• Course Code:  SC

  • Term:  May 2017

  • Start Date:  May 31 2017

  • End Date:  Sep 9 2017

  • Duration:  15 weeks

  • Course Author(s)
    Aromar Revi and Colleagues

This course has ended

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  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
    Cities are hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity, social development and much more. At their best, cities have enabled people to advance socially and economically. However, many challenges exist to maintaining cities in a way that continues to create jobs and prosperity while not straining land and resources. Common urban challenges include congestion, lack of funds to provide basic services, a shortage of adequate housing and declining infrastructure. The challenges cities face can be overcome in ways that allow them to continue to thrive and grow, while improving resource use and reducing pollution and poverty. The future we want includes cities of opportunities for all, with access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation and more.
Sustainable cities sm

Sustainable Cities

May 2017

  • Sdg academy website announcment
    The SDG Academy Team
  • Photo
    Aromar Revi



Cities are home to half the world’s seven billion people and contribute to about three-fourths of global economic output. An additional three billion people are estimated to live in cities by 2050, increasing the urban share of the world’s population to two-thirds. 

Yet, cities and urban areas across the world face major challenges: poverty, unemployment, poor housing and lack of basic services for over 1 billion slum dwellers, constraints on productivity due to lack of basic infrastructure, and a concentration risk due to natural disasters and climate change. This classical view of the city, as a site of unresolvable problems has inhibited interest and investment in them as sites of opportunity and change. 

Sustainable cities build on the extraordinary potential of urban areas to enable change due to concentration of economic activity, innovation and job creation; the potential for social transformation, high levels of concentration of culture, people, infrastructure and buildings and the ability to redefine the relationship between rural and urban, and thereby enable rural prosperity.

Recognising this, in September 2015, member-countries of the United Nations, adopted a historic stand-alone goal on Sustainable Cities “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable“ by 2030, leaving no person, place and ecosystem behind. 

This course explores what Sustainable cities are about. It examines how urban sustainability can be delivered: how cities function as systems of systems; how we can increase urban productivity and reduce urban poverty and inequality, enable urban inclusion and safety; provide universal basic services, housing and infrastructure; protect the urban environment, reduce risk and vulnerability . It further explores what actions need to be taken to improve urban governance and financing for sustainable development and key institutions and agents that can make this possible. 


Course Objectives & Delivery Team

The course is delivered by global thought leaders and practitioners and aims to equip participants with an interdisciplinary understanding of contemporary thinking on, and practices related to Sustainable Cities. It blends practical experience and cases from cities and regions in five continents, along with urban theory to help develop an understanding of key issues and responses to the challenge of sustainable urbanisation. 

The course is led and curated by Aromar Revi, Director of IIHS and members of the Urban SDG Campaign and leading urbanists.  Members of this delivery team were involved in bringing Sustainable Cities into the heart of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) process, linking it with climate change and disaster risk reduction that are brought together via emerging interdisciplinary domain of 'urban science'.  


Course Structure and Requirements

The course is structured around a series of pre-recorded lectures, readings, live webinars, quizzes, discussion forums, and other activities. Each of these course components can be completed at a time that is convenient for the student. The material for each week is made available each Wednesday (00:00 UTC), and once the material has been opened, it remains open for the duration of the course. There are no written assignments for this course.

In addition to the asynchronous components of the course, leading urbanists will hold real-time webinars to enable participants to ask questions and engage directly with the questions of sustainability. These webinars will be announced 1-2 weeks in advance.

The estimated time commitment to complete all course components is 4-6 hours per module. This includes engaging with the required videos and readings and attempting the weekly quiz, webinars and participation in the discussion forum.

The gradable components of this course will only be based on the 'Required' video lectures and readings. There is no final examination or quiz. Assessments are continuous and are linked to quizzes at the end of every module. 

The advanced content, will not be assessed, but is targeted at advanced practitioners and researchers with some prior experience of addressing urban sustainability.

All students who successfully complete the course will receive a digital certificate of completion, signed by the instructors. To successfully complete the course and receive a Certificate of Proficiency, students must score an average of 70% or higher on the quizzes. Students that score 85% or higher, will receive a Certificate of Proficiency with Distinction. While this course is not credit granting, we encourage students to work with their own institutions to explore the option of granting credit for online coursework. 

If you have any additional questions on the course structure or requirements, please email the IIHS MOOC team at citiesmooc@iihs.ac.in or SDG Academy Team at sdgacademy@unsdsn.org.

For technical questions about the platform, please email support@edcast.com.


