Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel


PhD-project SDG in ACTION: Data Driven Coaching of local Communities in Achieving SDG Goals

SDG in ACTION is a PhD-project that wants to inspire and support actors within the Brussels Capital Region in the field of SDG monitoring, based on current scientific insights and further research. The outcome will translate into a state-of-the-art data-driven policy and steering instrument with which actions and impact with regard to Agenda 2030 can be monitored in a user-friendly manner.


The SDGs: from global sustainability framework to local implementation and follow-up

The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs for short, have developed at record speed into the standard for sustainable development at international, national and local levels. Governments, companies and organisations use the SDGs as a steppingstone for their own planning and action. The question is, are we moving fast enough? Will we collectively achieve the goals set by the UN by 2030? To provide an answer to these questions, there is a need for instruments to support the SDG implementation and follow-up. The PhD-project SDG in ACTION will do this within the context of the Brussels Capital Region.


SDG in ACTION: A refreshing academic look at SDG monitoring

The PhD-project starts from the existing (academic) knowledge and expertise on monitoring and evaluation of SDGs at home and abroad, but wants to take important steps forward in each of the following areas: the lack of common indicators to measure output or impact, the lack of accurate data, the lack of insight into the relationship between interventions and their impact, as well as the lack of user-friendly tools for monitoring. In line with this, the project puts forward five research questions:

  1. Can we design a common set of SDG indicators so that aggregation at the level of the Brussels Capital Region is possible?
  2. How can the global SDG indicators be translated into objectives and indicators, tailored to local actors in the Brussels Capital Region, with attention to comparability and aggregation to the (inter)national level?
  3. How can a user-friendly dashboard support organisations in the BCR instrumentally in the follow-up of their SDG actions and ambitions?
  4. What under-utilised or new data sources could be used at the local level in the Brussels Capital Region?
  5. How can it be verified that the efforts of organisations are contributing to the intended effects?


A leading and innovative position for Brussels within Europe regarding the local follow-up of SDGs

The SDG in ACTION project will enable the Brussels-Capital Region to take a leading and innovative position in Europe in terms of local follow-up of the SDGs. It will innovate on 3 major fronts:

Development of collective steering instruments

Recognising that the SDGs can only be achieved through collective action, the project aims to measure the collective efforts of municipalities, businesses, citizens’ initiatives, organisations, etc. within the Brussels Capital Region. This assumes the use of common indicators for monitoring.

Data driven approach, with the search for new public and private data sources

An important aspect in the choice of indicators is the availability and quality of data. Existing initiatives often use government data, which has its limitations: many of these government sources only offer insights at an aggregated (national or regional) level and are only renewed after one or more years.

The increased availability of data, among others from IoT applications, citizen science or open data, offers new opportunities. Besides selecting the relevant existing (local) government data, the project will focus on underused or new data sources that are relevant within the local Brussels context.

Not only environmental indicators, but also monitoring of efforts

The indicators included in the existing monitors are mainly environmental indicators. They tell us about the state of deprivation, carbon2emissions, unemployment, etc. in a given area, but they tell us little about the efforts made by a local stakeholder in relation to these issues.

The project will meet this need by also developing indicators that allow the concrete actions and efforts of organisations to be measured and monitored. In addition, the relationship between their own efforts and the environmental indicators will be examined.


A fundamental research project with broad valorisation potential, both socially, academically and in terms of business.

The 4-year project will result in a practical tool to deal with monitoring information in a user-friendly way. This on an individual organisation level, as well as on a more aggregated level within the Brussels Capital Region. In a first phase, the dashboard will be developed together with the various stakeholders within the region, and then tested within a number of local partnerships (consisting of a local government, companies and other organisations). In addition, the project will bridge with existing sustainable development projects within and outside the Brussels Capital Region.

The project combines the knowledge and expertise of the research group Studies in Media, Innovation and Technology (SMIT) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel – and IDEA Consult, on smart cities, (open) data (driven policy), SDGs, monitoring and evaluation.

The PhD research is funded by Innoviris, the Brussels Capital Region‘s institute for scientific research and innovation.


More information can be obtained from Koen Borghys ( or, Valentijn Vanoeteren ( and Bart Van Herck (