A new kind of activism is taking hold’: first ever Climate Challenge Cup winners announced at COP26 showcase

Date: 11 November 2021

On Wednesday night [6-9pm, 10 November 2021] two innovative projects took home the first Climate Challenge Cup, following an innovation showcase and live final at COP26 in Glasgow.

The international competition, supported by the Department of Business, Industrial Strategy and Science, uncovered civic research partnerships in the US and UK that are tackling climate change. The final is a fitting precursor to COP26’s last themed day (11 November 2021), focusing on communities, cities, regions and the built environment. 

The Climate Challenge Cup shows a new kind of activism is taking hold,” said Helen Goulden, CEO of The Young Foundation, the UK’s centre for community research and social innovation, which delivered the Cup. “It celebrates social, sustainable innovation that busts through silos, disciplines and sectors to bring actors with a shared vision but different resources together to create real change.”

The Green ERA Renewable Energy and Urban Farm in South Chicago was awarded the prize for climate adaptation. The project recognises that while demand for locally-grown food is increasing, there is an inadequate supply of clean, healthy soil as it is often contaminated with high levels of lead, toxins from gasoline, and heavy metals from factories. A vacant nine-acre brownfield site is therefore being transformed, creating 25 jobs and diverting inedible food waste from landfills to produce clean, renewable energy and nutrient-rich soil. This will be used to grow more fresh, local food on the rest of the site. Partners include the University of Illinois in Chicago, Green Era, who will run the site, and Urban Grower’s Collective, a non-profit led by black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) who have a longstanding relationship with the local community.

In the UK, Concrete4Change won the prize in the net zero category. Concrete4Change has developed a new technology that can extract carbon from the air and store it in concrete. This can reduce the carbon footprint of concrete by 60%. Concrete4Change worked with multiple partners, including universities and construction professionals, to assess the robustness and environmental credentials of the product, which is now being trialed on sites around the UK.

A finalist in each category was also ‘highly commended’ in the Climate Challenge Cup awards gala; the Marshall Plan for Middle America was celebrated in the net zero category, for helping the Appalachian region of the US move to regenerative industries, as was a project training citizens to capture temperature and water level data to help local government model the impact of climate change in South Florida in the climate adaptation category. 

“The Climate Challenge Cup showcases the need for people from different parts of the system – government, universities and communities – to work together on creating a regenerative, rather than extractive, society,” says Daze Aghaji, a climate and justice activist, and a Climate Challenge Cup judge.

Fellow judge Professor Alex Halliday, Founding Dean of the Columbia University Climate School and Director of The Earth Institute, says: The climate crisis demands innovative solutions developed as partnerships between researchers, businesses, decision makers and communities. The Climate Challenge Cup is a great way to focus attention on some of these breakthrough ideas.”

Find out more about how The Young Foundation is supporting communities, organisations and policy-influencers to work in partnership to tackle climate change at www.youngfoundation.org. 


Notes to Editors 

Helen Goulden, CEO of The Young Foundation, and judges Daze Aghaji and Alex Halliday are all available for comment or interview, as are other Climate Challenge Cup finalists, winners and judges on request.

Please contact 07535 976 933, jessica.moore@youngfoundation.org, for any media queries or to arrange interviews. 

About the Climate Challenge Cup finalists 

The twelve finalists are:  

Category 1: Carbon reduction to achieve net zero 

Category 2: Adaptation to climate change

The Cup judging panel includes:

  • Dr. Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs (US) 
  • Daze Aghaji, Young UK Climate Justice Activist (UK) 
  • Nicola Yates OBE, CEO of the Connected Places Catapult (UK) 
  • Dr Atyia Martin, CEO and Founder of All Aces, Inc (US) 
  • Professor Alex Halliday, Director of the Earth Institute and Founding Dean of the Columbia Climate School (UK)

About the Climate Challenge Cup 

The Climate Challenge Cup is a new international competition showcasing civic research partnerships that are tackling climate change through innovation. It is being delivered by the research organisation, social investor and community practitioner, The Young Foundation, in the UK, and by MetroLab Network, a civic research and innovation collaborative, in the US. The Cup is funded by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and is supported by the UK’s Science and Innovation Network, the City of Glasgow, Innovate UK, The University of Glasgow and sponsors Vertigo Ventures.

About The Young Foundation 

The Young Foundation’s mission is to develop better connected and stronger communities across the UK. We research in and with communities to increase understanding of community life today. We offer different methods and approaches to involve communities and grow their capacity to own and lead change. We provide tools and resources to support innovation to tackle the issues people and communities care about. We’re a UKRI accredited research organisation, social investor and community practitioner.