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