To improve the quality of life of socially vulnerable neighbourhoods in Chile, the "I love my neighbourhood" ("Quiero mi barrio" in Spanish) neighbourhood recovery programme was implemented in 2006, involving local actors in reconstructing their physical and social environments.
Problems and Purpose
The Neighbourhood Recovery programme, "I Love My Neighbourhood" (ILMN, or programme "Quiero Mi Barrio" in Spanish) was developed and implemented by the administration of former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010). The programme's main goals are: to recover deteriorated public spaces, to improve environmental conditions, to strengthen social relations between residents and thus promote socially integrated neighbourhoods. In this sense, the interest of the programme is not limited only to the physical and administrative aspects of neighbourhoods, but also seeks inclusion of its citizens in urban development.
In this way, the ILMN programme promotes physical and social reconstruction of the city that, during the implementation process, takes into consideration specificities of each neighbourhood through the participation of local (community and municipality) and institutional (public or private) actors present in the everyday life of the neighbourhood.
Background History and Context
Beginning in 2006, the "I Love My Neighbourhood" programme was implemented in 200 territorial units in Chile, with the Metropolitan Region of Santiago (MR) encompassing 86 of the targeted neighbourhoods, three of them considered highly critical. In these cases, the ILMN project was guided and managed directly by the Regional Office of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (ROMHUD) for a period of three years. In the remaining 83 districts, known as vulnerable neighbourhoods, the programme was executed by different teams of professional consultants or by the Municipality. The implementation period was projected to last for two years.
In mid-2006, the first stage of the programme was initiated in the metropolitan region, specifically in the three critical neighbourhoods. In early 2007, the programme was extended to 27 vulnerable districts by consulting teams. Finally, in October of 2007 it was implemented in the remaining 56 districts, mainly under the responsibility of the municipal government. The programme is still in its pilot phase at the time of this entry's writing and estimated to end by 2014.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Neighbourhood Recovery programme, "I Love My Neighbourhood" (ILMN – programme "Quiero Mi Barrio" in Spanish) was developed and implemented by the Bachelet administration. Carried out by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD), its purpose is to improve the quality of life in 200 districts of the country with problems of urban decay and social vulnerability. The government has invested 32 billion dollars in improving urban spaces, giving technical assistance and in social empowerment. Physical investment in infrastructure in each area considered vulnerable has varied between 328 and 628 million pesos (678 and 1.297 million dollars).
Participant Recruitment and Selection
There are numerous participants involved in the recovery of public spaces and improvement of environmental conditions. Decisions and work priorities are developed and executed through ongoing interactions between neighbourhood residents and authorities of different levels of government. The work plan is developed through a decentralized management model composed of the following actors with their respective roles:
- The Neighbourhood Development Council (NDC) represents the interests of the various resident actors, promotes, and leads reflection and participation of inhabitants in improving their neighbourhood, and enforces the Neighbourhood Contract. It is a non-profit community organization, governed by the law 19.418. The members are elected by neighbourhood dwellers, and the number of its members depends on the conditions of each neighbourhood (as a standard criteria, it is considered that 15 members is the minimum to be able to form NDCs).
- The Regional Office of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (ROMHUD) is responsible for implementing the programme, on the basis of a strategic alliance with the municipalities in order to coordinate and articulate the levels of participation of the neighbours.
- SERVIU is in charge of execution and inspection of works.
- Municipalities play a key role in programme management, being involved with the Neighbourhood Team in the execution of works and articulation of Neighbourhood Recovery Integral Project (NRIP).
- The Neighbourhood Team is a multidisciplinary professional group (Municipality, ROMUHD or Consultants), which implements the programme in every neighbourhood. Teams are directly related to the community for the duration of the programme.
- Technical Committee: Created at different levels (community, regional, and national), they represent instances of programme progress review.
Methods and Tools Used
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What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Overview: Work Stages
The ILMN programme was planned to have three different stages, preceded by a stage "zero" which is the formalization of the project. During this stage zero, the municipal authorities and ROMHUD, sign cooperation agreements and define the operating mode of each neighbourhood. In this way, the physical recovery process of the neighbourhood in question is defined.
Later begins the first stage which effectively elaborates the ILMN project, the result of a participatory assessment process between neighbours and technical teams. The completion of this stage of the programme includes the creation of a Neighbourhood Development Council (NDC) and the signing of the neighbourhood contract, which commits it to the initiatives prioritized by the Neighbourhood Recovery Integral Project (NRIP) for neighbourhood development.
