Introducing the UrbanShift Online City Academy: Eight Essential Courses for Sustainable Urban Planning

The UrbanShift Online City Academy offers free access to eight robust, self-paced courses for furthering understanding around key planning themes.

UrbanShift, the Global Environment Facility-funded partnership led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and supported by C40 Cities, World Resources Institute (WRI), and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, has launched a new online platform to enhance knowledge and understanding around integrated, sustainable urban development.  

The UrbanShift City Academy is an online learning platform designed to train people working in urban contexts to rethink existing urban systems and develop integrated processes that contribute to building climate-resilient, nature-positive cities.  

“All challenges facing our planet are interconnected. These innovative courses encourage leaders to think across siloes and understand how to create transformative change that addresses social, economic and environmental goals together,” said Rogier van den Berg, Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities at World Resources Institute.  

“The City Academy provides state-of-the art, actionable knowledge to put cities on track towards a sustainable trajectory. [For example], it encourages participants to consider how nature-based solutions can help achieve adaptation and development goals, and through tangible case studies shows how cities can plan for equitable growth.”     

The online platform offers access to eight free online courses covering topics ranging from climate action planning to sustainable neighborhood design to circular economy strategies. The courses will be available in six languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Bahasa Indonesia and Mandarin.  

City Academy courses have been rigorously researched and thoughtfully curated by experts from UrbanShift’s partner organizations and other leading institutions in the sustainability and urban development space. Covering 50+ hours of presentations, real-world case studies, videos and interactive quizzes, each course is designed to be self-contained and self-paced to allow for flexible learning. Upon completion, participants will receive a personalized certificate reflecting their commitment to knowledge development around building the cities of the future. 

Cities are complex, and every system — from transportation to land use to the financial structures underpinning development — factors into how they grow and evolve. The City Academy offers learners the opportunity to gain a holistic understanding of the systems and processes that support cities, while diving deep into particular topics of interest.  

Access the Online City Academy courses here

"Through the UrbanShift City Academy courses on circular development and climate finance, local government participants will learn how to integrate Circular Economy principles into urban planning and policy-making, thereby harmonizing economic development with the preservation of natural resources and increase their capacity to develop investment-ready sustainable urban infrastructure projects,” said Maryke van Staden, Director of ICLEI’s carbonn Climate Center. “Further, stepping up integrated climate action is the key to ensuring our cities and regions are places where both people, place and the planet can thrive."   

“The UrbanShift City Academy equips learners to envision cities as socio-ecosystems, blending built and natural environments with the local economy,” said Geordie Colville, Chief of the Energy & Climate Branch at UN Environment Programme. “Learners will gain the ability to integrate challenges and solutions, nurture local contexts, and promote innovation for green and thriving urban areas.”  

While all City Academy courses are relevant to urban practitioners and leaders across the globe, the case studies and resources place a special focus on stories from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Cities in developing countries are already facing some of the most severe climate change impacts, which are projected to triple in size in the next decade, making integrated urban development approaches essential for sustainable, equitable and healthy cities that are good for both people and planet.   

“These courses present a unique opportunity for urban practitioners across the world to address the climate crisis and create more sustainable just societies,” said C40 Executive Director Mark Watts. “The ‘Integrated Climate Action Planning’ course, for instance, features original video interviews and over 70 case studies from cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America and provides an unparalleled learning experience for cities that are starting or developing their climate action efforts. This is a great opportunity for cities from all over the world to learn from the experience and successes of cities that are already leading the way in one or more areas, so that together we can join efforts to confront this crisis,” he said. 

Courses offered through the UrbanShift City Academy include:  

  • Green and Thriving Neighbourhoods: Explore how to develop green and thriving neighborhoods in your city with an integrated vision, a set of design strategies and a step-by-step delivery roadmap. This course will inspire you to think differently about neighborhoods and provide the necessary tools to take action.  
  • Integrated Climate Action Planning: How can your city tackle climate change and build a more sustainable and just future? The course provides guidance and inspiration for cities to develop their own science-driven climate action plans, based on the experiences and best practices of cities around the world.   
  • Accessing Urban Climate Finance: This course aims to increase the capacity of city-level actors to mobilize and access finance for sustainable urban infrastructure projects. It offers guidance to subnational governments to better understand the planning, design and financing processes for these critical projects.  
  • Accommodating Urban Growth: Local governments in rapidly expanding cities must ensure safe and affordable housing for the urban poor while reducing the cost of new public infrastructure, minimizing future emissions, conserving key natural assets and surrounding biodiversity, and enhancing urban resilience.   
  • Circular Economy Strategies for Sustainable Development: Initiating a circular economic system in cities can bring a wealth of economic, social and environmental gains. In this course, learn how your city can benefit from moving away from the “take-make-waste” economic system and implementing circular strategies.  
  • Integrated Urban Planning: This participatory management process advances a city's ability to work across agencies, jurisdictions and sectors to solve key planning and environmental challenges while maximizing efficiencies.  
  • Nature-based Solutions: Explore how cities around the world are turning to nature-based solutions to tackle some of their most pressing challenges. Find out about the key elements needed to implement contextually appropriate, multifunctional and cost-effective nature-based solutions for cities.  
  • Urban Biodiversity: How can cities protect biodiversity and secure the benefits of healthy ecosystems for all residents? This course focuses on biodiversity strategy in the context of city priorities and planning processes and provides tools to integrate nature-supportive actions into wider urban practices.