On 23 October 2021, African Climate Alliance in collaboration with Project 90 by 2030, hosted an open space dialogue, to bring young people between the ages of 14 and 35 to discuss the important question: what does climate justice look like in South Africa ahead of COP26?

A total of 20 participants (excluding facilitators) gathered in the historic Ashley Kriel Hall at Community House in Salt River Cape Town for a day of storytelling, sharing, learning, and community-building. Listening to the youth speak about their lived experiences, what they believe needs to change to create a just future, and what messages they wish the leaders at #cop26 would listen to, it was incredibly energising and inspiring.

The day was filled with many tough conversations, but also so much fun. Ahead of the event, the organizing team had the following objectives:
– Create a safe and inclusive environment for attendees to feel comfortable to share their lived experiences and opinions
– To enable and empower our participants so that they can reach beyond their expectations and open up new horizons of opportunity.
– To gain fuller understanding of Climate Justice and COP26, and Get messages for COP leaders if the group is willing.
– Determine whether the information the group has accessed on climate change in the past is enough and useful, or if more accessible information is needed.
– Get an understanding of what kind of resources are needed in the future to make climate change more accessible.
– Increase confidence in the attendees in owning and telling the global South stories of climate impact.
– Get a sense of who would be interested in moving forward in developing resources in 2022.

Creative Facilitation & The World Café Method
This approach to working with groups is based on the belief that human beings learn best when they are having fun and are fully engaged with the activity. Creative Facilitation offers practical tools and the arts in order to create this safe, energized learning environment. World Café is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue. Each element of the method has a specific purpose and corresponds to one or more of the design principles.


– Xoli Fuyani
– Mitchelle Mhaka
– Sarah Oliver
Event Support: Gabriel Klaasen
Event Manager & Support: Sarah Robyn Farrell


Facilitators arrived between 7:30 and 7:45 to:
– open the hall
– set up chairs
– put up educational posters (posters on climate change, climate justice and cop26 in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa)
– set up the name labelling and registration table
– prepare the various flip chart papers including the goals, agreements and questions for the Open Space.
– ground with each other and get on the same page

Set up was mostly smooth but the hour went by extremely fast and so it was rushed towards the end. The name tag and registration tables were moved into the entrance hall for attendees to make name tags while they had a welcome tea and snack, which worked very well. There was no flip chart board at the venue but a table was used in its place against the stage. In future we must ensure that there is a flip chart stand at the venue and prepare all of the written pages for the open space the day prior.

The group was welcomed in a circle by the facilitators, setting up the space and the tone for the day.
This included:
– A general welcome and introduction to the theme of the day
– General housekeeping rules
– A physical warm up to help participants come into and take care of their bodies
– A round of introductions using physical actions to represent mood / character
– An invocation to bring awareness around people coming from different cultures, races and classes and different backgrounds: “Milk and Honey have different colors, but they share the same house peacefully”.

Following the introduction, the group was introduced to the goals and agreements:

Build CommunityFirstly people were given the opportunity to be
able to express themselves in their language – someone can help translate
Build common understanding on
climate justice
Avoid put downs of self or other
Raise awareness on the upcoming COP and climate injustices in South
Be willing to try new things
Connect with each other and building inclusionPlay at your edge
HAVE FUNBe willing to ask questions – no question is too small
Practice care for your impact

Others were also given the opportunity to add goals and agreements

This led into the milling portion of the programme whereby the group would walk around and be prompted to stop and talk with a partner using a given question. The aim was to allow people to feel more comfortable in a group setting and start talking about the thematic subject matter of the session.
The prompt questions included:
– Introduce yourselves: name, what’s good in your life at this moment?
– What is a community that you care about?
– What has brought you here today
– What is your understanding of Climate Justice

The milling was followed by a debrief in which the group relayed how the exercise brought relaxation, confidence and learning experience. This was done through debrief question:
– How was “milling” (the small group activities) for you?
– What was the value of those activities?
– What surprised you?

A short 15minute break allowed for sandwiches and tea prepared by infinity cafe and further networking of the attendees (Tea and snacks were available throughout the day)

The second session was opened with a Hope Intention Tree activity to preface the start of the Open Space. Markers and post it notes were handed out to all attendees (including facilitators) to write down their hope for themselves during this process. This was followed by a ‘go round’ for each person to state their name and intention before posting it to the tree in the center of the circle. As each person posted their intention to the tree, every person the circle would respond in unison saying “we support you [insert name]”.

This setting of intentions was followed by a body warm up energiser before the introduction of the themes and open space principles.

