Colombia is a ‘middle income’ country, but that masks a marked inequality in income distribution and life circumstances across the different regions of the country. Beset by decades of internal conflict, and a complex array of economic forces, that shape the capacity for action, Colombians have also managed to create a wide range of innovative and effective institutions. It is a Jekyll and Hyde, a country that has had an extraordinary creativity in addressing social problems but also a horrendous capacity for violence.
The Universidad Autonoma de Manizales (UAM) is one of a network of private universities in Colombia that are dedicated to positioning themselves as integral and active members in Colombian society. At UAM, a graduation requirement for all students is participation in a 4 month program called Paz y Competitividad (Peace and Competitiveness or P&C). The vision of the P&C program is to promote peace building through social, economic and administrative development.
Other partners include:
- National Planning Department (DNP)
- Selected Municipalities in Caldas
Much like the Practicum in International Affairs (PIA), P&C is a process through which teams of students, with faculty supervisors, provide services to clients; in this case the clients are small municipalities. Working with the mayor and other government entities a project is designed that strives to fulfill goals laid out in the municipality’s Development Plan. The team lives in the municipality and provides either direct program implementation or organization and planning assistance. These services are applied in three general areas: Public Health Sector Strengthening, Economic Development and Environmental Management, and Public Administration.
For this IFP New School students join forces with Colombian students to provide an additional level of service to the municipalities. This could take the form of income generation program design, implementation and/or evaluation, organizational development and management assistance to municipality to aid in execution of Municipal Development Plan, design and implementation of information management systems, and/or media outreach planning and implementation. The specific foci will be determined first by the skills that New School students bring to the table and second by matching these skills to the action plans negotiated between P&C and the municipalities. This matching will happen in the spring semester and you will initiate your working relationship with your Colombian colleagues during that semester. By the time you arrive you will have a clear idea of the who, what, when, where, how and why of the work you will be doing.
IFP Colombia 2012 projects included:
- La Merced: Students worked with the mayor’s office to form a tourism association to provide leadership in alternative economic development initiatives. This including producing and inventory and assessment of adventure tourism opportunities.
- Marmato: Students worked to facilitate greater communication between the mayor’s office and people displaced by violence, assessed access to food and designed community health education materials, and produced risk-analysis maps for decision making regarding the location of future housing expansion.
- Riosucio: Students worked with an indigenous NGO’s focused on developing a model of agro-ecological sustainability. The work focused primarily on improving organizational capacity and participatory media production.
- Supia: The Supia student team worked on building a community forum for addressing the human and environmental risks of posed by the increasingly violent flooding of the Supia River. The work focused primarily on identifying obstacles to citizen engagement with the mayor’s office and building capacity to improve engagement.
All students also conducted individual research. Some research themes included:
- Women’s empowerment and training programs
- Agriculture: work focused on land ownership, food security and migration
- Participatory development and community engagement
- Education: figuring out how to reintegrate culture and identity into the school’s curriculum
Chris London teaches in the practice track in the International Affairs program, and has years of applied experience, but he also has a PhD in Development Sociology and so has conducted primary research. His graduate work was based on research in Colombia where he lived for 5 years between 1988 and 1998. He lived in Manizales for two of those years so is very familiar with both Colombia generally and with the specific region where the program will take place. He will work with you to develop your specific work plan so that your experience in Colombia will directly prepare you for your subsequent final project in International Affairs.
Basic competency in Spanish is a requirement for participation in this program. You must, with the occasional help of a dictionary, be able to read official documents such as development plans and program reports. Capacity to read academic texts is valuable but will not be required. You must be able to verbally express yourself and convey basic ideas. Being able to order drinks and snacks or ask directions is not sufficient. However, all UAM students must demonstrate competency in English to graduate, so there is some potential for flexibility in the degree of Spanish competency required. Should a student bring a particularly deep experience, skillset and desire that can’t be replicated through coursework, some allowances could be made for what would otherwise be an insufficient grasp of the language.
Living in Colombia
The accommodations in Colombia will be in houses with local families. New School students live (and eat) in groups of three (though this can vary depending on the number of participants in the IFP). All towns have internet services, a variety of stores, restaurants and other establishments. The work could be conducted in municipal offices but depending on the project, it could also involve considerable time spent in the countryside. While safety is a general concern, the Eje Cafetero is perhaps the most secure rural region in the country. All necessary precautions will be taken to ensure a safe and rewarding experience in Colombia.
Though PIA is a comparable model for the work that will be done, the Colombia program will approach the problems of theory and practice in an integrated fashion. Students participating in the program will conduct research and engage with community and/or organizational practice in a small town setting. The presumption is that good practice requires good theory and good theory is an outcome of good practice. Thus your experience in Colombia will prepare you for both the practice and thesis tracks within the International Affairs program.
Program Info and Requirements:
Begins: 26 May 2013
Ends: 21 Jul 2013
Supervisor: Christopher London
Language Requirement: Spanish (Basic proficiency)
Required course: Rural and Regional Development in the Americas
Concentrations: All concentrations in International Affairs are applicable to this program. Students in the Milano programs in policy and nonprofit management, and in Parsons, are also welcome.
Christopher London Contact Information