, local governments, scientific institutions and civil society-based partners which acts across borders, disciplines and sectors, TRANS-lighthouses will lead research on activities aiming to implement socioeconomic and political changes capable of enabling pathways for a socially and ecologically just implementation of NBS. TRANS-lighthouses integrates a network of NBS lighthouses for urban, rural, coastal and forested areas in 10 EU countries and 6 non-EU.

NBS Lighthouses are:
● local/regional arrangements/platforms bringing together multiple actors;
● to enhance the NBS contributions to social and economic targets;
● to test new governance and co-creation models;
● to adequate NBS responses to different socio-political contexts;
● small-scale but big-picture projects than can be upscaled over time.

Expected output: designing economically and socially fairer guidelines for NBS implementation.

TRANS-Lighthouses is an acronym:
T – Transformative
R – Reflexive
A – Activist
N – Networked
S – Solutions
Lighthouses – shedding light on just and equitable practices to guide the way forwards

ICLD’s role in primarily in the governance and co-creation dimension, aiming to unveil and understand the governance and co-creation context, including under-researched actors, sectors and landscapes, agendas, rules and interactions; to design innovative governance models, towards community-based decisions; and to co-monitor and co-evaluate. Our deliverables will include policy briefs, learning cases and animated videos.


  1. Centre for Social Studies (CES) Portugal
  2. Roskilde University (RUC) Denmark
  3. Technical University of Munich (TUM) Germany
  4. The Cyprus Institute (CyI) Cyprus
  5. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) France
  6. Nantes Université (NU) (Affiliated to CNRS) France
  7. Université Gustave Eiffel (uni. Eiffel) (Affiliated to CNRS) France
  8. University of Louvain (UCLouvain) Belgium
  9. Sapienza, Università di Roma (Sapienza) Italy
  10. University of Extremadura (UEx) Spain
  11. Universidade dos Açores (UAc) Portugal
  12. ATHENA Research Centre (ARC) Greece
  13. Economias BioRegionales (EBR) Spain
  14. Município de Estarreja (CME) Portugal
  15. Município de Barcelos (CMB) Portugal
  16. Ville de Bruxelles – Stad Brussel (Brussels) Belgium
  17. Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD) Sweden
  18. Associazione Jangada Onlus (Jangada) Italy
  19. Cooperativa de Incubação de Iniciativas de Economia Solidária (Kairós) Portugal

Associated partners

  1. Universidad de Chile Chile
  2. Universidad de Buenos Aires Argentina
  3. Universidade de Brasília Brazil
  4. Prefeitura de São Paulo Brazil
  5. Tata Institute of social sciences India
  6. University of Illinois USA
  7. University of Dar es Salaam Tanzania
  8. Polycom Development Project, Kenya
  9. Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa, Brazil

This is an EU-funded project under call HORIZON-CL6-2022-COMMUNITIES-01 (Resilient, inclusive, healthy and green rural, coastal and urban communities)

Project Area
Environment/Climate changeInclusive leadership and governance
Sustainable Development Goals
11 - Sustainable cities and communities13 - Climate action
Participatory democracy, citizen dialogues and budgeting

Voluntary Local Reviews with community-based participatory research

Regional focus: Tanzania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Global

Time: February – December 2023

Summary: ICLD is financing three small-scale studies to conduct Voluntary Local Reviews with participatory methods, and one comparative study to draw conclusions on the use of CBPR in reporting on the SDGs.

The global movement of Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) is growing fast. Cities, local and regional governments worldwide are using VLRs to track and report on progress toward the SDGs. Undertaking a VLR can benefit a local government by:

  • evaluating and monitoring progress
  • demonstrating political commitment
  • enabling civic participation
  • identifying priority areas for local sustainable action.

However, many VLRs do not take citizens’ thoughts and perspectives into account, thereby missing potentially important conclusions. At the same time, development researchers hold that participatory research methods have the greatest chance of creating positive change for marginalized groups. ICLD therefore identified Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) as an opportunity to develop deeper VLRs through co-creation between researchers, citizens and municipalities. This aims to yield useful insights for the municipality in question while strengthening vulnerable communities as well as contribute to the collective understanding of how SDG follow-up can be improved. The latter is analyzed on an aggregated level in a comparative study, in order to enhance scientific development and evaluate the initiative.

The research project should answer to the following questions:

  • How has the selected local government advanced the localization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development? What data is available? What have been key priorities?
  • How are citizens and other social actors perceiving the implementation of the SDGs and how are they involved?
  • What can we learn about participatory approaches in reporting on the SDGs? Does it enhance the potential for impact of the VLR?

Project components

Kibaha Town Council, Tanzania

Researcher: Sophia Mgoba, Assistant Lecturer, Institute of Development Studies, University of Dar es Salaam

The study in Kibaha Town Council will bring new knowledge on the implementation of the SDGs at the local level from the perspective of urban East Africa by involve citizen science activity to facilitate regular exchange among beneficiaries of SDG related interventions and create local expertise for ongoing monitoring of the goals: citizen observatories. Kibaha’s VLR fócuses on SDGs 5, 10, 11, 16 and 17.

Kibaha Town Council is in a municipal partnership with Region Gotland and part of the Sustainable Futures Network.

