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Facing Violence with Science. "Technology Social Labs for the Slums of Mexico."

Creating social, spatial and economical justice through scientific and technological knowledge for youth in risk of crime in the cities.

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The war of sustainability will be won or lost in the cities, said Rafael Tuts, director of the department of urban planning at UN-Habitat. It is precisely in the metropolis where the greatest advances in science and technology are generated, unfortunately the urban peripheries due to the spatial and educational injustice in which they are situated are not yet part of this progress and have been isolated from any development opportunity . This situation is reflected in the high levels of illiteracy, crime and poverty. The Mexican metropolises have followed in an autistic way the Neoliberal model of growth, which is characterized by an idealized conception of competitive individualism and a profound antipathy towards forms of social and institutional solidarity.


The most relevant question of this  project is: How and in what ways can urban space be democratized as well as scientific knowledge in the periphery of the city?

Although the Educative institutions are located not far from the periphery, on the imaginary of these groups, the spaces of knowledge are still considered as something far from their reality, even if there are not physical walls that exclude them from access to knowledge. There exist economic, social and educational barriers that separate them from those who have the privilege of having an University education. The statistics in the city of Querétaro shows that the academic institutions rather than bet for the decentralization of knowledge and build bridges to these excluded communities, we could say, they have just thrown a few strings and these, have usually been supported mostly in  academic bodies through various independent projects focused on local development.

Are goals of this initiative; Empower human capital in the slums, create innovation to resolve the local problems inside the slums, scientific and knowledge networks in the peripheries, build scientific infrastructure, productive sustainable projects, scientific workshops, etc.

Explain your idea

The project aim is to democratice the scientific knowledge and technology to the communities that historically less access have had to them, the young inhabitants of the urban slums. Mexican cities suffer from high levels of violence and crime permeated at all dimensions. In the diagnostic we realized in the informal settlements, we found four main issues that are affecting principally kids from ages of 8 to 12 and youngsters from 12 to 25 years old. Gang Crime, Drug addictions, Desertion of studies at an early stage of life and pregnancy in young women. These are the roots of the violence that are later translated into the public space. There exist many urban proposal against Crime, most of them related to art and culture, but just a few about scientific knowledge and social technologies. We are two urban designers that have established a working link with two public universities of Queretaro city, (UAQ and Politecnica de Santa Rosa) and one scientific and technological research center CONCYTEQ. We are trying to build a bridge between the academics, scientific researchers and university professors with the youth people from the urban peripheries of Queretaro City. Our aim is not just to bring closer the technologies but to create technologies with them, implement sustainable projects inside the neighborhoods. Is not about sharing knowledge but about creating knowledge and innovation to resolve the local problems of the slums. There are two strategies for our project, In the first place, a master plan will be proposed to improve the spatial and urban conditions of the neighborhood. Secondly, the construction of “Social Lab” an architectural public space where science is linked with the community. The aim of this project is not to establish science diffusion programs but to do science in the neighborhood, establishing a series of productive projects for social inclusion and economic development. Helping the people to themselves change their reality and improve the quality of life in the peripheries. With these two strategies we want to tackle the high levels of Crime and Violence, bring peace, and reduce the inequity in all urban peripheries of the city. Rescuing kids with high risk to join the crime gangs and preventing them from drug addictions too. We should not forget that “knowledge” is a powerful tool we can give to change their own reality have access to the University and formal jobs. The creation of the "Social Laboratories" in the slums, will provide an opportunity to the youth people to learn and to have access the activities planned to implement such as; Robotic courses for kids, 3D animation, Applied Chemistry, Modeling courses, Introduction to Aeronautics, Engineering, Mechanics, Informatics, Biology, Physics, Mathematics, and productive projects. The University of Queretaro and the education department will design the pedagogic dimension and us, urbanist, will design the spatial dimension and the facilities.

Who Benefits?

The project is focused to kids and youngsters from 6 years old to 25 years old living in the slums. Its time to take science out of the sacred walls of the temples called laboratories, take it into the streets, and the neighborhoods of the periphery, thus turning scientists into a kind of urban activists; Since it is necessary to invest in the lower parts of the academic and social pyramid, bringing knowledge and incorporating the participation of the excluded. Which implies giving them the possibility of developing their own capacities to decide and be able to autonomously change their reality. This is an approach that involves populations as direct actors in the development process. In this sense, to generate new forms of democratizing processes and involving communities in the decision-making that meet their specific needs and legitimize the proposed public policies. We can not forget that at the end of the day, the top of any pyramid has its supports on the base.

How is your idea unique?

