How Baltimore is using the Sustainable Development Goals to make a more just city
"...A robust conversation around citizen-generated data already had been growing in Baltimore for years. And SCI-Baltimore was able to bring in central player, the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA), housed at the University of Baltimore. For a decade and a half, the alliance has been producing reports and creating metrics by which citizens can keep track of various aspects of the city’s development on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis — around health, education, crime, culture and more.
But before the death of Freddie Gray, the BNIA had never tackled certain issues.
“Baltimore had just experienced civil unrest the likes we hadn’t seen in 40 years,” says Iyer, who has overseen the BNIA since 2011. “And that shined a glaring light on the fact that our work didn’t have indicators around peace and justice.”
SCI-Baltimore served as both a reason and a means to have a new, structured discussion around all that makes up sustainability in Baltimore, Iyer says.
“We’re always looking to figure out what better indicators might exist — that’s what we do all the time,” she says. “This project helped us to think about other indicators that we might not have thought about before. But for the SDGs, [BNIA] wouldn’t have been able to have this discussion.”
Since 2015, a series of working groups and community-engagement processes have debated the meaning of sustainable development in Baltimore and how the SDGs could assist in that vision. The result was the recommendations released last week and given to the mayor’s office in hopes of influencing city policymaking in the future."