Alter Terra: Building Capacity for Community-led Transformative Change
Keywords:community organizing, grassroots leadership, participatory governance, citizen participation, citizenship, environmental conservation, Mexico, pollution, water, local infrastructure
In vulnerable communities with limited public infrastructure, the strongest asset is usually organized citizens who mobilize to solve local problems. This article analyzes the case of Alter Terra, the Mexico-based civil society organization that developed a methodology for participatory governance that helps to build capacity for community organizing. Starting with an assessment of the social and environmental context, the organization then strengthens grassroot leadership to develop lasting solutions to local problems. They involve the wider community to create an enabling environment for this process and facilitate connections with authorities to lobby for support and collaboration. The article illustrates this methodology in action through the example of Los Laureles, a community in Tijuana, Mexico supported by Alter Terra to develop solutions to curb waste pollution in the river basin. Five principles are drawn from this case to advance citizen-led transformative change. These include positioning citizens as leaders through capacity-building; involving local authorities from the start; promoting multi-stakeholder collaboration; understanding root causes; and acknowledging the inter-dependence of people and the environment.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Vanessa Vargas, Maria Cerdio
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