Capacity building-Mexico: Challenges in building buy-in (Chiapas pilot)

We’re almost 2 weeks into the pilot, and nearly done! Tomorrow we just have one meeting in the morning with a group that has been very resistant to a field visit – so we’re just doing the office visit.

One of the biggest challenges, somewhat unforeseen, has been the incredibly complex political situation in the region (lots of patronage communities often splitting alliances with different groups – the PRI, Abejas, Zapatistas, etc.) as well as a culture of distrust and dependency (not surprising). The highlands of Chiapas has received a significant amount of assistance both from the national and regional Mexican government, as well as internationally, little of which is based on the “teach you how to fish” approach. Often, the first  thing out of many communities mouth is “y que nos van a dar? (What are you going to give us…) The countryside is virtually littered with projects and constructions which proved to be completely useless. Clearly there was little effort made to understand the needs in communities, or the realities of their context. See below this picture of a stove that was built through a government  project. It was designed for use in the lowlands where temps are much higher. Here in the highlands it is too cold to use and doesn’t function. The family is using it for storage.

As we met with groups over the last few days, it became increasingly clearer that one of the most important outcomes to monitor for these projects was community buy-in or “apropiación”. While this is true in engaging any community, especially marginalized ones, the degree of resistance and complexity grantees were encountering required a particularly well-thought approach, grounded in a realistic, deep and nuanced understanding of the customs and dynamics of the context.  Much of our time has gone into trying to understanding, and support groups to map out their approach to reaching this goal.



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