Around this time last month, we were waking up to our first day of COP27 in Egypt. A small delegation of the What Design Can Do team from Amsterdam had arrived in Sharm El-Sheikh with a group of 18 designers and makers from around the globe, with the hopes of injecting some much-needed creativity into the biggest climate conversation of the year. 

We brought together this group of passionate changemakers under the name of the Creative Climate Collective, with the help of Creative Industries Fund NL. We spent the next few days exchanging ideas with fellow innovators and meeting decision-makers at our booth in the Green Zone. Through various workshops, exhibitions, talks and pitches, we got to see each member of the Collective share their unique perspectives on designing for climate action. For some this meant exploring the role of digital arts and new media in analysing and visualising the crisis. For others it meant sparking conversations around circularity and community development. A couple even created new artworks inspired by the whole experience — which was at times intense, frustrating and energising in equal measure.

A lot has been said about the shortcomings of COP27, and there’s no doubt that more needs to be done to push-back against the corporations and fossil fuel lobbyists who dominate these conferences. But there were also bright spots to be had — especially when it comes to the number of youth organisations, Indigenous activists and cultural projects that brought their voices to the conference for the first time.

Here are a few more impressions and lessons learned from this year’s COP, in the words of our Collective members.

“I feel that the Creative Climate Collective is powerful and proved to have a unique position at COP27: the individuals in the collective are brimming with intelligence, optimism and creativity. During the conference I had encounters that deeply impacted me, amongst others with Indigenous people and climate change refugees. It dawned on me that unless decision-makers are made to feel the urgency, or youth or climate change refugees become decision-makers, adequate action to prevent climate change will not be taken.” — Hannah Bosland, ComposTerra

“The introduction of the collective was a great success. In 3 days it helped me widen my perspective and meet many new friends and future partners. It will keep me connected with 17 wonderful designers that have the capacity to shift the climate narrative in their local communities, especially in a world that usually ignores them.” — Marwan Rasmy, Greenish

“Don’t blame the climate, we have to change our values. Water should be leading, it is interconnected with all life on earth and universal, intercontinental, international, national — the biggest connector.” — Rianne Makkink, Studio Makkink & Bey

“What a fantastic experience to contribute solution-oriented design ideas, objects, and methods in the arena of international decision making. The question is how effective were we as a collective? I think we took small steps forward. And it certainly wasn’t a fault on our part, since we presented such rich and solution-oriented practices to help fight climate change. So policy-makers, for the next COP: listen, marvel and be inspired by what design can do to help you turn words into action.”— Dirk-Jan Visser, New Horizons

“Being present at COP27 unravelled some of the mystery of how this summit works beyond what is seen on mainstream media. The dynamics of the convention and accessibility to spaces where critical decisions of the future of our planet are made, needs to be reexamined. The highlight for me was sharing space with a mix of Indigenous wisdom keepers, those affected by climate change first-hand and talented creatives from around the world. All of the people I met share a passion for regenerating our earth in a just and hopeful way.” — Shaakira Jassat, Studio Sway

“I believe climate action is an ongoing process, not just an event, and it requires extraordinary collaboration. Being involved at COP27 was really a great opportunity to forge new insights and discuss and practise more innovative solutions. It brought a cross-creative industry context to the table. The best thing has been making connections with other like-minded activists, educators, designers and organisations who were also talking about the power of design in tackling environmental issues.” — Noha Essam, Studio Ne+

“At COP27, it was exciting exchanging ideas with bright people from so many different cultures, backgrounds and disciplines and to discuss the role of design within the climate debate. As a collective, with experience ranging from fashion to architecture and material design, we explored how we can collaborate internationally on sustainable projects. I am very curious to see which initiatives will emerge from this group.” — Olivier de Gruijter, Jerry

Learn more about the Creative Climate Collective here.

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