Connect different participation tools within an "ecosystem" of participatory democracy.
How have you achieved this objective?
Generating a new government-citizenship and citizen-community relationship, based on the interrelation of diverse participation mechanisms such as: the generation of voluntary community links in various areas of action (peace and welfare, health, civil protection, women, youth, children, older adults); the recovery, recreation and strengthening of community assemblies in the neighbourhoods; the implementation of processes of dialogue and participatory community planning for the development, co-management and self-management of local development agendas; supported by a wide network of public servants, from the first level of responsibility, who accompany the actions in each neighborhood, conformed by 130 structural officials from all the areas of the local government, selected for this task, as the main responsible of each territory, supported by the 13 Territorial Directorates and their structure of territorial citizen participation composed by 280 people's servants responsible for colonies, neighbourhoods, towns or housing units, and 1000 community promoters responsible for smaller territorial sections.
All areas of the local government are involved in this experience and are working closely together under the specific and permanent guidance of the Mayor. The process of general coordination, education, training, technical advice for the dialogues and the participative strategic planning, as well as the general follow-up, is being carried out by the General Direction of Planning and Citizen Participation through its areas of citizen participation, construction of citizenship and participative planning.
The coronavirus pandemic, as in all cities, has impacted this process, which is based on face-to-face dialogues, but at the same time has revealed and strengthened the use of social media, especially Whatsapp and Facebook, both of which were already used in the pre-pandemic process at the level of each neighbourhood to convene, socialise and share various information between neighbours and the mayor's office. Also, the need to use various platforms (Zoom, Jitsi) for the development of virtual meetings of coordination and training. This has posed a challenge to the people in charge and teams that accompany the participatory processes, which requires us to create new forms of communication and active participation that are appropriate to the technological and educational reality and, consequently, to the economic and financial situation, both of the people in the neighborhoods and of the local government itself.
To what extent has this objective been achieved?
A network of 130 public servants has been generated from the first level - supported by the 13 Territorial Directorates and 1,280 servants and community promoters - to accompany the same number of colonies, neighbourhoods, towns and housing units, which have a lower social development index and a higher crime rate. 130 community planning and participatory management processes have been initiated in neighbourhoods, colonies, towns and housing units, each with its own context and particular conditions, which have already developed their participatory diagnoses. Substantial progress has been made in the process of planning and formulating popular local development agendas in 53 territorial units, which are in different stages. As an example, in this link one of the developed processes can be seen, corresponding to the San Miguel Teotongo Colony.
In all the territories, in parallel, processes of attention and management of problems and needs of diverse type are carried out, as well as permanent assemblies of dialogue with the people in charge of security and justice, both of the city government and the government of the municipality, including where the national guard is present, and with diverse areas of government of the city and the municipality, many of which derive in work tables or technical tables of resolution, through a punctual follow-up.
Which is the most innovative aspect of the experience?
Placing at the center the collective (re)construction of the community and its territory of life, neighborhood by neighborhood, through a comprehensive territorial intervention, an inclusive participatory planning and an integrated inter-institutional management, with a rights, gender, intergenerational, diversity and sustainability perspective, in a global context that rows in the opposite direction. Curiously, what is innovative here is to recover, strengthen and recreate mechanisms as simple, old and common sense-based as dialogue and direct, open, horizontal, inclusive, transparent, multi-stakeholder collective action, face to face, among the population itself and with their governments, as well as collective forms of coexistence, government and decision-making of our native peoples such as community assemblies, collective construction of analysis, solutions and consensus agreements, directly in the territories of life of the main protagonists of democracy: peoples, citizens and inhabitants regardless of their age and social condition as well as their governments. Ancestral mechanisms, we would say, that generate dialogical, trusting, constructive and creative relationships, through the systematic practice of the same.
What is innovative, too, is its implementation in very complex and difficult contexts of poverty and violence, starting precisely from the problem of insecurity (as was the case in the first stage of this experience, which began in the 22 colonies with the highest crime rates) where there is a strong break in family and social coexistence, as well as in the democratic relationship between citizens-community-governments and with the public, but extending the perspective towards well-being and peace with people and communities where an anti-democratic social imaginary and practice has been installed, of violent, confrontational everyday life, of fears, of insensitivity and inhumanity. The experience seeks to strengthen the social and popular prominence in public decisions, in the solution of social problems and in the integral management of their territories, in a previous context of corrupt, corporate and client governments, of distrust and citizen mistreatment. It is a practice of participatory planning and management in each neighborhood that, despite taking up various specific social experiences, has not been developed nor is it taking place anywhere in the city as a public policy with a territorial focus, articulating public policies in the territory and not as the sum of territorialized but dispersed policies. It expresses the government's will to build community-organizational processes and public decisions from below, working directly and daily with the populations in their neighbourhoods. This practice is accompanied by intense training and capacity building processes both for public officials and support teams, and for voluntary community liaisons in their fields of action.
Another innovative element that, although very well known, has not been widely practiced, is the multi-level inter-institutional management, trying to articulate and cross-cutting perspectives, themes, areas, combining visions, methodologies, techniques and tools that provide different perspectives and operational approaches. What is difficult in itself at the local government, with actors from other levels of government or from very different areas, is much even more complicated, but it is being built.
To what extent is the procedure transferable?
