Gabriela Garcia and Leysi Rubio are two Cuban Chevening Alumni who undertook their scholarship in 2018. They are also the co-founders of ‘Our City, Our Space’, a Havana-based International Forum on sustainable living. Their shared passion for sustainability was cultivated while studying in the UK, and recently it brought together over 400 participants, including 36 speakers from 14 different countries. With the help of the Chevening Alumni Programme Fund (CAPF), 2021 saw the second successful run of the event.


Leysi and Gabriela, 2018 Chevening Alumni

Both the 2020 and 2021 ‘Our City, Our Space’ forums have engaged with speakers and attendees through the deconstruction of the role of public spaces in the community, presenting different perspectives across fields of expertise. The result was a series of engaging discussions that promoted alliance between organisations involved and local community projects.

The 2021 event, titled ‘Our City, Our Space – Towards Sustainable Living Modes’ gathered international alumni, experts and academics, and Cuban institutions and community projects to discuss approaches for sustainable living within the community. The 4-day event was divided into four themes: Recycling, sustainable mobility, alimentary and nutritional safety, and local development. These themes were proposed to promote mindful discussion on leading the global community to think more about local strategies, and adapting settlements to climate change while mitigating negative impact.

One of the milestones of the 2021 event was the launch of Placemaking Cuba, a network focused on enhancing public spaces and community development in line with Cuba’s Sustainable Development Goals. They also launched their website,, which intends to keep the momentum created at the Forum going and assist in coordinating actions that address the UN’s SDGs numbers 2, 3, 11, 12, 13 and 17.


The event contributed to highlighting local initiatives that lack strategic acknowledgement within the national landscape. Likewise, it also served to emphasise the work of Cuban academic institutions and connect them with UK-based experts and other professionals worldwide.

In the midst of a pandemic, the Forum has highlighted both the power of networking as well as the lack of meaningful discussion on the role of public spaces in community development. The Forum was always intended to be a physical event, but limitations of Covid-19 meant it had to moved online. They utilised the strength of the Chevening Alumni network to help run and promote the event, and on reflection, they felt that the alumni network could be utilised again in the future to further strengthen the project.

The key lesson learned from the project was to pursue the passion for sustainability with a strong determination to accomplish their goals, despite unforeseen obstacles that might challenge their efforts. Despite the challenges, Gabriela and Leysi chose to be resilient. They continue to follow their dream of driving positive change in the Cuban and global community.