The neighbourhood contract is an agreement that is signed between the representatives of the ROMHUD, the Municipality (Mayor) and President of NDC, where the responsibilities of the parties, implementation phases, funding sources and maximum costs of projects are defined.
During the second stage, the Works, and Supplemental Resources Management plans designed in the NRIP are executed. In this stage, the NDC assumes a central role in monitoring to ensure compliance with the commitments made in the Neighbourhood Contract. Also, the NDC must assure sustainability of the project at the neighbourhood level.
Finally, the third stage takes place in the form of a systematized evaluation of the NRIP, upon the completion of the activities of the three recovery plans. This review and evaluation of results task is carried out jointly by the NDC and the municipality, in order to identify and systematize lessons learned that give sustainability to the process by developing a Future Agenda (and thus guarantee of continuity).
Case Analysis: Santa Adriana Neighbourhood
The Santa Adriana neighbourhood comprises one of the three areas of increased operational complexity of the Metropolitan Region, that is, it is one of the three highly critical cases. Santa Adriana is located in the municipality of Lo Espejo, in the south west of the Metropolitan Region, with a population of 11,409 inhabitants. Santa Adriana is surrounded by three urban highways (Central, South Vespucci and Highway 5) and is cut through by a railway line. Such peripheral conditions creates a situation of poor intra-municipality connectivity. The neighbourhood was formed in the 50s and 60s by a group of settlers who also had illegally occupied lands in La Legua, 5 de Abril, Germán Riesco Julio Davila and other towns in the southern sector of Santiago. These settlers appropriated farmland of the former Fund for Santa Adriana and organized themselves in terms of satisfaction of habitation demands.
Santa Adriana's population is divided into four territorial sectors: B, C, D, and Villa Las Palmeras. Each sector has its own organizational dynamics, identities and specific leaderships linked to the history of its inhabitants (establishment of origin, common history, military repression, etc.).
Among the main social problems that the inhabitants of Santa Adriana suffer from are poverty, marginalization, low education and high unemployment levels, job insecurity and informal work, violence and drug trafficking. This elevated level of social vulnerability is complemented by high levels of insecurity and mistrust, both local and institutional, which has led to social fragmentation that has materialized in the form of a retreat into private spaces.
In addition, the sectoral division of the district has promoted organizational dynamics in which each sector's inhabitants interact only among themselves. These dynamics were unable to make residents develop a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood and makes it impossible to create a general view of the municipality.
In sum, these elements feed a process of social and spatial stigmatization of Santa Adriana's residents by other areas. At the same time, residents suffer from insecurity caused by the existence of drug traffickers and ensuing violence in the area, which produces a retreat into private spaces and little appropriation of public spaces that have been damaged by lack of maintenance and misuse.
STAGE 1: Creating the participatory assessment
The Neighbourhood Team carried out characterization studies of Santa Adriana on residents in each of the 4 sectors. These studies were carried out using quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (focus groups on youth and children) methods. Studies found that the level of resident participation was not significant nor representative, due to present problems of mistrust of public institutions and of neighbourhoods from other sectors of Santa Adriana. The study counted the participation of municipal and social organisations, together with neighbourhood committees (previously existing associations).
After these activities, the Neighbourhood Team systematized citizen proposals, based on the transverse axes established in the programme, focusing on specific dimensions that include the residents' perception of problems in their neighbourhood. Both physical and social aspects of these dimensions are applied in all neighbourhoods, and are translated into the categories: sustainable neighbourhood, safe neighbourhood, friendly neighbourhood and neighbourhood with an identity.
A) Sustainable Neighbourhood
In relation to the quality of housing, there is poor assessment about home insulation and size; however, the evaluations on the construction quality are acceptable. The lack of space (crowding and proximity) has led many families to expand their homes, thereby altering the use of common areas and thus causing problems of coexistence between neighbours. Due to the lack of recreational and entertainment spaces, the street has become a multi-use space (parking, games, youth meeting, etc.), which has progressively led to its deterioration. These conditions have generated a high level of confinement within households and a low level of appropriation of space-sharing by its residents.
With respect to environment, a shortage of green areas and problems with waste were identified in relation to the existence of abandoned plots of land, which have become garbage dump areas.
B) Safe Neighbourhood
Insecurity, especially in public (unprotected) places is a major concern for residents due to the existence of drug dealers which act with extreme violence. This has deteriorated the quality of life, inhibited relationships between neighbours and increased the stigmatization of the neighbourhood.
