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 policies and institutions to address social problems. By working in collaboration with a local university and with the municipal governments of small towns, students in the Colombia IFP have the opportunity to observe and participate in the challenging task of operationalizing policies. This vantage point gives them insight on the strengths and limitations of policies when faced with the hard realities of social conditions, historical experience and the rough and tumble of politics.
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. 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.
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 the design, implementation and/or evaluation of income generation program; providing organizational development and management assistance to aid in implementation of a 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 action plans negotiated with the municipalities.
Project Based Work
The Colombia IFP provides students the opportunity to work on concrete, ongoing projects in a challenging institutional and social context. The overarching theme of this IFP is participatory development in a “post-conflict” setting. While the decades long Colombia civil war continues in some parts of the country, in Caldas the warfare ended around 2007. Citizens had to deal with and are living with the consequences of government, guerrilla and paramilitary violence. Our work takes place in towns on ongoing projects that were initiated through the IFP and are being sustained through work by P&C students. These projects strive to contribute to the establishment and maintenance of initiatives that both create income opportunities and provide venues for addressing the traumatic legacies of violence.
In 2016 the projects will be in two towns:
La Merced: Broadening and deepening the citizen organized mechanisms for pursuing adventure or eco-tourism as an alternative and inclusive economic development strategy.
Pacora: Strengthening community organization and leadership in the local iteration of a national housing program.
Chris London teaches in the practice track in the International Affairs program and has years of applied experience, but he also has a Ph.D. 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.
Conversational 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 competent 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 local hotels. New School and UAM students live (and eat) in groups of three or more. 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 the 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.
Program Info and Requirements
Begins: 31 May 2017
Ends: 2 August 2017
Open to: Graduate/Undergraduate students from The New School as well as outside universities
Supervisor: Christopher London; In country coordinators: Maya Gomez (Pacora) and Daniela Talero (La Merced)
Language Requirement: Spanish (conversational proficiency)
Required course for New School Students: Practicum in International Affairs I: Project Design and Theories, Histories and Practices of Development with Professor London is recommended.
Concentrations: All undergraduate (rising third and fourth year) and graduate New School Students, as well as students from outside The New School are welcome to apply.
Christopher London Contact Information