This idea is unique because it is based in eradicate Violence with scientific knowledge and social technologies, something rarely explored inside the urban contexts. We want to settle a paradigmatic model that can later be replied in other slums of the Mexican cities. As stated by Hernán Thomas, specialist in social studies on technology and innovation, technologies are socially constructed as societies are technological constructions, so the resolution of the problems of scarcity, exclusion and underdevelopment can not be analyzed without Take into account the technological dimension: food production, housing, transportation, energy, access to cultural knowledge and goods, environment or social organization. Achieving science as a possible destination for urban borders, would establish a Important precedent to promote the future human development of Mexican cities. Which, would have an impact not only in the educational but also in the economic and social.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Tell us more about you

I am an Architect and Urban Planner, graduated from the National University of Mexico and the Polytechnic University of Catalunya (Spain). Since 2010, I have been working with the Masters of Water and Environmental Management at Queretaro University, implementing social and environmental projects on rural communities of Mexico. Principally with the PhD Raul Pineda, who is the director of the Master. Since then, we have won some important prizes with the communities we have empowered. -On 2011, Our project an "Environmental Learning Center (in La Joya, Queretaro) for Rural Communities" was awarded by the Mexican Landscape Architects Society as the best landscape architecture project. - 2013 we were Awarded by the Major of Queretaro with the "State Ecology Prize" with the project “La Carbonera, a sustainable Community” the iniciative consisted in the transformation of a waste land into a sustainable park, then with a group of women that we empowered through social technologies to produce local products and export them. (http://noticias.uaq.mx/index.php/vida/332-proyecto-impulsado-por-la-uaq-recibe-premio-estatal-de-ecologia-2013) -On 2014, I was distinguished with the "Sherpa" Award by the Civil Association "Gen M" of Queretaro, thanks to the social trajectory I have been developing. (https://codiceinformativo.com/2014/12/gen-m-reconoce-a-10-jovenes-queretanos-emprendedores/) -2015 PhD Raul Pineda was distinguished with the " Jose Ignacio Ruiz Calado" Medal, because his support to water and environmental projects in Queretaro. This project specifically is impulsed and coordinated by me, the PhD Raul Pineda who is now the Chief of the Academic and Institutional Planning at Queretaro University. MsC Enrique Sosa, Rector of the Polytechnic University of Santa Rosa and PhD Raúl Iturralde, director of CONCYTEQ (State Council of Science and Technology). We are involving the Scientific and Academic Community from the three Institutions to implement and support the technology and scientific projects in the Slums.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we are a formal initiative through a university.

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Thanks for your comments Kate.

I am an Architect and Urban Planner, graduated from the National University of Mexico and the Polytechnic University of Catalunya (Spain). Since 2010, I have been working with the Masters of Water and Environmental Management at Queretaro University, implementing social and environmental projects on rural communities of Mexico. Principally with the PhD Raul Pineda, who is the director of the Master.

Since then, we have won some important prizes with the communities we have empowered.
-On 2011, Our project an "Environmental Learning Center (in La Joya, Queretaro) for Rural Communities" was awarded by the Mexican Landscape Architects Society as the best landscape architecture project.
- 2013 we were Awarded by the Major of Queretaro with the "State Ecology Prize" with the project “La Carbonera, a sustainable Community” the iniciative consisted in the transformation of a waste land into a sustainable park, then with a group of women that we empowered through social technologies to produce local products and export them. (http://noticias.uaq.mx/index.php/vida/332-proyecto-impulsado-por-la-uaq-recibe-premio-estatal-de-ecologia-2013)
-On 2014, I was distinguished with the "Sherpa" Award by the Civil Association "Gen M" of Queretaro, thanks to the social trajectory I have been developing.
-2015 PhD Raul Pineda was distinguished with the " Jose Ignacio Ruiz Calado" Medal, because his support to water and environmental projects in Queretaro.

This project specifically is impulsed and coordinated by me, the PhD Raul Pineda who is now the Chief of the Academic and Institutional Planning at Queretaro University. MsC Enrique Sosa, Rector of the Polytechnic University of Santa Rosa and PhD Raúl Iturralde, director of CONCYTEQ (State Council of Science and Technology).
We are involving the Scientific and Academic Community from the three Institutions to implement and support the technology and scientific projects in the Slums.

The status of this project is on an early stage but we already have worked together with the community of Epigmenio Gonzales Area, realizing a diagnostic of the main violence problems in the area through interviews, focal discussion groups and participatory design workshops, etc.
At the same time we conformed a net of kids and young people from the neighborhoods that are the ones who will support the projects in the future. There is no point on having good ideas of there is not a local community willing to support them. We having working with the conformation of a net of scientist, academics and professionals from the three institutions that are going to implement the technological projects with the people. One of our goals is to transform the academics into urban activist.

Last week I presented the idea in a Symposium at the European Parliament organized by CONACYT (Mexican Council of Science and Technology) and they probable will support the initiative too in a later stage.

There are two strategies for our project, In the first place, a master plan will be proposed to improve the spatial and urban conditions of the neighborhood. Secondly, the construction of “Social Lab” an architectural public space where science is linked with the community. The aim of this project is not to establish science diffusion programs but to do science in the neighborhood, establishing a series of productive projects for social inclusion and economic development. Helping the people to themselves change their reality and improve the quality of life in the peripheries.

With these two strategies we want to tackle the high levels of Crime and Violence, bring peace, and reduce the inequity in all urban peripheries of the city. Rescuing kids with high risk to join the crime gangs and preventing them from drug addictions too. We should not forget that “knowledge” is a powerful tool we can give to change their own reality and have access to university education and formal jobs.

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