Cooperation and self-protection strategies based on trust have been developed between neighbours for avoiding violence and facing the fear of crime together by strategies of circulation in group during dangerous hours, and avoidance of hot spots.
C) Friendly Neighbourhood
Residents establish contact only with others living closer or in the same street, showing fragmentation between and within sectors. Community organizations and spontaneous events have strengthened these ties in cases such as death of a neighbour, or a catastrophe, for example. This level of interrelation is caused by neighbourhood history and collaborative accumulations. Nonetheless, a nostalgia for active participatory life in the neighbourhood remains.
D) Area with identity
In Santa Adriana, half of the households are occupied by original settlers, and about a third of the residents have lived in the same home for more than 10 years. The fact that citizens organised themselves into camps in the early days of the neighbourhood and that the gradual construction of the settlement is a collective effort has given an identity to the neighbourhood.
While the image of the neighbourhood to residents themselves is negative (unsafe, dangerous and dirty), they have developed strategies for self-protection and for the recovery of an interactive culture among older adults. This allows for a construction of a sense of belonging (to each sector). This stock of social capital is relevant when implementing and sustaining a participatory process.
STAGE 2: The intervention process
Once the characterization of the neighbourhood was completed, stage 2 of the NRIP began with the Works and Social Management Plans. The Social Management Plan identified four areas of action: participation and organizational strengthening; community welfare; public space and environment; identity and culture.
During this phase, it is expected that the regional technical committees and the neighbourhood development council continue overseeing and contributing to the ongoing projects. As of this entry's writing, this stage was in the middle of its implementation process, with completion scheduled for 2013.
Influence, Outcomes and Effects
The focus of the ILMN project is to reduce the factors that contribute to the deterioration of neighbourhoods, impacting and shaping the social features of this area. The most visible effects of urban decay are territorial stigmatization and the weakening of social cohesion in the area. In this context, the urban intervention of the ILMN programme is a process where the improvement of the urban area is not just an effect of the physical environment, but rather gathers material and symbolic attributes of the neighbourhood and impacts the way of life of its inhabitants.
For the Neighbourhood Team, the implementation phase has been very revealing of the positive development of the participatory process. Once works have been materialized, neighbours have gone from a demanding attitude to collaborative behaviour, getting to know better the Programme and contributing energetically to the decision-making process. Thus, Stage I was characterized by an organizational involvement where the NDC consisted of only 15 members, while in the last election in 2010, the NDC reached 300 members. As the commitments made in the Neighbourhood Contract are complied with, the confidence in the programme is reinforced and progress towards a participation of citizens across sectors is strengthened.
Since 2007, works have been carried out for the physical recovery and maintenance of infrastructure such as pedestrian walkways, streets, parks and sport areas, and construction of green zones, lighting and a new kindergarten as well. The programme has also heavily invested in re-articulation by providing workshops for the community and for educators to complement their formation; capacitation workshops for students and school directors in order to promote acquaintanceship, thereby creating conditions that allow acceptance and value of the self, respect for others, acceptance of differences and the use of dialogue to solve conflicts; training of community monitors in methodologies and techniques of group work with a preventive outlook; contact and coordinated work with psychosocial care institutions, and disseminating the existence of these institutions and services to the community; support of cultural organisations of Santa Adriana in its community actions in order to strengthen the collective space with cultural activities; public art exhibitions; generation of communication opportunities for neighbours to recover the history and memory of Santa Adriana and publishing a book with their stories; development of art workshops and artistic interventions in the recovered public spaces of Santa Adriana; as well as strengthening the management capacities of the social administrators and new leaders in order to enable them to conduct projects that improve the quality of life in Santa Adriana.
Moreover, the Task Force acknowledges having made mistakes in the initial mode of communication and dissemination of the programme at the neighbourhood level, manifesting in low participation in the early stages. But this has improved during Stage 2. For example, the Task Force reported back to the community in late 2010, making neighbours more aware of the results of the project.
By way of illustrating the progress made, a survey was conducted among residents of Santa Adriana in July 2010. The results were compared to a census conducted in the same population in 2007. In that regard, for purposes of this article three dimensions were selected:
- Overall assessment of the neighbourhood: the assessment of general and individual attributes of the neighbourhood has been perceived as better, in particular regards to coexistence, beauty of the environment and privacy. The best elements evaluated are the streets and the lighting. The best neighbourhood aspects evaluated (graded from 1-7, 1 being the lowest and 7 being the highest grade) are: neighbourhood image, up from 4.1 to 4.7; coexistence, from 4.3 to 5.1; cleanliness, from 4.1 to 4.9; beauty from 4.0 to 5.1; participation from 4.0 to 4.3; and privacy up from 4.5 to 5.1.
