Capturing urban transformation: Building capacities through communication and arts

A group of women sit in a half circle around crafts layed out on a carpet.
Women Artisans of Pilar experimented with paper recycling techniques in craftmanship during training workshops that incorporated their Recife cultural traditions, sustainability and practicality. © WRI Brasil

At COP28 in Dubai, the Transformative Urban Coalitions (TUC) project will have a photo exhibition that stands as a testament to the power of transformative communication in building capacities for sustainable and socially inclusive climate action. This exhibition, taking place at the 5th Capacity-building Hub, showcases the collective efforts of individuals committed to reshaping narratives and inspiring change within their communities.

Urban Lab participants have emerged as essential actors in shaping sustainable solutions within their communities. As part of two of the capacity-building courses organized by TUC, and armed with nothing but their phones, Urban Lab members used their camera lenses and social media to exchange stories, creating a deeper understanding of relevant issues in transforming their cities into greener and more socially just urban areas. The capacity-building initiatives reveal a change process, turning individuals into skilled storytellers who inspire change.

In the immersive photography training, participants formed a community of practice, exchanging knowledge to create a shared understanding of the narratives and the best ways to portray them. Facilitated by the acclaimed Mexican photographer Rodrigo Jardón, the training focused on developing narratives and storytelling through urban photography. 

For the Social Media Training, participants were introduced to the creation and dissemination of messages for social media. The training was facilitated by the Brazilian communication experts Eduardo Carvalho, Leonardo Menezes and the young climate activist Cayo Scot. Participants recognized that through telling their stories, the impacts on culture and climate are linked. 

Taken within their communities, the photographs in the exhibition are a visual narrative of the participants’ journeys, highlighting the potential of capacity-building to bridge gaps, break down social barriers, and foster collective ownership. The images also portray the spirit of Urban Lab coalitions as hubs where individuals from diverse backgrounds join forces to address climate challenges and build more sustainable and socially just urban futures. 

Within Transformative Urban Coalitions (TUC), the transformative communication approach extends beyond words by using the power of visuals through urban photography and Social Media, breaking down cultural and social divides. As the exhibition illustrates, communication is not just a tool but an essential soft skill and expertise for socially inclusive climate action. 

By showcasing the work of photographers from different genres and providing feedback based on fundamental photography concepts, participants were encouraged to find their voice in photography and effectively communicate transformative actions taken within their communities.

The exhibition, an outcome of this capacity development training, reflects stories of diverse communities, showcasing their resilience and commitment to creating a greener, inclusive and more sustainable future. The displayed visuals capture the collective power of personal views for collective narratives, emphasizing our shared responsibility in the face of climate change.