Course Syllabus

Module 1: 31 May - 06 Jun 2017

The Urban Opportunity


Chapter 1. The Urban Opportunity (I&II) - Aromar Revi, Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), Bangalore

Chapter 2. Cities as centers of cultural and social transformation (I&II) - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 3. The challenge of urban politics, planning and governance (I&II) - Edgar Pieterse, UCT, ACC, Cape Town 


Chapter 4. Urban research and methods - Eugenie Birch,  University of Pennsylvania, Penn IUR, Philadelphia 

Chapter 5. Urban theory and history - Susan Parnell, University of Cape Town, African Center for Cities, Cape Town 


Module 2: 07 Jun - 13 Jun 2017

What makes a city function?


Chapter 1. Understanding Urban Systems - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 2. Municipal, Regional and National governance - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 3. Urban Utilities and Services - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 4. Urban Public Finance and Taxation - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 5. Law, order and conflict - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore 


Chapter 6. Land Management and Planning - Raf Tuts, UN-Habitat, Nairobi Chapter

Chapter 7. How cities function: Lessons from London and Mumbai  - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore


14 Jun - 20 Jun 2017



Module 3: 21 Jun - 27 Jun 2017

How can we reduce urban poverty and make cities inclusive and safe?


Chapter 1.What is urban poverty? - David Satterthwaite,International Institute for Environmental Development, London

Chapter 2. New ways to measure urban poverty - David Satterthwaite,International Institute for Environmental Development, London

Chapter 3. Cities as sites for poverty reduction - William Cobbett, Cities Alliance, Brussels  

Chapter 4. What is affordable and adequate housing? - Gautam Bhan, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 5. Who can deliver the housing we need? - Gautam Bhan, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 6. Safety and violence - Joshua Castellino, Middlesex University, School of Law, London 


Chapter 7. Urban risks and vulnerabilities - Allan Lavell, FLASCO, San Jose


Module 4: 28 Jun - 04 Jul 2017 

How can we make cities productive and reduce inequality?


Chapter 1. Cities as loci of production and consumption - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 2. Women in the Informal Economy - Renana Jhabvala, WIEGO/SEWA Bharat, Delhi 

Chapter 3. Migration, mobility and the urban-rural continuum - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 4. Wealth and inequality in urban areas - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore


Chapter 5. Case Study of SEWA, India - Renana Jhabvala, WIEGO/SEWA Bharat, Delhi 

Chapter 6. Migration and the refugee crisis - Clare Short, Cities Alliance (CA), Manchester


Module 5: 05 Jul - 11 Jul 2017 

How can we improve human development in cities?


Chapter 1. Addressing the Challenges of Urban Public health - Srinath Reddy, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Delhi

Chapter 2. Health services and planning solutions for improving urban health - Srinath Reddy, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Delhi

Chapter 3. Education and skills - Chandrika Bahadur, SDG Academy, Delhi 

Chapter 4. Higher education in Cities - Chandrika Bahadur, SDG Academy, Delhi 

Chapter 5. Gender in the city - Gautam Bhan, IIHS, Bangalore


Chapter 6. Human rights and justice - Joshua Castellino, Middlesex University, School Law, London 

Chapter 7. Law and Equality - Joshua Castellino, Middlesex University, School Law, London 

Chapter 8. Apartheid and Planning in South African Cities - Susan Parnell, University of Cape Town, ACC, Cape Town


12 Jul - 18 Jul 2017



Module 6: 19 Jul - 25 Jul 2017  

How can we provide universal urban services and infrastructure?


Chapter 1. Sustainable environmental services and infrastructure- Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore 

Chapter 2. Sustainable Transport planning- Peter Newman, Curtin University, Perth

Chapter 3. Information, Communication, and Technology- Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, New York

Chapter 4. Sustainable Urban energy systems- Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore


Chapter 5. Sustainable Transport Planning : Bangkok - Apiwat Ratanawaraha, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok


Module 7: 26 Jul - 01 Aug 2017   

How can the urban environment be protected and cities be made resilient?


Chapter 1. Air, water, food and natural resources - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 2. Urban agriculture for sustainable cities - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 3. How do cities accumulate risk exposure? - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 4. Climate impacts, adaptation and mitigation - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 5. Building Urban Resilience - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore


Chapter 6. Environmental planning, management and the politics of change- Raf Tuts, UN-Habitat, Nairobi 

Chapter 7. Sustainable environmental practices: Durban- Debra Roberts, EThekwini Municipality, Durban 

Chapter 8. Urban Disaster Risk Management - Allan Lavell, FLASCO, San Jose

Chapter 9. Post-disaster Recovery - Kamal Kishore, National Disaster Management Authority, Delhi 


02 Aug - 08 Aug 2017



Module 8: 09 Aug - 15 Aug 2017

How can cities and urban areas be governed better to make them more sustainable?