- Identity, coexistence and social relations in the neighbourhood: An increase in pride of residents from 32% to 36.3% has been noticed (non-proud residents are down from 21% to 10.9%); interpersonal trust in staff (perceived as being more capable to relate with others) from 21.3% to 37.1% (those who did not trust anyone: from 27.5% to 13.7%), and greater responsibility in caring for the environment 21.6% to 78.4%. It has also increased the use of public spaces (up to 64.9%) and 52.8% of residents perceive that people are more united.
- Security: 52.6% of respondents said that safety of the neighbourhood has been improved, while 12.6% said it has worsened.
- Assessment and management of the work done: The programme is evaluated positively with 52.4% of residents perceiving management as good, 15.7% as regular and 3.6% as poor. Knowledge of the programme has improved (58.8% have heard of it, against 49.2% in 2007), works best evaluated: paving of streets and passages.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The ILMN project's pilot in Santa Adriana revealed some important lessons for the program's organizers. For its designers, the main challenge of the programme has been the constant search for a balance between social time and the timing of design and implementation of public policies. Among the main achievements of the programme is the fact that it managed to change the type of participatory culture in some neighbourhoods, from a non-binding participation marked by the validation or rejection of initiatives, to an active, binding and responsible participation in the decision-making process.
The ILMN aims to install a project of citizen participation that is broadly inclusive in a critical socio-spatial context that presents a sectionalised territorial configuration. At the same time, it is a neighbourhood that has suffered severe periods of repression during the military dictatorship and at the present is affected by the presence of drug traffickers. Consequently, it is a population that has favoured life in private spaces (inside their homes) at the expense of public spaces, devaluing the common spaces, weakening citizen interactions and group activities.
While the community has increased its participatory culture, it is still weak and highly sectioned preventing the development of a global view of the neighbourhood.
Lack of communication and integration fuelled mistrust within the community towards the neighbourhood team in the beginning, slowing the implementation of the first phase and extending it from 6 to 10 months. According to the technical team, these obstacles have been reversed as the works improvements materialize. The improvement of streets, roads, squares, parks, offices, educational, sporting and community institutions, as well as the offer of recreational activities and community training have revitalized neighbourhood social life.
In this sense, Santa Adriana represents an example of a participatory process that matures as it builds social networks based on trust through the materialization of promises and initiating inter-sector collective activities.
The comparison of results between the 2007 Census and the 2010 Survey, shows a rise of participatory processes associated with confidence in the programme, as projects of the Neighbourhood Contract are completed and presented to the community.
These experiences should be a reminder not to neglect the design and implementation of communication strategies appropriate to the characteristics of the target population. A communicative action designed without taking into account the social and cultural weaknesses of the population inevitably fails to call residents to participate. This initial damage extended the duration of Stage 1. Currently, the communication difficulty is being addressed by more effective measures, such as hanging posters with the neighbourhood contract in public spaces, and the distribution of newsletters communicating what has or will be done.
It is important to emphasize the need to consider the timing of public policies related to the rhythms of the community. The life experiences of the community respond to particular logics associated with everyday life in the neighbourhood and may not relate directly to the logic of government. The maturation time of a participatory approach that goes beyond mere social validation implies a greater level of commitment by all actors involved in the decision-making process. While the beginning was difficult, now the participation has been increasing as promises are transformed into outcomes, strengthening interpersonal trust.
The participation of ROMHUD in local neighbourhoods has been questioned by some, but on the other hand may be beneficial in the sense that a centralised institution knows firsthand the most appropriate time to execute public policies.
In 2010, the programme was later renamed from Quiero Mi Barrio (I Love My Neighbourhood) to Programa de Recuperación de Barrios (Neighbourhood Recovery Programme).
So far, the Programme has only reached 10.6% of the target population in the whole country. Drug trafficking and violence are still significant in Santa Adriana and many residents prefer the alternative of moving out of the area or neighbourhood entirely rather than working on in its recovery. Nonetheless, the I Love My Neighbourhood programme and the work carried out has shown some success in reconnecting neighbours and creating a community, and highlighting the importance of the state working with citizens to improve and maintain the general well-being and quality of life of residents.
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