Skip to content


Can cinema bring divided communities together?
Using culture to strengthen social capital

Unprecedented global inflows of money and people have led to massive and rapid change for world cities – and to a special set of social challenges. Some arise directly from the growing gap between rich and poor. Others come from the needs of diverse social and ethnic groups, including recent immigrants. Cities must work to promote equality, strengthen social bonds and community resilience, and develop the capabilities of all their residents.

The World Cities Culture Forum believes that culture is an essential thread tying cities together. ‘Transformational’ cultural projects link culture with sustainable urban development, understood within a broad framework in which social welfare, equity and people’s capabilities matter. They may help to:

  • Democratise culture, making it more inclusive and accessible, both geographically, and in terms of what is offered
  • Recognise and validate informal cultures and marginalised groups, and their cultural expression
  • Spark regeneration and improvements in the quality of the urban environment and public space
  • Nurture resilience in communities, building skills and fostering better relationships
  • Initiate debate about challenging urban issues, and build links between communities
  • Build citizens’ confidence and pride in their neighbourhoods and cities.

Culture-led interventions have empowered residents of particular neighbourhoods, changing their perception of their area and of themselves. In Rio’s Alemão favela, cinema has served as a window to the world – helping many residents to think more broadly about their jobs and life opportunities. Shared cultural experiences have also brought the community together, bolstering Rio’s pacification process.

In Istanbul, a new music school has created connections within and across a disadvantaged immigrant community, encouraging locals to stay in the area and increasing neighbourhood pride.

In Toronto, where cultural inclusion and diversity drive the city’s cultural policy, a new community environmental centre has used culture to engage citizens with environmental sustainability. For instance, activities combining ecology, design, technology and the arts are promoting a local food culture.

All these initiatives, which help to strengthen the social capital of local communities, are showcased in our Transformational Cultural Projects Report. Keep an eye on this blog for further case studies exploring the transformative power of culture.

Photo: CineCarioca Nova Brasilia Cinema, courtesy of RioFilme