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Hetal Sheth 10/15/19 3:44 PM 16 min read

SDG 11 Target and Indicators:  Scaling Community Development

SDG 11 Target and Indicators:  Scaling Community Development


The majority of urban residents breathing poor-quality air, having limited access to transport, and open public spaces. We realized that urgent action is needed to reverse the current situation because urban growth has profound repercussions for sustainability.

This blog is an extraction on the conversational webinar series, "All About Outcomes."  Eddie Lorin and Sashwin Pillai represented developed and emerging markets and together touched on some of the challenges in achieving SDG 11, sustainable cities and communities, and impact measurement and management. The UN has defined 10 Targets and 15 Indicators for SDG 11.

Eddie Lorin is a founder of Strategic Realty Holdings, Alliant Strategic Investment Funds, and HAPI Foundation. By investing in the neglected rental properties, they "add value" through many improvements that have a direct and positive impact on families and communities.

Sashwin Pillai is the founder of Africa Vision Holdings. Africa Vision is committed to producing buildings of excellent quality that respond to the Built Environment, socially and economically, with innovative and functional design solutions.

Challenges in developed and developing countries may seem different but add to the same issues the world is facing today incorporated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

community development investment

Image credit: Community Development Investment Matter. From The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (2017).

What is community development? The community comprises many institutions such as community centers, health care clinics, affordable housing, childcare, parks, etc. How can cities continue to thrive and grow while improving resource use and reducing pollution and poverty?

Read More: How social procurement saves corporations from underdevelopment?

Why Impact Measurement and Management is Important for SDG 11?

When you hear the term Community Development, what do you see? There are efforts across the board to fix up the rundown neighborhood, building community centers, affordable housings, some local economy stores, etc. Today, Community Development is more than that. It is inclusiveness, safety, and resiliency for higher impact. SDG 11 is all about sustainable cities and communities.  

Sdg 11 - urbanization challenge

Image credit: SDG 11 Synthesis Report HLPF 2018 

Cities are taking the lead to address global challenges today. More than 55 percent of the population lives in an urban area, expected to rise to 66 percent by 2050 as per SDG 11 synthesis report.

The way we build new cities will be at the core of so much that matters, from climate change to economic vitality to our very well-being and sense of community. And how will that impact overall sustainability?

sdg 11 - cities

Image credit: SDG 11 Synthesis Report HLPF 2018 

All that added the 3 billion people to the urban living will be consuming ~70% of energy and emitting ~70% carbon. That is why sustainable development is only achievable by significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban space.

We loosely aligned the conversation with Impact Management Projects' five dimensions, What, Who, How Much, Contribution, and Risk. The Impact Management Project (IMP) is a forum for building global consensus on measuring, managing and reporting impact. The IMP Advisors are a diverse group of thoughtful organizations whose guidance and funding make this industry effort possible. 

Thought Leader Series


"Sustainable development is achievable by significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban space." -Eddie Lorin

5 Dimensions of Impact Management Project:



What tells us what outcomes the enterprise is contributing to and how important the outcomes are to stakeholders. Programs aligned with the "What" dimension discussed in this conversation are,

  1. Making safe and quality housing and community support available and affordable for all.
  2. Increased stability of residents due to affordability
  3. Improved community health
  4. Creating a sense of community as social isolation causes many societal problems
  5. Restoring respect and dignity of the underserved community
  6. Preventing gentrification. It is the process of higher-income households moving into traditionally lower-income neighborhoods, has transformative effects on neighborhoods. In the United States — growing urban inequality and a widening gap between the demand and supply of affordable housing are two trends responsible for gentrification. 
  7. Promoting Sustainable Solutions in a Cost Driven Industry
  8. Minimizing carbon footprint of the development by applying basic principles such as bringing education institutes and students closer as well as jobs and working houses closer
  9. Promoting BBBEE (Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE or B-BBEE) is a form of economic empowerment initiated by the South African government in response to criticism against Black Economic Empowerment instituted in the country during 2003/2004.) within the Built Environment Sector

"We have inherited an apartheid spatial planning regime. People are not living where jobs are but where they should be. How do we bring these two together is a challenge."-Sashwin Pillai

Read More: SDG Indicators for SDG 4: Quality Education Includes Health & Poverty


Who tells us which stakeholders are experiencing the outcome and how underserved they were before the enterprise’s effect. 

Specific to our webinar conversation, 

USA: underserved residents, mostly single women with children ( the programs served by SRH and ASI), foundation investors and equity investors, governments, philanthropists

South Africa: underserved community, students of low-income families and disabilities, governments, investors


How Much

How Much tells us how many stakeholders experienced the outcome, what degree of change they experienced, and how long they experienced the outcome. 

Stakeholder feedback can tell us the depth, scale, and duration of this dimension. Asking stakeholders questions can give us a good idea about the magnitude of the "How Much" dimension.

To what degree have you experienced this change? (How Much Depth)

How soon after you started living in this property did these changes happen? (How Much)

Have these changes been long-lasting? Close-ended (How Much - duration)

Aligning the need and how much impact has been delivered can identify the gap. In South Africa, there is a need for ~400,000 new beds for students by 2030. Currently, they are ineffectively transporting themselves by destroying the environment. Clearly, the need is much larger than what has been delivered. We have to carefully align SDG 11 to SDG 17, where strong partnerships can achieve these goals.



Contribution tells us whether an enterprise's and/or investor's efforts resulted in outcomes that were likely better than what would have occurred otherwise. Activities conducted by Strategic Realty Holdings, Alliant Strategic Investment Funds, HAPI Foundation, and Africa Vision Holdings have contributed to the solutions.

