Together, the millions of cars, trucks and busses driving around São Paulo account for 90 percent of air pollution. This city – whose inhabitants can spend five hours travelling to and from work – is choked with traffic. This is why, for São Paulo, What Design Can Do and it’s partner the IKEA Foundation are challenging creatives all over the world to come up with innovative, radical solutions for more sustainable flows of people and goods through the city.

The fact that Brazilians are addicted to their cars is very understandable, as alternatives are few and far between: São Paolo has virtually no cycle paths and its public transport is inadequate. For poorer Paulistanos with no car, it is all but impossible to travel around the city. In addition, pollution from exhaust emissions is a time bomb under the city’s livability. The Clean Energy Challenge – which kicks off today – is asking for ideas for radically different traffic solutions for São Paulo: Think about reducing the burden on transportation by making trips possible on foot or by bicycle, or by encouraging ride-sharing to reduce the number of cars on the streets.

5 Continents, 5 World Cities, 5 Challenges

In a new, worldwide design challenge, design platform What Design Can Do is asking designers to come up with new solutions for energy issues in five world cities: Delhi, Nairobi, São Paulo, Mexico-City and Amsterdam. The key question in all of these cities: Can we rethink how we produce, distribute and use energy in our ever-expanding metropolitan areas.

The Clean Energy Challenge links five energy issues to these five cities, each with its own specific focus: housing (Delhi); food (Nairobi); mobility (São Paulo); waste treatment (Mexico City) and renewable energy (Amsterdam). In this Challenge, WDCD is looking for solutions that are rooted in the locality; bottom-up strategies that combine innovation with traditional knowledge and local networks. The Challenge is open to ideas from designers based in these cities themselves and the rest of the world.

What are we looking for?

The best designs are innovative, practical, scalable, affordable and easily understood.

The winners, selected and assessed by an international jury, will share an award package that includes a production budget and a tailor-made acceleration programme aimed at making the winning ideas, prototypes or start-ups market and investment ready.


The Clean Energy Challenge is the successor to last year’s WDCD Climate Action Challenge . The Thirteen award-winning concepts from 2017 have now been realized – the results include Power Plant the world’s first self-supporting Green House and the Vertical University Project, an 8,000 meter Vertical University in Nepal to help rural farmers adapt to variable impacts of climate change.

What Design Can Do

What Design Can Do (WDCD) was initiated in 2011 as an international platform on the impact of design. With our events, challenges, on – and offline publications we empower creative communities around the globe to improve and transform society.

The IKEA Foundation

The IKEA Foundation (Stichting IKEA Foundation) works to create a better everyday life for the many people. As the philanthropic arm of INGKA Foundation, the owner of the IKEA Group of companies, we focus on improving the lives of vulnerable children by enabling their families to create sustainable livelihoods, and to fight and cope with climate change.

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