(IAP ’16) Francis Goyes, G

Francis Goyes (G, Urban Studies & Planning)

Francis will spend IAP in Mexico, where she will be collaborating with Fundación Hogares to evaluate social housing projects built through INFONAVIT, Mexico’s federal institute for worker’s housing and the largest mortgage lender in Latin America. She plans to carry out a socio-economic and urban evaluation of a housing project in Puebla, located south of Mexico City. This diagnosis will serve as a foundation for future urban interventions and community programs that Fundación Hogares will carry out in the area. Furthermore, this evaluation will be a valuable tool for INFONAVIT as they continue to supply houses for millions of Mexican families.

Check back for her updates!


Part 3 – Implementation!

From Mexico City to Mexicali

Although I was initially supposed to be working in Puebla (located two hours south of Mexico City), I couldn’t be more excited to go to Mexicali. Of course, I’m familiar with the US-Mexico border and its claim to infamy as the ‘Political Equator‘ to quote Teddy Cruz (not to be confused with Ted Cruz – here’s a link to his work http://estudioteddycruz.com/index1.html). However, reading about the border or looking at photos is quite different from actually being in situ.


Some quick facts about Mexicali

1,102,342 million people in the urban population

113.7 km² in area

one of the largest and most fertile valleys in Mexico

the temperature can reach 42°c in the summer and 5°c in the winter night

industry has a tax-free status

high number of maquiladoras (assembly plants) including Mitsubishi, Bosch, Price, and Honewell due to tax incentives, low wages, and loose worker right laws

high number of food processing plants such as Nestlé, Bimbo, Coca-Cola and Kellog’s

there’s an overwhelming amount of medical, dental services and pharmacies for the benefit of US residents

due in part to the maquiladoras, the lack of pavement, and the lack of wind, Mexicali is Mexico’s most polluted city

(all data from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexicali)

As soon as we arrived to Mexicali we drove to Valle de Puebla and met with the FH’s Promotoras Sociales. There are currently 4 Promotoras Sociales from FH’s POSH program stationed in Valle de Puebla, and they’ve been working in the housing development for almost a year now. They’ve been quite successful in creating a bond with many neighbors and have established numerous classes and projects with community members. With the Promotoras, we carried out a first survey of Valle de Puebla. With their tremendous help, we identified general urban spots like formal and informal community parks and areas, day care centers, elementary + middle schools, after-school hang out spots, and abandoned houses.

The abandonment rate in Valle de Puebla is 18%, meaning there’s an estimated +2,000 houses abandoned from the total of 12,000 houses built. The high percentage of abandoned housing is an enormous problem for various reasons, some of which include health risks, illicit activity hubs, and robber + thieves hideout. Part of INFONAVIT’s strategy for the work FH does is that through community development programs and urban rehabilitation home buyers will be persuaded to buy a previously abandoned house. The extent of how these programs have impacted the amount of abandoned housing remains to be studied.

Abandoned housing

After our initial survey, we got to work! We did some practice runs of the participatory workshops with the Promotoras Sociales, so that they could both understand what we were trying to do (they had to help us with the workshops after all) and give us suggestions on how to improve the methodology.


… Followed by 9 workshops in 4 days with an over 200 participants!!!

All of the workshops the Promotoras Sociales had helped us set up the previous week happened – a rare feat when working in this field. I think the flawlessness speaks greatly of the work the Promotoras Sociales have done and their place within the community. As expected, there was a lot of trial and error, and we had to keep tweaking our methodology after most every workshop. Working with the young kids took particular attention, as many knew where they lived, but couldn’t figure out where it was on the plan we had. We also had to divide and conquer with them, as they would get overtly excited and easily distracted when put into large groups! Working with adults was much calmer, but I personally do enjoy hearing and learning from the young population.

And some photos!






Here’s a link to FH’s workshops blog, where you’ll find many more photos and videos of the workshop!: https://valledepuebla.wordpress.com/


Part 2 – Planning participation

How does one create a participatory planning methodology? I am more than a little overwhelmed with the project, but feel honored that Fundación Hogares (FH) believes I’m capable of creating a participatory planning methodology for them and piloting it in Valle de Puebla. I’ve been working for two weeks now on what the methodology should be, with tremendous help and guidance coming from previous work experiences, my first semester at MIT and especially the ICU (Intervenciones Comunitarias Urbanas) at FH.

I spent most of the second week at FH going through a literature review of participatory methodologies for urban development projects and design. The readings from my Intro to Planning class were particularly useful (won’t my professor be surprised!) as were participatory design online toolkits such as IDEO’s human-centered design. After taking note of the current best practices in the field, I created a first draft of a participatory methodology that we could pilot in Valle de Puebla.

But rarely are theory and practice in harmony.

After a week of going through journals and writing the first draft, we began piloting the methods we would be using in Valle de Puebla. There were changes after every trial, some long, long nights at the office, but as was to be expected, a much richer result came out of the process. Although I’ve worked in numerous group projects, I always need to remind myself of how important and valuable constructive criticism and teamwork is. Two brains are better than one, never mind five or one hundred!