As there are many players in the field, it is not conclusive to see the outcome of these enterprises not doing what they did. To assess the contribution, organizations can use Market research, Evidence-based research, stakeholder feedback, or RCTs.
SDG11 is not a single standing issue; we need the contribution of many other organizations, as the figure below. The SDG 11, sustainable cities, and communities connect many of the other SDGs. More than 50% of the targets that we have in other SDG kind of passes through or relates to SDG 11.

Screen Shot 2019-10-07 at 3.59.22 PM

Image credit: SDG 11 synthesis report.

Eddie works by preserving thousands of affordable housings and building houses in naturally affordable areas. Eddie feels their contribution is considerable, but the need is more significant. HAPI Foundation is taking an active role in providing healthy habits education through after-school programs. Africa Vision Holdings contributes by subscribing to an environmentally conscious ethos in its approach to building. Africa Vision possesses the highest obtainable BBBEE, and they are Promoting BBBEE ( Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment) rating within the Built Environment Sector.

Read More: Attribution Vs Contribution in Impact Measurement 

Impact Risk

The risk dimension helps enterprises and investors assess and mitigate impact risks.

  1. Negating the opportunity to rehab the existing product. "One of the problems in the affordable housing bill is that you must spend a hundred percent of your basis on capital improvements, so that promotes new development. Which is, of course, at a higher rent level and negates the opportunity to rehab existing products." -Eddie Lorin
  2. Creating gentrification. As wealthier residents flow back into once-low-income, often minority neighborhoods, longtime residents can be priced out is called gentrification. There are many factors affecting gentrification, such as public transport, public-private business investment, affordable housing, etc.
  3. You are adding on to pollution and carbon footprints. Affordable housing built far from jobs and have a risk of destroying the environment.
  4. Lack of skills, governance, appropriate governance mechanisms and general lack of monitoring functions with the new tools are risks.
  5. Stabilizing local economies, creating long-term employment, building on the local resources, capabilities, increasing community ownership, participation while building some climate resilience can mitigate some of the risks.
  6. We want to house people; we want to achieve a mix of classes, so a more integrated and socially cohesive society is built, with jobs to achieve sustainable development. 

Outcome Challenges in Developed Markets

  1. Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) has given us about three million units, but we're about a million or a million-and-a-half short.
  2. Homelessness is growing
  3. Bring the community of philanthropy into the mix as soft money.
  4. Soft money is another name for low-interest loans from the government. When the government doesn't have sufficient funds, foundations and wealthier communities can step up. They can bring soft money as part of the Program Related Investment (PRI) funds. As foundations in the USA are mandated to give away 5% every year, it can be given in low-interest loans. (Foundations moving towards impact investment)
  5. NIMBY: Not In My Backyard movement is making it difficult to build affordable houses near train stations, bus stations, near work, or connected areas 
  6. CEQA: California Environmental Quality Act is used sometimes to prevent people from building

Outcome Challenges in Emerging (South Africa) Market

  • Legacy: South Africa has adopted or inherited an apartheid spatial planning regime. We're trying to correct this legacy. People are not living where they are working, and jobs are not created where they should be living.
  • Serving Cost: The program that caters to low-income households is so-called free, but they add the cost of transportation for these citizens as houses are far from jobs.
  • Student housing: Low-income household students' and disabled students' beds need is much higher than supply. 
  • Driving combined outcomes, social, environmental, and economical, is very important. The lack of a functional results-based approach is challenging.
  • We need public open space within 400 meters of where people live
  • we need a bus stop within 500 meters
  • we need a rail of ferry terminal within 1,000 meters


"I like to see a billionaire and a social grantee sitting on the same bus, taking the same pass to the same office block and also living in the same house!"

-Sashwin Pillai, Africa Vision Holdings

Stakeholder voice, inclusive and participatory process in community development

For any community to continually improve, we must be able to credibly measure and quantify the impact of our efforts and listen to our stakeholders. People's participation is now thought by many to be a prerequisite for sustainable development. We seek quantitative and qualitative results, accountability, and significant data insights to assess what works and what doesn’t. This can enable us to scale our efforts and provide more value to our stakeholders. 


(Report: Capital Plus Financial)

Impact Management Project suggests asking many questions to gauge the stakeholder sentiment. Few examples are, 

  • When did you start living in this property? What improvement in your life were you looking for? (This represents the "What" dimension.)
  • How important is this change to you? (What /Risk)
  • Did anything else in your life improve that you think is important? (What)
  • Did anything bad happen because of [Org] that is important? If so, what? (What/Risk)
  • Is the change you are experiencing sufficient to meet your needs? (What)
  • To what degree have you experienced this change? (How Much)
  • How soon after you started living in this property did these changes happen? (How Much)
  • Have these changes been long-lasting? Close-ended (How Much - duration)
  • Do you intend to buy from [Org] again? (Drop-off Risk)

According to the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, in 2016, 9 in 10 people living in urban areas still breathed poor quality air. Only 21 % of the population had proper access to open public spaces. Nearly 2 billion people do not have access to waste collection services, and 3 billion people lack access to controlled waste disposal facilities. People across the United States and other countries are beginning to realize that where we live, learn, work, and play makes a real difference in health. Poorly managed urbanization creates a major threat to achieving Sustainable Development Goals. Are we ready?

Recently we got a chance to engage with Eddie Lorin and Sashwin Pillai to get some insights and their experiences in Community Development; you can check out our full-length webinar below. 

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Hetal Sheth

The founder of Ektta, and co-founder of SoPact, Hetal holds a deep passion for establishing enduring impact management practices in the social sector to have built-in learning and accountability.