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Creatives must play crucial role in driving meaningful action to address climate change

Headshots: Kazmy Chi Muñoz, Aliénor (Allie) Rougeot, Dr. Sarita Srivastava, Ranee Lee 郭恩琳

How can artists, designers and scholars help the world address the climate crisis? What role can creatives play in inspiring meaningful action?  How can innovative design create a more sustainable and democratic world?

These questions are at the heart of the panel discussion, Creative Climate Action through Art and Design, at this year’s DemocracyXChange Summit (#DXC23) on Saturday, March 25 at Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Management.

The panel is being organized by OCAD University’s new Global Centre for Climate Action, a convener and incubator for creative approaches to challenging the climate crisis in ways that also focus on decolonization and social justice. The Centre’s participation at #DXC23 marks its formal launch within the community.

“In a world desperate for solutions to the mounting issues facing the climate, the Global Centre for Climate Action is a place for interdisciplinary, creative and practice-oriented research focused on climate justice,” says Dr. Sarita Srivastava who is the Centre’s Director and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science at OCAD U.


The panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Srivastava, will highlight the crucial role artists, designers and scholars must play in meeting the intertwined needs of social justice and protecting our environment. Panel members will also examine sustainable design, climate justice, and youth activism, and share the hope and promise for tomorrow that they find in art, design and activism.

Members of the panel include:

  • Ranee Lee 郭恩琳: an Associate Professor of Industrial Design at OCAD U who has been teaching students on how to give back to the community through design. As the founder of DESIGNwith, she advances environmental and social sustainability, using design as a tool for disruption and response to the challenges facing our society;
  • Kazmy Chi Muñoz: an architect, researcher and educator who specializes in morphology, form/finding and environmental design. She challenges designers to consider their impact on the preservation of life on Earth and find other uses of design to effect positive social change; and
  • Aliénor (Allie) Rougeot: who fights for the climate and a just transition for workers and communities as a program manager with Environmental Defence Canada. As a co-founder of Fridays for Future Toronto, she mobilizes to demand climate justice and empowers youth to push for more sustainable future.


OCAD U’s  Global Centre for Climate Action is aligned with the University’s Academic and Strategic Plan and its priorities to pursue environmental sustainability; decolonize, Indigenize art and design education and advance equity; innovate learning, teaching and research; and emerge as a vibrant creative hub. In addition to cultivating a global network for climate justice, the Centre will also include physical and virtual sites for building cultural communities, creating arts projects, curating exhibitions and supporting creative action and research.


Co-presented by OCAD University, the Leadership Lab at Toronto Metropolitan University, and Open Democracy Project, the fourth DemocracyXChange Summit (#DXC) is bringing together students, researchers, practitioners, public servants, community organizers, and leaders from the private, public and not-for-profit sector to connect, learn and emerge with new partnerships, plans and actions to strengthen democratic institutions and civil society.

#DXC23 is the event of the year for change-makers who care about defending democratic values, and want to help tackle some of the most pressing problems of our generation – from countering far-right extremism to rampant nationalism, growing disinformation online, and a lack of representation at today’s tables of power. 

The hybrid event, from March 23 to 25, features workshops and talks focusing on three core themes: integrity of information; economic and social inequality; and trust in governance. The summit opens on March 23 with an evening keynote address by internationally bestselling author and award-winning journalist Anand Giridharadas, one of the world’s leading voices on democracy.

On Friday, March 24, the Democracy Futures Workshop will invite participants to consider: How might we create a resilient, successful, and sustainable democracy? To help answer this question, participants will explore three significant drivers of change: social inequality, misinformation, and trust in governance. Participants will examine each of these critical drivers through the lens of impact on resilient democracy and within the larger context of climate change. The workshop is being designed by OCAD U’s Super Ordinary Laboratory under the leadership of Professor Suzanne Stein and OCADU CO., in collaboration with TMU’s Leadership Lab and Brookfield Institute.

The evening keynote address on March 24, The Rise of the Italian Far Right: Lessons for Europe and Beyond, is a partnership with the public lecture series, On the Frontlines of Democracy, organized by the Toronto Public Library and TMU. Nadia Urbinati, PhD, distinguished political theorist and Professor at Columbia University, will analyze the rise of the new coalition government in Italy and its ramifications in conversation with Sanjay Ruparelia, Jarislowsky Democracy Chair and Associate Professor at TMU.

On Saturday, March 25, artist and sculptor Rajni Perera is the morning keynote speaker, sharing her insights on how artists need to be at the table to co-create a more resilient and sustainable democracy in Canada and around the world. The summit closes with a keynote address by Maria Ressa, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, press freedom fighter and author.

Register today to participate in this year’s DemocracyXChange summit.