What is the CitiesCHALLENGE about?

The CitiesCHALLENGE ideas competition invites urban projects in partner countries of German development cooperation to propose ideas for sustainable urban development under a specific theme. The motto of the first round, which took place in 2019 was CitiesCHALLENGE: 2030 Agenda meets Urban Climate Action, whereas the second edition set the focus on Building Vibrant and Resilient Neighbourhoods. In both editions, four so-called Urban Living Labs were chosen and equipped each with a budget of originally 100,000 Euros.  

The CitiesCHALLENGE proves the importance of integrated approaches for sustainable urban development and shows the potential of innovative modalities and co-creation for the implementation of global agendas. In addition, the CitiesCHALLENGE demonstrates the importance of dialogue between the global and regional technical cooperation areas for innovative, needs-based and even more effective policy development. 

What is an Urban Living Lab?

A Living Lab brings together different levels of government, civil society, private sector actors and the local communities to put a demand concerning a common goal into practice. 

An Urban Living Lab does this in the context of urban development. It promotes participatory and multidisciplinary interventions organising workshops, activities for awareness-raising and small construction measures that foster decent, sustainable and safe neighbourhoods. 

Through the Urban Living Labs, GIZ and BMZ aim to enrich the dialogue with development cooperation partners on the guiding principles of German development cooperation and aim to match these principles with real-life projects. 

This learning curve illustrates the added value of urban strategies for SDG implementation and helps to develop tools and new methodological approaches. 

What are the key objectives of the CitiesCHALLENGE?


To effectively disseminate guiding principles from BMZ on sustainable urban development and make them visible in concrete terms.


To match approaches from policy advice with partner needs and priorities on the ground.


To test tools and methodological approaches for implementation and put the experiential knowledge of bilateral projects and partners to good use.


To further develop technical and methodological approaches for needs-based, implementable, and transformative technical cooperation.

Vibrant and resilient neighbourhoods

Under the new motto and with cooperative support of the Cities Alliance and UN-Habitat, innovative urban strategies are tested in four new Urban Living Labs to demonstrate potential for future upscaling on different levels and replication in different local contexts.  

There are five central themes of the CitiesCHALLENGE 2.0, strongly connected with SDG No. 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. 

Integrated Urban Planning

All Urban Living Labs are implemented using a holistic approach: They take equal account of social, economic, or ecological aspects. Whether it is about the consequences of extreme weather or about making people self-sufficient in food: Only integrating these different approaches in existing administration and across different sectors makes cities truly more sustainable. 

Sustainable Construction

All buildings constructed as part of the Cities Challenge are constructed in a resource-conserving way. They are constructed by local experts using sustainable materials typical for the country. Constructions in existing buildings, such as heat reduction measurements, are implemented using simple techniques and long-lasting materials. 

Climate Resilience

Climate change is pushing people who live in informal settlements to their physical stress limit. Measures in the Urban Living Labs, for instance urban greening, help to alleviate the consequences of increasingly hotter seasons and improve the quality of life of urban residents in the global south. 

Gender Equality & Justice

In many countries of German development cooperation, the equal participation of women in all areas of social life has not yet been implemented. The Urban Living Labs strengthen the role of women in local communities. They are important multipliers for implementing social change at the local level.

Strong Partnerships & Participation

In the planning phase, all Urban Living Labs work together with the local population, with the municipalities as well as with partner organisations. Building Strong partnerships throughout the implementation, the Cities CHALLENGE encourages their partners to continue the impulses emanating from this project even after the official project phase ends.

Beatriz González

resident of San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, volunteered in the transformation of Hundido Park

“I come to this park very often and that’s why I want to make sure it looks beautiful and pleasant.”

Beatriz Gonzáles, resident of San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. Find out more about Beatriz Gonzáles’ story and the Urban Living Lab in Mexico:

Chantel Asanda Cwaile

from Galeshewe, Kimberley, South Africa participated in a clay brick fabrication workshop

“This project reminds me of where I come from. Now I have learnt to make these clay bricks by myself.”