Emboreet village, Tanzania

Researcher: Asia Majid, Assistant Lecturer, Institute of Development Studies, University of Dar es Salaam

In the Maasai village of Emboreet, participatory video mixed with focus groups, interviews and survey data will contribute to outlining the progress and ignite further action on goals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 16 and 17. The participatory approach will provide room for dialogue between different groups of stakeholders by exploring their experiences, practices, and values and will enable the Emboreet community members to reflect on future opportunities.

Emboreet is in a municipal partnership with Strängnäs and part of the Sustainable Futures Network. The two Tanzanian cases are coordinated through ICLD’s MoU with University of Dar es Salaam and undertaken in close coordination with UN Habitat, UCLG and ALAT to ensure uptake of the local perspective in Tanzania’s national SDG reporting.

Bijeljina, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Researchers: Denisa Saraljic, Selma Zulic and Anida Sokol, SCRIPTA

The city of Bijeljina is the first local government in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) that undertook a systematic approach in the localization of the Agenda 2030 and SDGs, and this study contributes to their first report on the progress to that end.

The key objective of this research is to enable and empower community members to have their voice heard on the progress in achieving SDG in the City of Bijeljina, and contribute to a deeper understanding of how local communities and citizens benefit directly from the initiatives seeking to implement measures towards the achievement of SDGs. Using an immersive process employing community mapping and storytelling, it will explore SDG 5, 10 and 17.

Comparative research

Researcher: Andrea Ciambra, University of A Coruña, Spain

A comparative study aggregates lessons learned from these three participatory VLRS to provide answer to questions such as:

  • Does participatory monitoring give new types of insights on SDG fulfilment?
  • Can participatory VLRs bring about positive transformation where they are conducted?
  • How can we make VLR processes better and more inclusive?
Project Area
Inclusive leadership and governance

Child-Focused Cities Analytical Framework

This research project, aiming to develop an analytical tool to address the Sustainable Development Goals from a child rights perspective, is divided into multiple steps. Phase two, conducted in 2023-2024 is described first while phase 1, which served to build the conceptual groundwork for the analytical framework, is described after.

Phase 2 – Child-Focused Cities [CFC] for the Sustainable Futures Network

Regional focus: Eastern Africa / Southern Africa / Europe / Latin America The Sustainable Futures Network

Time: July 2023 – July 2024


Child-Focused Cities (CFC) brings together a group of engaged researchers epistemologically curious about the inclusion of children and youth in local democracy. The group revolves around questions of why, how, where, and under what circumstances children and young people are recognised as political subjects and crucial role-players in shaping sustainable futures.

The project will facilitate cross-sectoral exchange between local decision-makers, researchers, and practitioners by embracing the format of Research Circles. Through local partnerships with reputable professional organizations specializing in working with children and young individuals, the research will enable creative interpretation of the CFC initial concept, thus illuminating multiple geographical and cultural registers around childhood, and providing the indispensable link between local politics and research. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop a toolbox as a collection of practical instruments and protocols that will be essential for advancing the CFC agenda within the Sustainable Futures Network.

Research team

  1. Jua Cilliers [Australia], School of Built Environment, University of Technology Sydney
  2. Paula Barros [Brazil], Escola de Arquitetura Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
  3. Lynne Cairns [Scotland], Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA), University of Durham
  4. Caroline Brown [Scotland],The Urban Institute, School of Energy, Geosciences, Infrastructure and Society, Heriot-Watt University
  5. Predrag Milic [Serbia/Austria], Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space, TU Wien / Faculty of Architecture and Planning Austria
  6. Rongedzayi Fambasayi [South Africa], Play Africa Group NPC, Children’s Museum / Law and Development Research, North-West University
  7. Rejoice Katsidzira, [Zimbabwe] Center for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Phase 1 – Let’s get together and make change: Towards The Child-Focused Cities Analytical Framework

Regional focus: East Africa, global

Time: October-December 2022

This study is conducted with an Impact Research Grant – stipends for projects designed to facilitate solutions to a local government’s expressed needs. The projects build on Local Democracy Labs, where local governments discuss a current issue with expert researchers.


This research ultimately aims to create a new toolkit –a relational object – that reframes the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from children’s perspectives in their respective everyday-life environments. Such a tool aims at the paradigmatic shift of the child-friendly city approaches by claiming that “friendly is not enough”! Conceptualised as the Child-Focused City Analytical Framework, the toolkit should offer guidance for analysis andaction to local governments, municipalities, and professionals within and beyond the ICLD network. In short, this project will enable a team of international scholars to revisit, contextualise, and stress-test the concept of the CFCAF, developed during the LDA2022. In this “stage zero” phase, contextualising the CFCAF to the needs of partnering local governments and professionals serves to stress-test the toolkit, jointly draw conclusions and prepare for its further development.

With a participatory approach and co-creation of results, the project encounters municipalities in their respective realities and engage in a constructive dialogue around child and youth inclusion. As a group of international scholars, the researchers will not do “research”, but “praxis: reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” (Freire 2005: 51).

Municipal partners for this project are Livingstone and Victoria Falls, Zambia, while multiple municipalities participate as observers.

Project Area
Inclusive leadership and governance
Sustainable Development Goals
11 - Sustainable cities and communities17 - Partnerships for the goals
Child rights and youth participationHuman RightsParticipatory democracy, citizen dialogues and budgeting