Transformative Urban Coalitions: Catalysing urban partnerships to drive systemic transformation towards sustainability

Cities account for 75 percent of carbon emissions today. Achieving global emission goals requires city leadership. Rapid and radical decarbonisation, however, can only be sustainable if it is socially just. Transformations that go beyond technical solutions require holistic approaches and buy-in from diverse stakeholders and citizens. To trigger such processes in a highly urbanised region in Latin America, catalyst projects in five Urban Labs in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina will be implemented and new models of coalition building and governance tested. This process is enhanced by transformative research, tailored communication strategies and capacity building activities. The project will also utilise film and art to inspire new narratives of attractive urban futures and shift mind-sets towards sustainability. Finally, models of coalition building and governance will be scaled up to other cities and countries, and ultimately to influence global agendas for sustainability transformations.

Project data

Argentina, Brazil, Mexico
IKI funding
8,379,121.00 €
Included preparation phase
402,509.31 €
01/2021 till 04/2024
Implementing organisation
United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)
Political Partner
  • Ministry for Agricultural, Territorial and Urban Development (SEDATU) - Mexico
  • Ministry of Cities (MCidades) - Brazil
  • Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development - Argentina
  • Ministry of Health and Social Development - Argentina
  • Ministry of Integration and Regional Development (MIDR) - Brazil
Implementing Partner
  • German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS)
  • International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
  • World Resources Institute (WRI)

State of implementation/results

  • Project website in English, Portuguese and Spanish:
  • Urban Labs established in Argentina (Buenos Aires), Brazil (Recife, Teresina) and Mexico (Léon, Naucalpan), involving a diverse range of stakeholders who collaborate and exchange knowledge to co-create innovative solutions for complex urban challenges in a way that is participatory, cross-sectoral and inclusive.
  • Ongoing design and implementation of local demonstration activities by Urban Labs:
  • Argentina:
    • Buenos Aires: Supporting a participatory reurbanization process of a slum neighborhood, Villa 20, with new ideas, connecting decarbonization with improving urban equality and climate justice
  • Brazil:
    • Recife: Working on integrated solutions, projects and transformations to address challenges of the Pilar Community, an area in the city’s historic core called Bairro do Recife where 350 families face spatial, territorial and socioeconomic challenges
    • Teresina: Implementing sustainable initiatives and creating multipurpose community spaces and gardens in Residencial Edgar Gayoso, a housing complex with high socioeconomic vulnerability where more than 450 families are forced to travel long distances to the city centre and lack access to qualified amenities, services and urban spaces closer to home
    • Léon: Promoting a vision of low motorized transport, blue-green infrastructure in public spaces, energy-efficient buildings and a circular, local economy, benefiting residents and generating a sense of community and identity
    • Naucalpan: Transforming the industrial area surrounding the polluted Hondo River through an urban regeneration project that addresses both climate change and inequality concerning neighbouring residents
  • Community of Transformation created to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience among urban labs and interested actors
  • Transformative research approaches designed, including
    • Annual surveys with over 130 respondents to assess changes in social networks, mindsets and capacities in Labs, thus allowing for longitudinal studies and conclusions in and beyond cities
    • City Profiles developed to share insights into existing challenges and opportunities to identify entry points for inclusive climate action in the five cities
  • ‘A True Paradise’ film series launched the first short films with global though leaders, directed by Oscar Award-winning film directors Dirk Wilutzky and Mathilde Bonnefoy, as part of the effort to motivate, inspire and create narratives of urban futures
  • Capacity development courses developed for Urban Lab members with experts on soft skills (communication, media formats, photography) and technical skills (nature-based solutions for climate action, urban indicators)
  • Local and global transformative communication approaches implemented, including by the 2nd global photo competition that yielded 534 submissions
  • TUC outputs will be presented at COP28 including a photo exhibition and as co-hosts of CapaCITIES day in capacity-building hub

Latest Update:


  • Current Project
  • Previous project
  • Follow-up project
  • Topic
  • Country selection

The link has been copied to the clipboard

Related Videos

Videothumbnail: A True Paradise: WHERE WE ARE HEADING - Kevin Anderson

The content cannot be shown, because the marketing-cookies were denied. Click here , for accepting the cookies and show the video!

Videothumbnail A True Paradise: AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT - Johan Rockström

The content cannot be shown, because the marketing-cookies were denied. Click here , for accepting the cookies and show the video!

Video Thumbnail "A true paradise"

The content cannot be shown, because the marketing-cookies were denied. Click here , for accepting the cookies and show the video!

The content cannot be shown, because the marketing-cookies were denied. Click here , for accepting the cookies and show the video!

Related news

Collage of different pictures which are shown in the following article

Picturing sustainable and just urban futures

read more

Photo competition: Visions of sustainable cities

read more

Urban futures require a disaster risk lens

read more