I’m sure the dynamics will change even more when we test it in Mexicali with the different neighbors, but ultimately it will add to the richness of the results.


After two weeks of developing the methodology, we’re off to Mexicali to pilot it! While we’re there we’ll be working with 4 social workers from the FH’s POSH program that have been in Valle de Puebla for almost a year now. They are trusted by many people in the community, have working relations with many of the community leaders, and have been disseminating our project for two weeks now.

These are our (for now) final methodologies

For planning workshops with elementary school students:

1. Tell us the place you like the most in your community and why

2. Write the name of the place you like the most on a post-it and place it on the Valle de Puebla plan

3. Place a red sticker on where your house is on the Valle de Puebla plan

4. Place a green sticker on the place you play the most on the Valle de Puebla plan

5. Place a blue sticker on your school on the Valle de Puebla plan

6. With a marker, trace the route you usually take from your house to the school and to your play place

7. On the route trace, put a yellow sticker on unsafe areas or places you don’t like

7. Create a small group with other students that also chose the same place, and together draw on one side of a poster-sized paper how the place currently looks and on the other side how you would like it to look

For planning workshops with young adults and adults

1. Tell us the place you like the most in your community and why

2. Write the name of the place you like the most on a post-it and place it on the Valle de Puebla plan

3. Place a red sticker on where your house is on the Valle de Puebla plan

4. Place a green sticker on the place your family goes for recreation on the Valle de Puebla plan

5. Place a blue sticker on your place of work or where you take transportation to commute on the Valle de Puebla plan

6. With a marker, trace the route you usually take from your house to work and to your recreation place

7. Use the ‘danger zone’ blocks to highlight areas in your route that are dangerous or that need upkeep

Although seemingly simple, if enough people participate we will get a clear idea of what lots and areas are in need of most attention, what community areas are successfully being used by people, the most transited routes, and what is missing in terms of community spaces. Once we aggregate all this data, we can compare and contrast it with funding available, empty lots that belong to the developers or to the municipality, and interested community members to then implement projects that will serve the greatest number of community members in the ways that will be of most benefit to themw.


Our current list of workshops are:

1. Children’s Sports Club

2. 5th grade class in the Valle de Puebla school Jaime Sabines

3. 6th grade class in the Valle de Puebla school Jaime Sabines

4. Parents of the Children’s Sports Club

5. FH Public Spaces work table

6. 5th grade class in Ejido de Puebla school

7. El Guero’s (community leader) group

8. FH Young Adults work table

9. Valle de Puebla’s Women’s Group

It’s a lot of meetings for 4 days, but with a team this great I’m confident we will be successful!


Part 1 – Getting acquainted with Fundación Hogares

My first week at Fundación Hogares (FH) consisted of getting acquainted with the organization’s work areas and projects at their headquarters in Mexico City. After my first 5 days with them I learned:

The FH team consists of more than 70 urban planners, ethnographers, economists, social workers, and mathematicians

There are 5 different areas within FH:

      • urban projects + evaluations
      • community development
      • administration
      • fundraising
      • planning

The community development area is called Programa de Organización Social (POSH). The program is dedicated to enhancing and promoting community development in risk areas within affordable housing developments in Mexico through community-created and led projects. The housing developments are chosen based on a series of parameters including percentage of abandoned housing, levels of violence, basic infrastructure, social infrastructure, and social cohesion levels. This initiative lasts an average of 2.5 years.


The urban projects area is called Intervenciones Comunitarias Urbanas (ICU). This program area is tasked with rehabilitating and improving the physical conditions of housing developments through design interventions in public spaces. Thus far, it has engaged at-risk communities in urban interventions ranging from urban art to public parks and plazas. This program can last 3 months to 1 year.



The evaluations area keeps track of projects being implemented by both POSH and ICU, measuring costs, community outreach and programs. Additionally, they are in charge of measuring the Índice de Cohesión Social Vecinal (Neighborhood Social Cohesion Index), an index created by FH to measure levels of community development before, during and after their projects are implemented.

 While FH’s main client is INFONAVIT, the largest mortgage lender in Latin America and fourth largest worldwide, the organization also works with other lender organizations, including Compartamos Banco, the largest microfinance bank in Latin America.

Although FH’s headquarters are in Mexico City, it has bases called Centros Hogares in every housing development they work in.

I was initially going to help in the pre-diagnostic evaluation of an INFONAVIT housing development in Puebla. However, the project was postponed.

I am now tasked with creating a participatory methodology for a master plan created by INFONAVIT for one of their housing developments, Valle de Puebla, which is located in Mexicali, Baja California. This is the first master plan INFONAVIT has prepared for one of their troubled housing developments and includes 27 different recommended initiatives. While expansive, the implementation of the entire plan would cost more money than FH or INFONAVIT could afford. FH’s mission and my main contribution will be to prioritize the initiatives so that the implemented projects will be the most effective in terms of necessity, time and money. This prioritization will take place through a participatory approach with the Valle de Puebla neighbors so that these projects can be embraced by the community.



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