In its conceptual, technical, methodological, training and instrumental elements we consider the experience to be fully transferable with a good probability of replicability and success as long as there is the political will of a government that decides to bring democracy and participation in depth, that has the conviction of strengthening popular protagonism, the vision of exercising a territorial, multi-actor, inter-institutional and integrated action as one of its central strategies, the definition of placing at the head of these neighborhood actions officials from the highest level that interact with the communities and territories, of bringing the government to the neighborhoods. Political will that also requires building a common base between governors and public servants and with citizens around clear objectives and consensual agreements to undertake systematic and permanent processes in pursuit of welfare and peace.
Many of the elements mentioned can now be shared directly, through written and audiovisual documents, some of which are in the annexes. A systematization of the experience is in progress in order to be able to disseminate all the elements more widely through more open and massive means.
Why do you consider that the experience is feasible?
The main elements of context considered are:
The framework of the Political Constitution of Mexico City, being a City of rights, highlighting the Right to the City.
The arrival of new governments in the three orders, which share the same project, committed to the full exercise of rights and to changing the situation of the population, favouring the poorest.
The reality of Iztapalapa in terms of the exercise of rights and the situation of socio-territorial inequality, which leads the population to vote for a change in the face of extreme living situations and which responds to the call of the government that opens the door again, gives them confidence and hope.
There is political will and programmatic commitment in favor of participatory, dialogical processes of government open to the population, grounded in the strengthening of decentralisation, territorial action and popular prominence.
The population is observing changes in the exercise of government and in the results of its actions. A government in dialogue and action.
Direct and inclusive dialogue between the government and the communities in their neighbourhoods, without mediation, which opens up space for all sectors to express their interests, problems and proposals and to have them incorporated into government plans.
It is based on proven approaches and methodologies in various situations
The pandemic, which was not foreseen, has been a factor of greater rapprochement with citizens and reinforces the need for united, coordinated, planned work between government and communities, giving a greater role and responsibility to the liaisons and community assemblies.
How has the experience been coordinated with other actors and processes?
Following the federal approach, daily Security Cabinets were established in almost all governments. Linked to this process, and in view of the alarming facts at the end of 2018, the initiative to incorporate the population in the diagnosis and analysis of the problems of insecurity in the 22 neighbourhoods with the highest crime rate arose, hence the Dialogues for Welfare and Peace on 24 December, 2018. To date, this process is still being coordinated and has led to the creation of Security Cabinets at the zonal level and no longer only at the general level of the Municipality. These Cabinets include a representative of the federal and city governments, the police and justice sectors of the city government based in Iztapalapa, and all areas of the Municipality, especially the Territorial Directorates.
The processes of dialogue and participatory planning and management are totally open to citizens and involve all community links and the community as a whole, where movements and organized groups of a social, cultural and economic nature participate and are interested in participating, many of which have an active life in their communities and have generated management processes and work with the local government on various issues.
This experience is also articulated with itinerant Assemblies of both the Mayor and the Head of Government of the city, since the planning collectives elected by their community assemblies present the diagnoses and proposals emanating from a face-to-face dialogue with them, managing to establish agreements and solutions.
Almost everyone in the neighbourhood has a Whatsapp group chat and Facebook, which facilitates the articulation of government-citizenship for the development of various programs and actions of both local and federal government. The links are true monitors of what is happening in their territory and immediately inform about everything that happens there, which facilitates a more timely response by governments.
For the required education and training processes, the collaboration of various NGOs, Universities and specialists has been sought.
What has been the level of co-responsibility?
The co-responsibility of the processes has been widely shared between the various areas of the Municipality and the communities (see file Acción articulada y gestión integrada). The main responsibility for the processes of dialogue and participatory planning in neighbourhoods falls on the community side to the elected planning collective and the network of volunteer liaisons, which emanate practically from unorganized citizens, at the hands of the first level official responsible for that territory, operationally supported by the team of community servers and promoters. The management and direct attention to the proposals arising from this process or from urgent or emerging needs falls on the part of the community to the liaison networks or elected commissions and on the side of the local government in the first instance to the Territorial Directorates, or in the case of uni- or multi-area Working Groups, depending on the case. In some cases, specialists, universities, companies or NGOs that interact with communities and government areas are invited to participate in the analysis, design and development of technical proposals, seeking the use of participatory methodologies.
Which evaluation and accountability mechanisms were used?
As a fundamental part of the work methodology, session by session, assembly by assembly, of the process of dialogues and participatory planning, there is a punctual follow-up of the return, integration and accumulation of what has been done and the fulfillment of agreements regarding the progress of the Local Development Agenda and emerging problems. Citizens are informed through various means (posters, brochures, loudspeakers, social media) of the calls for workshops, assemblies and work meetings of all kinds. Some popular brochures of the preliminary Local Development Agendas have been developed to be disseminated in the neighbourhoods (see annexes).
We have not yet conducted any evaluation of process, effects, outcomes or impacts. However, the teams of the Participatory Planning Unit have carried out systematic albeit incipient processes of evaluation of process design, procedures, instruments and partial results to improve tools and work processes. They are young multidisciplinary teams (social psychologists, territorial planners, cultural managers, social workers, political scientists, sociologists, historians) under the leadership of their Coordinator with a PhD level who has extensive experience in public policy evaluation processes.
We have not yet scheduled a date for a participatory evaluation and its wider dissemination.
Comments of the jury
The project boldly tackles urban complex issues and is already a reference for others to come. There is still room for improvement in terms of consensus building.
Note: this experience was drafted by the institution which presented the candidacy for the 14th IOPD Award.