Cities using play areas to address global challenges recognised as 2022 Real Play City Challenge winners

The winners of the 2022 Real Play City Challenge were revealed today by the Real Play Coalition, ahead of World Children’s Day on Sunday (20 November). Run with PlacemakingX, a global network of advocates who accelerate placemaking as a way to create healthy and inclusive communities, the international competition celebrates and awards inspiring uses of play to tackle global challenges.


The expert jury selected the winning cities and urban practitioners for creating places that give people time, space, and opportunities to play, to help their community tackle three global challengesClimate change, inclusivity and conflict.


Winners of the ‘Places where play heals people’ category utilise play to help communities through issues of trauma and conflict, ‘Places where play supports climate action’, were recognised for enabling a community response to climate change, and winners of the ‘Places where play unites us all’ are addressing inequality through play


One city and one urban practitioner project has been awarded the win across each theme, and the jury selected several highly commended projects.


Places where play heals people:

  • Winning urban practitioner: Girl Awakening by Colours of Connection, Democratic Repulic of the Congo

  • Winning city: Pocket Parks as a Healer by Kohima Smart City Development, India

  • Highly commended:

    • Baytna Hub by Athens Comic Library & We Are Community, Athens, Greece

    • Changing Faces Competition by Public Space Network, Nairobi, Kenya

    • No child left behind by White Helmets (well known as Syria Civil Defense), Idlib, Syria


Places where play supports climate action:

  • Winning urban practitioner: Climate Smart Play Space by Holistic Actions for Development and Empowerment (HADE), Uganda

  • Winning city: Breath and Play Freely by Indore Smart City Development, India

  • Highly commended:

    • A Playground That Comes Alive When It Rains, Erect Architecture, London, UK

    • Climate Ready Schools: The Irma Coulson Public School by Evergreen, Canada

    • Grey > Green = Gold by Space For Play, the Netherlands


Places where play unites us all:

  • Winning urban practitioner: Vivo Mi Calle by Despacio, Columbia

  • Winning city: Greater Warangal, Greater Warangal, Municipal Corporation, India

  • Highly commended:

    • Basurama by Basurama, Madrid, Spain

    • Play Friendly Slums by Rourkela Smart City, India


Congratulating the winners of the 2022 Challenge, jury member and Real Play Coalition member Dr Bo Stjerne Thomsen, VP and Chair of Learning Through Play, The Lego Foundation said: “These winners represent the future of urban design. Not only were they great ideas, but these six winners have made a tremendous effort to bring them to life into real play environments, discussing and testing whether they could be sustained and scaled. I am excited to see what they do next.”


Fellow judge, Tim Gill, Global advocate for children’s outdoor pay and mobility added: “The Real Play City Challenge provides a unique opportunity to give those in lower income countries a platform. Some may think that the goal of creating more playful, child- and youth-friendly places and neighbourhoods is only relevant or meaningful to the global North. However, as this year’s winning cohort all come from South America, Africa, and Asia, the RPCC shows how wrong that idea is. Congratulations to all.”


First launched in 2019, the Real Play City Challenge aims to inspire other placemakers, governments, and international organisations and to demonstrate the power of play in creating positive outcomes for children and adults alike facing these issues in their local community.

The winners, chosen by an esteemed panel of experts across urban planning, child psychology and play experts, will be able to develop and scale up their projects through accelerator workshops and training provided by RPC Members, networking opportunities to establish new partnerships to help advocate for the power of play, as well as visibility throughout the RPC’s network and channels.

About the winning projects:


Category: Places where play heals people


Urban Practitioner: Girl Awakening by Colours of Connection, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)


In DRC, girls face enormous challenges on a daily basis – gender-based violence is pervasive, HIV affects 2x more women and girls than men and boys, sexual violence is experienced by 46% of girls, and educational outcomes are poor with just 1/3 girls completing primary school.

Founded in 2020, the project has already supported 300 girls, working with 8 mentors, 40 community leaders and 30,000 community members. Among their many aims are to provide scholarships for all girl program participants to pursue their education and provide opportunities for girls to learn how to manage their menstrual cycle, reproductive health, and understanding their rights and consent.


City: Pocket Parks as a Healer, Kohima, India

Due to the unique land holding system in Kohima, all land is owned by tribal communities and protected under the Constitution Act. There is a scarcity of open spaces around neighbourhoods of Kohima, which has resulted in children not having many opportunities to play outdoors.

Kohima Smart City identified unused spaces, refuse sites and residual spaces around steep street turns and corners and envisioned how they can be transformed into safe child friendly pocket parks. These spaces played the role of treasured spaces that helped children overcome their fear of the pandemic, and also provided resting points for care-givers. 

Category: Places where play supports climate action


Urban Practitioner: Climate Smart Play Space by HADE, Uganda


Climate Smart Play Space is designed to give children in the Ghetto communities in Kampala an opportunity to create play toys using safe, recyclable materials as they learn and embrace the value of climate change and environmental conservation.

Many children in Ghetto communities have limited opportunities to enjoy a playful childhood, and this project gives them an opportunity to work with their mothers to collect waste materials and create their own toys, while developing an understanding of climate change adaptation and mitigation.


City: Breath and Play Freely, City of Indore, India

Indore is amongst the 25 most densely populated cities in India, with 12% of the population under 6 years old. Rapid growth has increased the lack of exposure to nature in the city for these children.

The “Breath and Play Freely in Clean & Green Indore” initiative focuses on developing play spaces which to improve the quality of life for citizens and support climate action. Under the initiative, the city identified 504 open spaces at city level, neighbourhood level, and pocket park level to convert to play spaces, sponge points, and oxygen banks.


Category: Places where play unites us all


Urban Practitioner: Vivo Mi Calle by Despacio, Columbia

Vivo Mi Calle is an initiative that seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of young people in Cali and Palmira, as well as empower them, through the creation and regeneration of public spaces that foster their right to healthy cities. Vivo Mi Calle operates in an area where several gangs operate and divide the community, aiming to transform public spaces but involving children and adolescents in deciding which places to intervene, and identify risks that may limit their access to them. Vivo Mi Calle has transformed two derelict spaces in eastern Cali, as well as improved access and safety for young people through a segregated cycle lane in Palmira.


City: Greater Warangal, Warangal, India


Faced with a lack of green spaces in the city, Greater Warangal developed a new children’s park in the slum of MH Nagar, but with no Government land available close-by, they transformed an abandoned garbage dumping yard for the park. The initiative has helped the discriminated minorities settled in the slum areas to access positive, safe, and joyful family playscapes, with 50 children using the park daily.