The work of UNI falls under the pillars of:
UNI emphasizes the importance of a strong network of partners that collaborate as a community of practice. This is supported by providing partners with the means for sharing knowledge and experiences, both online and face-to face. UNI supports university courses and curricula and provides its partners with the opportunities (internships, fellowships, mentorships, events and exposure) and material (UN publications, reports and experts) to guide them in their work towards sustainable urban development education. Individual students can sign up for regular updates on opportunities, as well as directly take part of the knowledge of the network partners via the Urban Lecture series .
The research pillar of UNI focuses on building and connecting an international network of researchers with a common agenda and a focus on urgent urban issues. The outcomes of an associated research network are to be closely connected to the other pillars, greatly influencing the main work within UNI and promoting the capacities of its members and stakeholders. Main activities include the thematic Hubs, and the Urban Lecture series.
UNI supports capacity development through its professional development pillar, spreading new sustainable urban development knowledge generated in universities through experts identified among the partners. UNI aims at supporting partners in providing training on locally relevant issues, focusing primarily on local governments and selected non-governmental urban stakeholders. Capacity development approaches are tailored to the needs of the target group. The Urban Lecture seriesis one of the main activities actively promoting this pillars.
UNI aims to close the theory-practice gap. Through its pillar of Policy Advice, university-urban partnerships at local, regional and global levels are forged. Evidence-based policy advice is provided to local governments through, for example, Local Urban Knowledge Arenas, to national governments (through methods such as National Habitat Fora) and globally through the support of UN-Habitat’s flagship reports and the World Urban Forum.
A strong component of UNI is the cross- cutting pillar of Knowledge Management. This ensures visibility, awareness and the dissemination of material and findings developed within the network. This is to support the partners' collaborative drive towards sustainable urban development, enabling progressive efforts based on the cumulative experiences throughout UNI’s global network of partners. A website that allows sharing and interaction between individual partners is in development, expected to be completed before the end of 2013.