Aided by A2 posters around the hall, the facilitators set the context of the open space discussion by discussing three questions in order to attempt to have everyone on the same page for the open space:
– What is climate change and why should we care?
– What is climate justice?
– What is COP26 and why does it matter for South Africa?

Posters can be found here.


The facilitators then led the attendees through the principles of Open Space and Marketplace.
The principles of open space:

  1. Whoever comes is the right people
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could’ve
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time
  4. Whenever it’s over, it’s over

The Principles of Market Place:
There are three rounds of marketplace led by a question. Anyone can put their own topic up to lead on a discussion.
People can choose to attend which every discussion they feel most drawn to. The Law of Two Feet gives participants
freedom to move at any time to a discussion they care about. Caring creates common ground, and helps to remind
participants of higher purpose.


Round 1: What climate change effects have you noticed / witnessed in your community?

Collected Inputs from Round 1
● Changing weather patterns
● Drought (Day zeros – already experienced in communities in Cape and else where but not in
the media because not the ‘richer communities’
● Less farming work
● Floods
● Scarcity of resources (food, water, land destruction)
● Effects on livelihoods
● Blocked drainage systems (sewage)
● Chronic exposure to toxic chemicals
● Changes to air, water, soil
● Dumping / pollution / landfill waste in communities, storm water and beaches
● “We are already suffering never mind future generations”
● Human rights abuses (section 24 etc)
○ No clean environment
○ Access to
clean water and air
○ Education (disasters / lack of food exacerbate education gap.
○ Proper housing / housing crisis worsened
○ Medical care (increased sickness – diarrhea, cholera asthma-, queues at clinics)
○ Lack of food / unaffordable food prices
○ Xenophobia from migration
○ People use drugs to cope

Round 2: What are some actions we want our leaders in South Africa to take about climate change?

Collected Inputs from Round 2
● Move away from coal and other fossil fuels (and nuclear), and embrace renewable energy
and alternatives
● New drainage systems
● Planting trees / creating carbon sinks
● Mitigation projects
● Adaptation initiatives
● Waste management systems + recycling
● Regulations to reduce toxic chemicals and mining
● Creating ACCESSIBLE green spaces through urban development planning
● Divert investment in fossil fuels and invest in alternative energy (renewables, waste to energy
● Tackle water security through better water management practices and infrastructure
● Decent housing (RDP and other) – Sustainable housing starting in most affected communities
/ townships
● Education in schools (embedded in curriculum)
● Show ambitious plans to get access to funding to implement (transparently) change
● SMART goals that are time based and realistic
● Green city planning and green job creation
● Plant agriculture subsidies / support regulations for improvement on animal agriculture
● Cocreate with not just for communities

Round 3: What do we want to do as community members?

Collected Inputs from Round 3
○ “Why wait for the government to act when they have proven to be nothing more than
ignorant. Let’s do what it is that the government should be doing but isn’t taking
action starting with supporting the health and wellbeing of the working class.” Build a
system for the people by the people
○ Create more information on climate change (workshops, educational protests)
○ Litigate / sue the government
○ Political education on social development and climate justice
○ School initiatives
○ Food sovereignty (community gardens / farms / cooperatives)
○ Recycling and waste initiatives
○ Access funding opportunities to create our own adaptation strategies aand actions
○ Eat more plant based
○ Find fun ways of engaging with people to teach these issues in a way that sticks
○ Create groups and spaces to speak out and plan (intergenerational led by youth)
○ Educational foundation (formal and informal)
○ There are no right ways to advocate but there re wrong ways when it comes to
excluding people and voices.
○ Different types of advocacy: Articles, TV and Radio, Artivism, Mass Mobilization,
Public Participation, amplify voices
○ Ways Forward: Reaching out to communities and engaging with schools
○ Cocreating with communities – no saviour mindset
○ Facilitate changemaking conversations
○ Social media awareness

Additional Notes Captured on Social and Environmental intersections:

● Global issues like black lives matter, GBV, climate change do affect us as a youth both
regionally and internationally
● We wat to amplify each person’s voice and demand change in our system
● All global issues interlink and by tackling one you will be able to solve the other
● Socialism?
● Black people don’t move with white people they don’t talk to each other, can’t face each other
● Nobody took the time to acknowledge the impact of the individual
● We need to take action on climate change before it gets out of hand
● System change not climate change

The group gathered for a final debrief, harvest of information and close. Individuals were invited to share insights or other results from their conversations with the rest of the large group.
This was followed by a 6 mins journaling / feedback write up offering an opportunity to unwind and reflect. Prompts:
● What happened for you today?
● What is something you learned about yourself?
● Where were you surprised? Where did you feel hindered?
● Do they feel like there is enough information about climate change? Is it useful to them? What is
● Do you want to take this forward/codesign climate justice resources with a focus group in the future?


