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Project portfolio (method)

Union of the Baltic Cities

Detailed description of the Good Practice

Working with several projects simultaneously is a challenging reality of city administrations.
Integration of projects is crucial to sustainable development and can be approached using
Project portfolios. A project portfolio is a group of projects which, together, addresses a sustainability problem, or a sustainability gap.

The portfolios may be defined by:
1. A process in the city (waste management, economic development, etc)
2. A geographic area, such as a neighbourhood
3. A target group (schoolchildren, elderly, business community or NGOs)

Further, an efficient project portfolio should:
1. address an identified sustainability gap: improvement of a socially disadvantaged area or city traffic.
2. have clearly formulated goals, a timeline, and an overall budget,
3. include a balanced set of projects : including both large and small projects and both hard
(investment) projects and soft projects (i.e. education or information dissemination),
4. not conflict, but support each other. Ideally, they bring the portfolio environmental, economic and social gains.
5. have clearly defined boundaries: in terms of a geographical area, process, or target group,
6. be linked with sustainability indicators to measure progress.


The method of Project portfolio closely relates to the management of sustainable development within the city administration, since the municipal projects are a means to reach the goals of your city’s development strategy. The key words in the project portfolio approach include: indicators, monitoring, target values, sustainability gaps, project implementation.

Objectives of the Good Practice

The aim of the project portfolio approach is to provide a concept and reporting tool that can be used to manage and monitor a city’s sustainability. As the city´s sustainability management is an ongoing process, also the project portfolio needs to be followed up and updated on ongoing basis in order to be able to tackle the sustainbility challenges of the city. The pilot cities in SUSTAINMENT project estbalished their portfolios during the two years project.

Following the approach the 13 SUSTAINMENT cities have identified their current state of affairs in terms of sustainability projects and their monitoring, identified their current sustainability gaps and suggested a coherent project portfolio and indicators to monitor its implementation for their city administration’s use.

Participants of the Good Practice

Within the SUSTAINMENT project, the project portfolio approach was adapted and implemented by the project teams in the partner cities. They consisted of representatives from different sectors and offices working with the sustainable development in the city. Although projects can be carried out entirely within a single sector, it is recommended to involve also other sectors in projects promoting sustainable development. Representatives of the city administration and external experts (i.e. consultants, researchers) can bring different perspectives to the project design work.

Target group of the Good Practice

The project portfolio approach is a method to be applied in the city administration. It is most often initiated by the people working in the field of sustainable development, but finally it should inlude the whole city: the city is a system made of parts - the individual portfolios.

Funding of the Good Practice

The SUSTAINMENT project was part-financed by the European Union (European Regional
Development Fund) within the BSR INTERREG IIIB Neighbourhood Programme, TACIS, Finnish
Ministry of Environment and the partner cities.

More Details of the Good Practice

The pilot cities in SUSTAINMENT reviewed their city programmes to see if they can be transformed into a project portfolio. They scanned the programmes’ principles and management systems, their targets, time frames, budgets, indicators, and actors involved (city departments, political bodies and different stakeholders).
Based on this they select the ones that could serve as a portfolio. Then they answered the following questions for each programme that could serve as a portfolio:

a. What problem(s) do you want to solve by working with this particular programme?
b. What are the programmes actions, goals and targets? Are there references to the long-term city vision? What national and international goals and targets are referred to? Are there references to sustainable development?
c. Which indicators are used for monitoring?
d. How can the portfolio be more balanced? What kinds of projects
are missing, i.e. soft educational projects? Are resources efficiently allocated among the projects? New projects can be added to balance and strengthen the portfolio.
e. What resources are available for the portfolio?

The next step included the Balancing a Portfolio
1. To develop a cohesive project portfolio and ensure addressing of a sustainability gap, each city identified the following for each portfolio:
a. Which sustainability gaps do they intend to improve? What strategies are they are based on?
b. What time frame they should have?
c. How do they address the three dimensions of sustainable development?
d. What projects need to be added to better address the three dimensions?
d. What indicators could be used to monitor them?
2. Then they selected a few indicators relevant for monitoring the portfolio overall. It is recommended tat at least some of the indicators should have values available from a longer period.

Documentation and documents

"Target setting and monitoring" in SUSTAINMENT project website: http://www.sustainment-project.net/content.php/main:resources/

Toolkit URBANworks: http://www.urbanworks-toolkit.eu/

www.balticuniv.uu.se/

In the following URBANworks pdf, see pages 23-27:

Available files

Contact details

Union of the Baltic Cities
Environment and Sustainable Development Secretariat
Vanha suurtori 7
FIN-20500 Turku, Finland

phone: +358 2 262 3169
e-mail: environment@ubc.net
www.ubc-action21.net/

Data sources and references

Baltic University Programme (BUP) in SUSTAINMENT project: http://www.sustainment-project.net
www.urbanworks-toolkit.eu/