Key Take-aways  

There are several aspects to keep in mind for municipalities looking to strengthen leadership and integrate the Agenda 2030 goals into local planning and budgeting tools. 
  1. Small municipalities can be major front-runners in SDG localisation.
    This is evident through the expertise provided by municipal leaders in different contexts such as Finspång, Kristiansund, and Kópavogur, each with fewer than 40,000 residents.  
  1. Environmental, social, and economic efforts need to align—strategically and politically.
    According to leaders in Kristiansund, it is important to have everyone onboard to mainstream these three elements which, over time, enable efforts towards viable and fair communities.  
  1. Developing a local SDG roadmap takes time, but political will can support the way.
    Finspång revealed that the kick-off was probably “the worst meeting we ever had.” It took years of dialogue and workshops with all municipal departments, plotting out the SDGs’ potential for each of them, until Finspång had translated the 17 goals into their local context and included them in the 2020 budget and strategic plan. Leaders in Kópavogur experienced a similar reality—it took roughly 3 years for the SDGs to become integrated into the strategic budget and steering system. Patience is required to encourage participation and support from staff, politicians and citizens towards a common vision involving the SDGs.  
  1. “It is not about being the best in the world, it is about doing what is best for the world.”
    One municipality cannot do everything, but everyone can do something. SDG achievement should not be seen as an inter-municipal competition; rather, municipalities are working in tandem, and the capacity of one municipality to target or progress with a sustainable development goal may not look the same or happen at the same rate in another. 
  1. Working with citizens is crucial to achieving the SDGs—including youth engagement.
    It is important to include the public in SDG localisation early on. Raise awareness and advocate for the active role of everyone in the process by focusing on local benefits of the global goals. For example, implementing the SDGs can help improve the local community's quality of life. As one leader in Finspång put it, "Give people hope, and underline that we can make a difference." Another way to involve members of the community is to encourage teachers to integrate SDGs in their subjects to increase students’ knowledge and engagement with local and global SDG action. 
  1. Build Nordic partnerships for knowledge exchange.
    Approaching other municipalities for ideas about how to localise the SGDs is fruitful to avoid reinventing the wheel. Municipalities can do this within their own regions or across borders. A new collaboration network of six large Finnish cities, organised through Kuntaliitto, has proven useful to accelerate SDG achievement through knowledge exchange about steering tools, VLRs, etc. Team Finspång took a trip to Asker in Norway to learn from an experienced Nordic front-runner.  
  2. To maintain progress, sustainable development efforts should be incorporated in both short- and long-term visions, steering tools, action, and monitoring.
    The 17 goals must be integrated into every aspect of municipal governance. This requires a transition away from a checklist mentality and towards the SDGs as a holistic disposition of governance that becomes inseparable from everyday work and life in municipalities. Start with an analysis of which municipal sectors could impact which goals, and discuss how the goals could be used to enhance quality of life and attractiveness of the community.  
  3. Where is the most impact seen? Use metric systems to measure progress.
    Key performance indicators (KPIs) can be important as markers of action and progress, but local adaptation is the basis for determining which goals and actions are suitable for each municipality. Ultimately, it is about building knowledge and capacity about where the greatest and least impact is taking place. Leaders from Kristiansund suggest that identifying documented effects and tracking implementation through a smart steering system is important to sustain momentum, highlight impact, and celebrate progress.