What happened for you today? What is something you learned about yourself?
● I got to engage with people and have fun while learning new things. I learn’t that I can be
interactive and I dont always shy away when important conversations need to be had.
● I’ve learned that i can be able to interact with other people and also learn their personalities
● Today we discussed on what we can do to help apply climate change
● What I learnt today is the meaning of climate change and what COP26 is
● A safe space for learning was created. I learnt that my voice has a place in the world and will
be heard.
● I saw, in practice, the importance of diverse learning spaces that allow for cross-cultural
shared socialisation and knowledge exchange in creating understanding.
● I got to take something I learned and got engaged with other people about what i learned
● What I learned about myself is that I can interact with different people and I enjoyed listening
to other people
● Intersections of climate change, energy and food security.
● Everything that I learnt today was much of what I need for now and the future this was one of
the most safe spaces and i was comfortable throughout.

Where were you surprised? Where did you feel held back or challenged?
● Very surprised, I felt challenged, all though i did know a bit, I didn’t know all the smaller technical details with each different topic.
● I was challenged by having different age groups in one session
● What I learnt is i can choose to speak up because i want to engage with others
● I was surprised by the ice breaker as much as what climate change effects we have all witnessed.
● I was surprised by the lack of in depth understanding around climate justice/change. I felt challenged by having to step into sharing knowledge.
● I was taken back by how young most of the people were, but how much they knew about these topics discussed and with great, practical ideas for solutions.
● I was surprised by how young people are so hungry for change.
● By hearing about climate change, to be honest i didn’t know what climate change was.
● To see so many people from different areas in Cape Town.
● People that i didn’t know.
● Bright ideas coming from young people about climate change and awareness.
● The part where i had to learn peoples names, i am bad at that but i will get better.

Do they feel like there is enough information/resources about climate change for South Africans? Is it useful to you? What is needed?
● There’s definitely enough information and it is useful to me, however what is needed is that it be accessible for everyone as though it free knowledge not everyone knows.
● No there is insufficient information in SA, it is essential to me because I see the consequences.
● We do not have enough resources. To build a strong community that is educated in climate change.
● There is not enough knowledge and resources available to South African’s. There is insufficient education in local languages. We need more peer-to-peer spaces of learning.
● There is a lot out there, but most if it is inaccessible due to jargon, big words, lack of storytelling, lack if linkages to lived experiences.
● I feel there is not enough information for me, more resources on climate change is needed.
● No we don’t have enough.
● There are lots of things we can do for a change, there are people needed to speak.

One thing you could say to the leaders at COP26 what would you say?
● The profits you are trying to maximise in the banks will be of no use and won’t grows if the people you’re exploiting have nothing more to give.
● Put forward SMART actions: (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Oriented)
● You are a group of polluters
● Clean up your act, follow through with you commitments with real action.
● Listen to the youth!
● I will tell them to learn more climate change
● When will change come because if you could look now in communities we live there is no difference.
● I would tell them what we have learnt today. I am going to tell them what i learned and teach them.
● This is a climate emergency. Act Now! The future is now!
● To Help the country
● They should not be leading they should be ….
● To help people and give them peace of mind
● Come up with binding agreements and measures for offenders
● There needs to be more action, less talk
● Create sustainable jobs

Did you enjoy the event and how can we improve?
● I enjoyed it and it could be improved by continuing to make every moment of it interactive.
● Yes I did, you can possibly play a video that shows what climate change is and its effect on the world
● Yes i enjoyed it, keep up the great work.
● Yes! Of course to build these workshops at school and in communities as much as possible and to feed the future with food and knowledge.
● I enjoyed it. Improve on having more focused groups to tackle one issue at a time.
● Loved it! If possible, have lunch a bit earlier so the post-lunch roundtable doesn’t feel rushed.
● Yes, I did enjoy the event and we can improve in the future.
● Yes, I did a lot.
● Yep, very we can improve by getting more together and going on events
● I enjoyed the whole event and I have no complaints
● Yes, I did, it was nice. I enjoyed myself. To do more for the country and community.
● Yes, I did enjoy the event. It was nice to see and meet new friends.
● Yes, I did because I learned a lot about climate change.
● Yes but I feel non-vegan people should be catered for.

This project has been made in partnership with The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. 

More To Explore


Open Letter to the African Union

The Context In the lead up to COP27, the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Egypt in November, over 700 youth from