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SDG 11 target and indicators

Advancing urban progress: Understanding and implementing SDG 11 targets and indicators in community development initiatives
Written by
Unmesh Sheth
Published on
October 15, 2019

Impact investors focusing on community development should look at SDG 11 Target and Indicators for policy, impact management, and reporting

SDG 11 Target and Indicators:  Scaling Community Development


Most urban residents breathe poor-quality air and have limited transport access 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 extracts the conversational webinar series "All About Outcomes."  Eddie Lorin and Sashwin Pillai represented developed and emerging markets and discussed 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 founded Strategic Realty Holdings, Alliant Strategic Investment Funds, and HAPI Foundation. By investing in neglected rental properties, they "add value" through many improvements that directly and positively impact 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 they add to the same issues the world faces 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 thrive and grow while improving resource use and reducing pollution and poverty?

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 housing, 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 in addressing global challenges today. More than 55 percent of the population lives in an urban area, which is expected to rise to 66 percent by 2050, as per the SDG 11 synthesis report.

How we build new cities will be at the core of so much that matters, from climate change to economic vitality to our 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 urban living will consume ~70% of energy and emit ~70% carbon. Sustainable development is achievable by significantly transforming how 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:


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

  1. They are making safe, quality housing and community support available and affordable.
  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 the respect and dignity of the underserved community
  6. Preventing gentrification. Higher-income households moving into traditionally lower-income neighborhoods have 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 the 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


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 it. 

Stakeholder feedback can tell us this dimension's depth, scale, and duration. 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. The need is much larger than what has been delivered. We must carefully align SDG 11 to SDG 17, where strong partnerships can achieve these goals.



Contribution tells us whether an enterprise's and 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 many players are in the field, it is inconclusive to see the outcome of these enterprises failing to do what they did. Organizations can use Market research, Evidence-based research, stakeholder feedback, or RCTs to assess the contribution.
SDG11 is not a single-standing issue; we need the contribution of many other organizations, as shown in the figure below. SDG 11, sustainable cities, and communities connect many other SDGs. More than 50% of our targets in other SDGs pass through or relate 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 housing 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.

Impact Risk

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

  1. You are 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. They are creating gentrification. As wealthier residents flow back into once-low-income, often minority neighborhoods, longtime residents can be priced out, called gentrification. Many factors affect gentrification, such as public transport, public-private business investment, affordable housing, etc.
  3. You are adding to pollution and carbon footprints. Affordable housing is built far from jobs and risks 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 local resources and capabilities, and increasing community ownership and participation while building climate resilience can mitigate some risks.
  6. We want to house people and achieve a mix of classes to build a more integrated and socially cohesive society, with jobs to achieve sustainable development. 

Outcome Challenges in Developed Markets

  1. Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) have 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 from the Program Related Investment (PRI) funds. As foundations in the USA are mandated to give away 5% yearly, it can be given in low-interest loans. (Foundations moving towards impact investment)
  5. NIMBY: Not In My Backyard movement is making it challenging to build affordable houses near train stations, bus stations, work, or connected areas 
  6. CEQA: The California Environmental Quality Act is sometimes used to prevent people from building

Outcome Challenges in the 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 should be created where they should be.
  • 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 are much higher than supply. 
  • Driving combined outcomes, social, environmental, and economic, is very important. However, a functional results-based approach is needed.
  • 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 improve continually, 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. Therefore, we seek quantitative and qualitative results, accountability, and significant data insights to assess what works and 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. A few examples are, 

  • When did you start living on this property? What improvement in your life were you looking for? (This represents the "What" dimension.)
  • How significant is this change to you? (What /Risk)
  • Did anything else in your life improve that you think is essential? (What)
  • Did anything wrong 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 need access to waste collection services, and 3 billion need 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 significant 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 into their experiences in Community Development; you can check out our full-length webinar below. 

Related Links:

How to ask open ended questions

Learn how to ask open-ended questions effectively with our insightful guide. An effective way to learn stakeholder voice.
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