Saturday, November 17, 2012

Engaging Monterrey - stone by stone

Painted stones marking trail in Monterrey, Mexico 

What is impressive about a gravel trail with painted stones?

I've been reading reports from SafeGrowth teams in Connecticut. One struggle I hear is how to engage community members.

Last week, I was in Monterrey, Mexico, site of the 2011 narcoterrorist attack on a downtown casino where over 50 people were murdered. Engagement should be more difficult here than anywhere. I was taken to a poor community on the outskirts of the city near the construction site of a master-planned community.

It was unlikely residents in this poor community could afford to live in the new development. My guides, a dynamic Monterrey CPTED team, showed me the poor community and a rocky ravine beneath a highway overpass with an elementary school on the other side. School kids had to walk across this unsafe stretch to go to school. A gravel trail had been built connecting the community with the school.
Sometimes the simplest ideas can trigger community engagement - a gravel trail
Residents, school kids, the developer, and volunteer construction crews had come together to build the trail. The Monterrey CPTED team ran a painting day when school kids painted stones. They then used the stones to mark the trail edges.

The visible part of this project was simple - a gravel trail, painted stones, and construction volunteers. It was the invisible part that caught my attention – engagement!

The kids and their parents enthusiastically showed me their trail and the stones, from one end to the other. This was clearly a source of pride. Discussion focused on expanding the trail and adding play areas.

In other words, residents with few resources had built their own solution to a neighborhood problem in a region of Mexico not far from one of the most violent narco-gang wars in history. By partnering with others they were making their community a better place, stone by stone. Those actions are community-engagement seeds starting to grow.

Not just a gravel trail and painted stones. Much more.

Scenic mountains surround Monterrey's 4 million residents

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