City of Dreams for Purpose Climate Lab

Turning climate election pledges into action

The City of Dreams was created to strengthen the debate on four crucial issues for climate change in the 2016 municipal elections in Brazil: urban mobility, green areas, waste management and clean energy. We have gathered 35 partners specialized in these matters to influence candidates and also to ensure that after the elections, municipalities would create public policies that bring solutions to the problems of climate. More than that, we enabled people to participate in these causes and influenced their candidates. We have shed light on the urban debate surrounding climate change by bringing these topics closer to people’s realities, making them a public agenda. The campaign, created by Purpose Climate Lab with the coalition, increased political pressure on these issues and influenced climate commitments of the city of São Paulo, the largest city in the country.

02. Insight & Strategy


In 2015, Brazil was in political chaos, with the President at the time, Dilma Rousseff, facing corruption charges, the economy shrinking and unemployment soaring. Purpose’s polling showed that climate change issues were of interest to people in Brazil, who suffer every day from the consequences of extremely high levels of air and water pollution. But climate was rarely covered in the media and organisations who would normally be speaking out felt, in the negative political environment, that the space for them to do so was limited. People did not feel they had any power to influence and engage.


The Opportunity 

Purpose Climate Lab team members identified the country-wide municipal elections in the autumn of 2016 as a crucial opportunity. There was a predominantly negative narrative surrounding the elections and a pervading sense among voters that they had no power or influence on the outcomes.

The team wanted to use this moment to get voters interested in issues like urban mobility, waste, energy, and green areas and in doing so encourage them to push mayoral candidates to engage with these issues.

03. Action

The team set out to create a digital platform and in-person gatherings that enabled citizens to choose the issues (“dreams”) that meant the most to them, and then consolidated these citizens’ voices together to demonstrate support and push candidates to engage with the issues.

The campaign was focused on two major cities and one second tier city —  São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Recife respectively — in order to test the campaign on a mix of areas and populations.

Given that the team was dealing with issues as diverse as waste management, urban mobility, and clean energy, there was an evident need to bring in partner organizations that could contribute their expertise and assist in forming narratives around each of the “dreams.”

The Purpose Climate Lab campaign strategy team identified and convened 36 partner organizations, a challenging process that involved identifying and vetting new and unfamiliar partners. The final coalition of partners then worked together on the development of the campaign — including digital and in-person elements — with the Purpose team playing a hub and support role in keeping everyone organized across groups and cities.

04. Video
05. Impact

The elected candidates in each city talked about the majority of the “dreams” during the election campaign and made commitments on many of them. The coalition continues to work to ensure that the new mayors are held accountable to their promises. They are doing this by campaigning for the mayors to include plans to meet their commitments on the environment in their published “goals programs” for their terms as mayors. In most cases the mayors are legally obliged to publish and consult on their plans, which will be released in the next few months.


The political crisis in 2017 in Brazil has changed the campaigning context one more time for our City of Dreams partners. Whilst we could have engaged directly with the candidates and got similar results, the sheer numbers of people involved in this campaign means that the partners now have a wide ranging and deep base of support to draw on to ensure the dreams are implemented.

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