They’re very ambitious, they have multiple goals, and many of their challenges are shared. When Växjö and JB Marks Local Municipality from South Africa talk about municipal partnerships, the strategic objective ranges across the entire Agenda 2030 map.
“We’ve created a project focus that will give us opportunities for collaboration. What we now need to do is build support for and formulate a project application,” says Annika Ström of the Institute for Local and Regional Democracy (ID).
Incorporating all 17 Agenda 2030 goals into a single municipal partnership is unlikely to be feasible – that’s a given. But when Växjö and JB Marks discussed their priorities during the partnership’s pilot study, they realised that their shared challenges included many of the goals.
So they scaled down to four – and agreed on one.
“We’re already working with issues that can be linked to Agenda 2030 in one way or another, in my opinion, but we decided to concretise our plans around Agenda 2030’s goal number 7 of sustainable energy for all,” says Annika Ström.
Annika works at the Institute for Local and Regional Democracy (ID), which is a voluntary organisation founded in 1996, focusing on democracy-related issues. The association has four members – Växjö municipality, the Linnaeus University, Region Kronoberg, and Kronoberg County Council.
In late May this year, representatives of JB Marks Local Municipality in South Africa visited Växjö to draw up content outlines for a new project. Växjö had previously visited JB Marks, and now it was time for four South African administrators to build up a picture of Växjö and gain an overview of shared challenges on which they could agree.
In brilliant sunshine and temperatures of 25C, Annika and her colleagues mounted their electric bicycles to take their guests on field trips around Växjö.
“I think this was a genuinely life-changing experience for our four visitors. They have a totally different perspective on the world now, and I think their visit triggered thought processes that can lead to change. They had the opportunity to see a completely different world and to get a sense of the conditions under which we operate.”
Hendriko Veldman, Wynand Marx, Julia Ahlrot, Michael Maki, Dolos Luka at Norremark Transfer Station in Växjö
What did you do?
“We showed them how we are working with Agenda 2030 and talked about the things we discussed when we visited them last winter. We focused on community planning, energy, water and diversity. Basically, on sustainability, because that’s something we’re working hard on, here in Växjö.”
What did the days give you?
“We wanted to investigate the common ground in these issues. And, as always with project visits, we also learned a lot from the questions the participants ask us. They were good days, good meetings, and it’s always useful to get an outside perspective on our work,” says Annika Ström.
Confirmation of some things, challenges in others – and it was clear that they have a common ground and jumping off point.
“We may be at different stages in our work and operate under different conditions, but what was clear was how much we have in common when it comes to the challenges we face.”
Is working with the Agenda 2030 goals within the context of your partnership a given?
“Yes, I think, generally speaking, that’s more and more the case. We’re already working with issues that can be linked to Agenda 2030 in one way or another, in my opinion, but we decided to concretise our plans around Agenda 2030’s goal number 7 of sustainable energy for all.”
Annika describes how, during the course of the discussions, they realised that they could incorporate goals number 5 (gender equality), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 4 (good education for all) – and a few others too – into the framework of goal number 7.
They haven’t excluded the possibility of expanding the strategic objectives during the course of the partnership, either. And because the Agenda 2030 goals are indivisible, they are working on incorporating even more aspects into one and the same goal.
The pilot study is now complete, common areas linked to Agenda 2030 have been identified, and both municipalities are now working on formulating a joint project application for submission to ICLD in the autumn.
“We’ve created a project focus that will, we believe, give us opportunities for collaboration. What we now need to do is build support for and formulate a project application,” says Annika Ström. “Working with too many goals at once is not an option because the projects are limited in terms not only of duration, but of the number of people working with them and the budget,” says Annika.
Are you hopeful and motivated?
“Oh yes! There’s so much I’d like to do. We have inspired and been inspired by our South African partners to focus on some important issues that we can address,” says Annika.
“When the needs are wide-ranging, prioritising can be hard sometimes, but Agenda 2030 is a good guiderail in a municipal partnership.”
“One thing that has become clear from our discussions is how the goals are interrelated. What we need to think about now is how we can work together to address these issues.”
What would you like to see from ICLD in your future partnership?
“We’ve always had a good response from ICLD and they clearly want to help us. They’re receptive to our views and I get the impression that ICLD makes changes when necessary. Agenda 2030 is a good target to aim for and we are, after all, all interested in seeing things go well – we’re working towards the same goal,” says Annika Ström.