341.3 Building civic capacity in a Mexico city slum community

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 2:50 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Scott ROULIER , Political Science, Lyon College, Batesville, AR
For the past year I have been part of a collaborative project (sponsored by the departments of political science and psychology at my institution) to study the physical, mental and civic health of a slum community in the Mexico City metropolitan area.  The goal of the project is twofold: first, we hope to establish baseline data for overall community health; second, we are partnering with and studying the programs implemented by a local NGO.  By using a number of measures and indicators, we intend to assess the effectiveness of these programs.  Early results seem to demonstrate that residents who participate in the NGO’s programs, for example, a grassroots health initiative, have better physical, mental and civic health outcomes.

The modest gains that have been made with a very small group of people, however, are dwarfed by an enormous community-wide deficiency of social capital.  Given this deficit—and a number of other social and political factors that I plan to address in my paper—civic capacity is very low.

Besides describing some of the civic capacity-building strategies of our partner NGO, the purpose of my paper is to explore alternatives, using the work of sociologist Xavier de Souza Briggs and others, in order to propose refinements to existing programs and to identify new initiatives.  In short, my paper uses a specific case study as a springboard, on the level of praxis, to investigate some examples of “best practices” for increasing civic capacity and, at the level of theory, to test whether various models “fit” what is happening on the ground or to see whether there are untapped theoretical insights that could be operationalized.