Chapter 1. SDGs and other global processes - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 2. New forms of institutions and governance - Aromar Revi, IIHS, Bangalore

Chapter 3. Public participation and democracy (I&II) - Edgar Pieterse, UCT, African Center for Cities, Cape Town

Chapter 4. Financing Sustainable Development- Michael Cohen, The New School University, New York


Chapter 5. Measuring and monitoring the SDGs - Eduardo Moreno, UN-Habitat, Nairobi

Chapter 6. Addressing the Opportunities of Secondary Cities - David Simon, Mistra Urban Futures, London


Module 09: 16 Aug - 22 Aug 2017

Who can enable and implement this change?


Chapter 1. Who are helping make cities more sustainable? - Aromar Revi, IIHS

Chapter 2. United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and Urban Sustainability - Edgardo Bilsky, UCLG, Barcelona

Chapter 3. Urban innovation: community-based organisations and civil society: Case of SDI - Sheela Patel, SDI/SPARC, Mumbai

Chapter 4. UN-Habitat & International Development and Financing agencies - Eduardo Moreno, UN-Habitat, Nairobi

Chapter 5. Implementing Urban Sustainability - Aromar Revi, IIHS


Chapter 6: International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and Urban Sustainability - Gino Van Begin, ICLEI 

Chapter 7. Local leadership: a case study of Melbourne - John Thwaites, Monash University, Melbourne

Chapter 8. International Climate Action: A Case of Chinese Cities - Seth Schultz, C40 Cities, New York


23 Aug - 05 Sep 2017

CLOSING WEEKS (to complete quizzes and post-course survey)



Curator and Lead Faculty - Aromar Revi

Programme Coordinator - Garima Jain

Media Directors - Subasri Krishnan and Yashodara Udupa

Teaching Assistant - Niyati Dave

Camera - Kunal Deshpande, Yashodara Udupa and Zohrab Reys Gamat

Additional Camera: Isaac Berner

Light Assistance: Shekhar

Sound: Jamie D’silva and Rakesh U.P.

Additional Sound - Kunal Deshpande, Subasri Krishnan, Zohrab Reys Gamat

Editing - Sandhya Kumar, Vinay Ghodgeri, Yashodara Udupa and Zohrab Reys Gamat

Additional Editing - Sandeep Viswanath

Graphics - Radhamohini Prasad

Additional Assistance with Graphics - Arindam Jana, Charrlotte Adelina P, Mohan Raju JS

Video and Sound Post-Production - Pradeep Nayak

Research Assistance -  Aishwarya Balasubramanian, Ana Abbas, Anushree Deb, Amrita Chattopadhyay, Jaikishan Agarwal, Jessica George, Rahael Kuruvilla, Sarita Pillay, Sushmita Ramoji, Suman Barat, Teja Malladi

Additional Content Assistance - Neha Sami

Word Edit Support - Rekha Raghunathan, Nishtha Vadehra

Production - Ananth Kumar, Kailash Singh Rawat, Neelufer Aslam, Pancham Singh Rawat, Puttaswamy, Sanjay Kumar Pal, Sreejith Suresh

Location Production Assistance: Alicia Fortuin, Sfanele Ntuli, Siphiwe 'Zane' Silinda

Legal Assistance - Amlanjyoti Goswami, Kaye Lushington, Amrita Basu Mallik, Karuna Sharma

Transcription - Anurag Dasgupta, Asha Mavinasara, Masoom Parmar, Nikita Vidhyalankar, Satyavrat Krishnakumar, Shaurya Singh, Teesta Krishnan Sinha

Translations (Hindi) - Communication for Development and Learning (CDL)

Equipment hire - Adams, Vineet Videos, Wildclickz








Cape Town










New Delhi

New York





Thanks to:

African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town (UCT)

Chulalongkorn University

Cities Alliance

Columbia University, Earth Institute

Curtin University


eThekwini Municipality

Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales(FLACSO) 

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

Middlesex University

Mistra Urban Futures

Monash University

Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR) 

Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)

SEWA Bharat - All India Federation of Self Employed Women’s Association

Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI)

The New School University

United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)


UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) 

Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)



Angshuman Das; David McEwen; Holger Kuhle;  Jahnavi G.H.; Mohammad Fayaz; Capt. K Pooja Vasanth (Retd); Rebecca Heines ; Sandeep Kumar Mitra; Swastik Harish; Varalakshmi; Vidya Jindal



Chandrika Bahadur for the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)  SDG Academy


This course was made possible through the generous support provided to the SDG Academy by the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation

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