Planning students visit Mexico to assess rural cities program

November 16, 2010

Students in Visiting Assistant Professor Marcela González Rivas’s international workshop visited Chiapas, Mexico in October to assess a government program that is attempting to combat rural poverty in the region.

The six students spent a week evaluating the Sustainable Rural Cities (SRC) program, a three-year-old initiative that is developing new rural cities in Mexico. The state government of Chiapas has moved citizens to the new cities so that it can centralize the population and increase its efficiency in providing services and infrastructure for residents.

During the trip, the students visited two sites in the SRC program: Nuevo Juan de Grijalva, the program’s first site that has been the benchmark for subsequent SRC projects; and Santiago el Pinar. The students interviewed key stakeholders, local nongovernmental organizations and academics familiar with the program at each site.

From a planning perspective, the SRC program provides a case study that addresses issues relating to sustainability, citizen participation, and international development. The class is working with the Office of the President of Mexico as a client, which gives the students a unique opportunity to influence future policy regarding population dispersion and marginalization. The Office of the President is considering whether to implement this program in other areas of the country, and the workshop’s evaluation might influence its decision.

Students in González Rivas’s class come from a variety of departments on campus, including CRP, the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, and the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture, and Development. This diversity of student backgrounds gives the workshop the skills and perspectives required to evaluate such a high-profile program involving planning and policy.

Students in the workshop will submit a report analyzing the infrastructure, economic viability, and citizen satisfaction with the new rural cities, specifically focusing on the site’s sustainability, and present their findings to the Office of the President of Mexico in December. They will also share their findings with the rest of CRP in the spring during a session for the International Planning Colloquium.

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