Students Work with Nonprofit to Help Mexico City Increase Citizen Participation in Urban Planning

January 31, 2018

Capstone students on a color boat in Mexico city

Nine students from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University are assisting Ruta Cívica, a nonprofit in Mexico City that works to strengthen citizen participation and transparency in urban planning in the city.  Ruta Cívica is concerned with helping to shape the development of a new urban planning institute and its arrangements for citizen participation.

Mexico City’s government began reorganizing many aspects of its government after enacting its first constitution in 2017.  Among the changes is a plan to create a new Instituto de Planeación Democrática y Perspectiva (Institute of Democratic and Prospective Planning) in 2019. The institute will be responsible for urban and sustainability planning within Mexico City’s government and will include an office for community consultation and participation.  The office is being established in response to neighborhood opposition to projects, repression of citizens’ voice on these issues, and real estate corruption. 

In early January, nine students from the Master of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) degree program at the Bush School traveled to Mexico City as part of their capstone research project. Led by faculty member Dr. Mary Hilderbrand, the team spent a week seeking a better understanding of the planned institute’s goals and policies, Mexico City’s urban planning challenges, and the perspectives of various stakeholders.  The trip was made possible by the joint support of the Department of Public Service and Administration and the Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Bush School.

Ruta Cívica has tasked the Bush School capstone team with advising it on different approaches and best practices for increasing citizen participation. The organization will utilize the team’s research to inform its advocacy with the city and will share it with both the city government and partner nonprofit organizations. 

Capstone students posing for a picture in Mexico


During their stay, the Bush School team met with several institutions and residents of Mexico City who are concerned about the lack of serious urban planning as well as the corruption in the city’s processes of granting building permits and regulating real estate development in the city.  They had the opportunity to discuss the legislative process of urban planning with one of the city’s congresswomen, Dunia Ludlow, an advocate for urban development and transparency in the government.

At the end of the spring semester, the student team will deliver a presentation and an in-depth research report. The report will include a menu of options based on other cities’ approaches to citizen participation in urban planning and will answer the overarching project question: “How can Mexico City’s planning institute engage community participation in its urban planning and programs?”

Bush School capstone students sitting around a table discussing their capstone project in Mexico


“I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to meet with such a wide array of stakeholders, including members of Congress, developers, lawyers, think-tanks, and civic organizations. It was incredibly interesting to witness how each holds a different perspective on how it should occur, although each entity is working on fixing the same issues. However, despite their differences of opinion, these leaders continue to forge working relationships with one another to benefit the greater good,” said Bush School student Margo DeKoch.

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