Chantel Asanda Cwaile, young resident of Galeshewe, Kimberley, South Africa.
Find out more about Chantel Asanda Cwaile’s story and the Urban Living Lab in South Africa

Suma Begum

resident of the informal settlement of Gorer Kanda in Satkhira, Bangladesh

“I hope that through this project my family can recover from the bad shortage situation and I dream of building a nice house.”

Suma Begum, slum dweller and beneficiary from Satkhira, Bangladesh. Find out more about Suma Begum’s story and the Urban Living Lab in Bangladesh:

Summathi Kanagi

a teacher at ICDS centres 15 and 16 in the Kannagi Nagar district of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

“The mothers generally leave the kids here and go immediately. But now they are staying back for some more time as it is cooler and comfortable inside..”

Summathi Kanagi, a teacher at ICDS centres 15 and 16 in the Kannagi Nagar district of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Find out more about Summathi Kannag’s story and the Urban Living Lab in India:

CitiesCHALLENGE: 2030 Agenda meets Urban Climate Action  

How small-scale projects at local level can contribute to big-scale goals at global level

The vision of the Cities CHALLENGE 2030 was to invite urban projects in partner countries of German development cooperation to propose ideas for implementing the SDGs and climate protection in cities together with local partners. Through concrete entry points, such as urban infrastructure, public spaces, housing, food security or nature-based solutions, different stakeholders could be addressed. The importance of climate action, as outlined in the Paris Agreement, and the interconnectedness of climate change with the SDGs in an urban context were key issues for the CitiesChallenge 2030. In the climate community, development goals are often considered as a co-benefit – with this ideas competition, GIZ and BMZ aimed to showcase that they can go hand in hand. Check out the full results in the interactive ePaper here.

Interconnected nature of the 17 SDGs

Interconnected nature of the 17 SDGs in the 2030 Agenda, particularly in cities, where productive synergies between correlated goals are easier to activate 

Integrated urban development

Integrated urban development predicts greater impact as relevant actors from sectors such as mobility, waste and energy work closely together to find sustainable, effective and climate-friendly solutions.

Leave No One Behind

This ‘central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs’ is a fundamental commitment to the global community, making the development goals socially just and inclusive.

Multi-actor partnerships

Multi-actor partnerships invite a wide range of actors to work together towards achieving the SDGs bringing together multiple wisdom, capacities and resources 

Zoila Moro

is one of the “Guardians of the Hills” in Portoviejo, Ecuador

“What mobilises people is social action.”

Zoila Moro, Member of the Parish Committee of San Pablo in the Portoviejo Municipality, Ecuador.
Find out more about Zoila Moro’s story and the Urban Living Lab in Ecuador:

Muhammad Al-Hourani

a beneficiary of the Urban Micro Lung in Amman, Jordan

“This forest will be the first thing I look at every day, giving me the hope that the future will be better and green.”

Muhammad Al-Hourani, Owner of a household goods store in Jabal Al-Manara. Find out more about Muhammad Al-Hourani’s story and the Urban Living Lab in Jordan:

Johanna Sheehama

resident of Onyika No. 2, informal settlement in Windhoek

“One day Onyika will look like a real town.”

Johanna Sheehama, Principal of a Pre-Primary & Day Care Centre in Onyika, Namibia. Find out more about Johanna Sheehama’s story and the Urban Living Lab in Namibia:

Marija Jovanović and Ljubica Kovačević

residents of Belgrade’s Savski venac

“People will throw away lots of things, many of which can be used for me and my family.”

Ljubica Kovačević, member of the Roma community in Belgrade, Serbia. Find out more about Ljubica Kovačević’s story and the Urban Living Lab in Serbia:

Resource hub

Cities CHALLENGE Factsheets

Check out Cities CHALLENGE material in our CityTransitions Ressource Hub.

Factsheet Cities CHALLENGE Ecuador

Factsheet Cities CHALLENGE Ecuador

Factsheet Cities CHALLENGE Jordan

Factsheet Cities CHALLENGE Jordan

Factsheet Cities CHALLENGE Namibia

Factsheet Cities CHALLENGE Namibia