The SDG Leadership Academy will give students a remarkable opportunity to help integrate global norms into the work of the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles in planning and implementing a broad range of critical policy issues.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address a broad range of social, political, and economic obstacles to more equitable and sustainable development. While formulated for national governments, sub-state and other local actors around the world are increasingly turning to the SDGs as an alternative to conventional economic development policies. Los Angeles stands at the forefront of this movement in its city-wide effort to align its plans and goals to the SDGs.

The USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health (IIGH) has been working with the city over the last two years, joined by Occidental College, Arizona State University, UCLA and USC Dornsife’s Public Exchange, to form a remarkable academic-city partnership. For example, in the fall of 2018, supported by USC’s  Office of the Provost, IIGH offered a practicum that brought together students from across the university to bring a human rights analysis to work occurring around homelessness in support of the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles. The SDG Leadership Academy is an extension of this partnership.

Application closed


General Information

USC will be selecting up to 6 students to be a part of the SDG Leadership Academy, working alongside students from other universities and colleges, and for the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti.

The Leadership Academy will run from June 1 – August 7 and help advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the City of Los Angeles. Students will work in small teams on specific topical issues with specific departments within the Mayor’s office, and provide the city with clear deliverables and outputs. Teams are expected to meet and work together each day. Fridays will be all team meetings (i.e. meetings with the other student teams working with the city), generally held at City Hall. This will allow for discussion and strategizing across teams as well as give the opportunity to hear from exciting speakers from within the Mayor’s office and from across Los Angeles. 

Please note the following:

  1. Students chosen to participate will receive a stipend of $3500.
  2. You can apply to any and all projects, but you will need to clarify not only the interest but the skill sets you bring that are applicable to each project for which you wish to apply.  You are highly encouraged to provide detail on the skills you bring, including both substantive and methodological competencies. 
  3. The determination of who is chosen for each project will be made by the faculty/university in charge of that project, in coordination with the city.
  4. Transportation to and from meeting locations for students will be covered as needed.

Learning Outcomes

Students can expect to achieve the following through participation:

  • Impact policy-making by bringing global norms to bear on urgent local issues.
  • Act as “consultants” to LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, the United Nations and community stakeholders to assist the city’s SDG plan.
  • Work with partners, including city officials, U.N. offices, and students and faculty from other academic institutions.
  • Explore career options and build professional relationships.
  • Gain skills and work experience in community engagement, research, data visualization, communication strategies, public speaking and networking.
  • Engage in collaborations across disciplines and domains.
  • Participate in a city-wide culminating SDG event with the L.A. Mayor’s office.

Projects for the Summer

Disaggregating LGBTQIA+ data (USC)

Leaving no one behind” is a priority focus of the 2030 Agenda. Five key factors are analyzed to understand why parts of the population are often left behind in development: discrimination, geography, governance, socio-economic status, and shocks and fragility. A significant part of this endeavor entails disaggregating data on discrimination, such as along gender dimensions. In this project group, students will focus on LGBTQIA+ disaggregation. Students will review the current literature on the SDGs and LGBTQIA+ populations and write a proposal on how the City of L.A. can better address the specific needs of these populations when measuring progress on the SDGs. Students will interview leading global experts in LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the global SDG framework and propose how the global vision can be applied locally

Poverty and equality in Los Angeles (Occidental)

Leaving no one behind” is a priority focus of the 2030 Agenda. Five key factors are analyzed to understand why parts of the population are often left behind in development: discrimination, geography, governance, socio-economic status, and shocks and fragility. People get left behind when they lack the opportunities and capabilities to earn an adequate income, accumulate wealth or otherwise fully and equitably participate in their communities. Students in this project will research the systemic challenges and identify potential solutions the City of L.A. or the state can implement to change systems of poverty. The final deliverable for this project will be a literature review of the root structural impediments to social-economic mobility in L.A. as well as proposed practices the city or state can take to counter them.

SDG Community Index and storytelling (USC)

The SDGs are a powerful tool for building cross-sector partnerships and connect organizations and people to launch new activities and projects. Students in this project will build up the current database of SDG activities by sourcing organizations, projects, and people that are advancing the SDGs in LA. The deliverable of this project will be at least 50 new activities added to the LA SDG Activities Platform. Students will pick at least 17 of these activities (one per goal) and write blog posts about them to highlight specific heroes of SDG mobilization in L.A. Interviews can be filmed, written and/or voice recorded to be shared on modern digital media platforms to further localize the SDGs Students who are interested in digital media and its role in the SDGs are encouraged to apply.

SDG Deep Dive – Life on Land (Occidental)

In partnership with the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation (LASAN) and the Mayor’s Office Sustainability Team, students will work on three specific indicators of the Los Angeles Biodiversity Index. The three deliverables are: 1) Disaggregate measures of access to public spaces by habitat [biodiversity] quality, and population (demographic data). 2) Quantify the incidence of species in the Common Species List in the iNaturalist database and work with experts to rank the bird, reptile, and butterfly species on that list. 3) Measure the Red List Index for the City of L.A.

Bus Stop Accessibility (USC)

The Los Angeles Department of Public Works – Bureau of Street Services (StreetsLA) is implementing an Asset Management framework to improve street improvement decisions by considering risk, regional mobility needs, and lifecycle consideration. As part of this effort, StreetsLA’s Sidewalk and Transit Amenities Program is conducting an assessment of identified transit stops for its first phase furniture roll-out period. In its effort, StreetsLA will be evaluating access to the identified bus stops, conditions of the bus zones, presence of shade and seating, and possibly illumination level during non-daylight hours. Within this larger theme of transit accessibility, students in this project will work closely with StreetsLA and LADOT to assess priority locations for new transit shelters and other street furniture elements and amenities that provide comfort and enhance the experience for transit users and pedestrians (e.g. trash can, lighting). This study will also help to develop a prioritization methodology for new street furniture and amenities as well as tree planting throughout the City. Students in this project will do on-site assessments three times a week and work on developing the prioritization methodology two days a week.


Questions may be directed to global.health@usc.edu.


Previous SDG Projects

Learn more about previous SDG projects at the links below: