jueves, 9 de agosto de 2018

¿En qué grado la inseguridad afecta a la convivencia? Caso Ciudades de Colima-Villa de Alvarez y de Manzanillo, 2014-2017


Elaboración:
L.E. Julio Cesar Rodríguez González
L.E. Ana María Mendoza Curiel
Coordinación de Desarrollo Económico y Social del IPCO

Investigaciones y/o planeación municipal en temáticas de marginación, violencia urbana, segregación espacial, y vocacionamiento económico. 

I. Papel Primordial de la Ciudad como Derecho


Las ciudades son cada vez más el ámbito primordial para el desarrollo humano, la satisfacción de las necesidades de la población urbana y rural. De acuerdo con informes de la ONU y la CEPAL, en el año 2017 ya vivía en ciudades más del 50% de la población mundial y el 80% de la población de América Latina, previéndose que en el año 2050 la proporción se elevará a 66% y a 87%, respectivamente.*
ONU, Perspectivas de Población Mundial 2017 y, CELADE - División de Población de la CEPAL. Revisión 2017, respectivamente.

A la par, en las agendas de sociedad y gobierno, cada vez se va interiorizando más la Carta Mundial por el Derecho a la Ciudad redactada en 2004 por la Coalisión Internacional del Hábitat (HIC) y retomada en 2010 por el Fondo Urbano Mundial de Río de Janeiro Brasil, la cual ha resignificado al concepto escrito en 1967 por Lefebvre y a la defensa feroz de los últimos años por la sociedad civil en diversos foros internacionales, y cuya noción se puede sintetizar así:

La mejora de la calidad de vida de los habitantes no debe limitarse a la escala de vivienda y de su barrio, sino trascender a la escala de ciudad y de su entorno rural, de manera tal que la ciudad le garantice a todos la realización de los derechos humanos (civiles, políticos, económicos, sociales, culturales y ambientales) establecidos en los tratados regionales e internacionales, teniendo como pilares al bienestar colectivo, a la gestión democrática ciudadana y a la función social de la propiedad de territorio, es decir, a partir de la base del espacio y de las instituciones, reivindicándose el valor de la gente por sobre los intereses del capital. 


Particularmente, la convivencia y la seguridad se tornan en condiciones fundamentales para que los espacios de la ciudad permitan la interacción, el intercambio cultural, la potenciación de las transacciones económicas y, en lo general, el acceso a los servicios urbanos.
La violencia urbana, manifestada no sólo en la ocurrencia de delitos e incivilidades, la victimización en sí, sino también como la sensación de temor ante la amenaza percibida de ser víctima, genera una inseguridad que es un obstáculo o una negación del derecho pleno a la ciudad:
Si hay personas que adoptan un papel de victimarios, sometiendo coercitivamente ante sus decisiones e intereses a los demás, ello menoscaba el consenso y la coexistencia humana. Si hay personas que adoptan un papel de víctimas, sintiendo peligro, inhibiendo hábitos y su participación (por ejemplo, abstenerse de disfrutar del espacio público de noche), o recurriendo a mecanismos violentos de protección y de defensa, ello aminora la libertad, la vida humana y la convivencia.




II. Violencia Urbana de Alto Impacto en Municipios del Estado de Colima


La entidad de Colima y sus municipios, hasta hace pocos años se habían distinguido a nivel nacional por sus bajos niveles de violencia y por una alta percepción de seguridad entre la ciudadana. Sin embargo, a partir de 2015 se ha venido dando un escalonamiento dramático en los casos de violencia urbana de alto impacto, sobre todo homicidios, y particularmente en tres municipios. Esta situación de trauma, ha incrementado el sentimiento inseguridad entre la población y limitado algunos hábitos de convivencia, pero de distintas maneras y con diferentes grados entre tales municipios.

De acuerdo con un análisis del Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y Justicia Penal (CCSPJP), en 2017 el Estado de Colima se tornó en el más violento del país (una tasa de homicidios de 98.5% versus la tasa nacional de 21.2%) y tres de sus municipios, Tecomán, Manzanillo, y Colima, aparecieron entre los veinte más violentos del país, ocupando respectivamente las posiciones 1, 2 y 12, ello en contraste con Villa de Alvarez que ocupo la posición 100 entre 230 municipios del país considerados en ese análisis, el cual ponderó a los casos de homicidios, secuestros, violaciones, lesiones, robo con violencia, y extorsión.
“Acentúa esta reconfiguración del mapa de la violencia el que el Municipio de Tecomán, Colima, no sólo haya ingresado por primera vez entre los 20 más violentos, como los otros de Colima ya referidos, sino que lo hizo para ocupar el primer lugar nacional” (CCSPJP, 2017).

El resultado sugiere que el contexto geográfico, económico y social de los municipios, contribuye  a definir un cierto patrón de configuración espacial de los tipos de delitos:
  • Tecomán, municipio localizado al centro-oriente del Estado, con 123,191 habitantes hacia el año 2015, especializado en la agricultura (principalmente en el cultivo del limón, una actividad cuya rentabilidad ha decaído en años recientes), con una alta proporción de inmigrantes (principalmente de Michoacán y Guerrero) y, con altos niveles de marginación, pobreza y adicciones, resalta en la comisión de homicidios, pero no en la comisión del resto de delitos de alto impacto.
  • Manzanillo, municipio localizado al sur-poniente del Estado, con 184,541 habitantes en el año 2015, sitio del puerto marítimo y turístico de Manzanillo, con una alta proporción de inmigrantes, altos contrastes económicos y sociales, y una presencia generalizada de marginación, pobreza y de adicciones, resalta en la comisión de delitos de extorsión y de  violaciones (nivel cercano del Municipio de Colima).
  • Villa de Alvarez, municipio localizado al norte-poniente del Estado, con 136,779 habitantes, con un desarrollo urbano expansivo relativamente reciente y conurbado a la ciudad de Colima, estratos de población predominantemente de ingresos medios, y una menor densidad de negocios o puestos de trabajo (dado que estos se concentran más en la ciudad de Colima), resalta primeramente en secuestros y secundariamente en robos, pero no en homicidios, cuya tasa no sólo es la más baja dentro del Estado, sino además cercana al promedio nacional.
  • Colima, municipio localizado al norte-oriente del Estado, con una población de 150,673 habitantes en 2015, albergue de la ciudad de Colima (capital estatal), con un desarrollo urbano menos expansivo y reciente (por limitaciones físicas y de propiedad del suelo), también con una alta proporción de migrantes (muchos de ellos jóvenes que acuden del resto de la entidad o desde otros estados para estudiar en sus universidades), concentrando el grueso de negocios-puesto de trabajo de la conurbación (sobre todo comercios y servicios), y padeciendo contrastes económicos y sociales dentro del territorio de la ciudad (población de mayores ingresos hacia el norte, y de menores ingresos hacia los extremos sur y oriente, que además poseen importantes niveles de marginación), resalta primeramente en robos y secundariamente en extorsiones y violaciones (nivel similar al del municipio de Manzanillo).


III. Inseguridad, Conflictos y Convivencia Vecinal en las ciudades de Colima-Villa de Alvarez y de Manzanillo



Datos de la Encuesta Nacional de Seguridad Pública Urbana 2017 del INEGI sugieren que, al interior del Estado, entre sus dos principales ciudades, a saber en la capital y en el puerto marítimo, el nivel de inseguridad percibido por la población se asociaría principalmente a la ocurrencia de casos de homicidios, y no tanto a la ocurrencia de los otros delitos de alto impacto, así como que los conflictos en la convivencia estarían disociados o serían independientes tanto de la ocurrencia de delitos como de la sensación de temor, es decir, que obedecerían mas bien a otras lógicas, primordialmente de índoles urbana y sociocultural.

  • En la ciudad de Colima-Villa de Alvarez, la sensación de inseguridad de la población es inferior a la nacional, tanto a nivel global como a nivel de los tipos de sitios de la ciudad en los que durante el día se encuentren los habitantes. 
  • En la ciudad de Manzanillo, asentada en el municipio que ha padecido una mayor tasa de homicidios, el nivel de temor o alerta de los habitantes ante el peligro de ser víctima, de un 82%, supera al promedio nacional, de un 76%, sobre todo cuando la población se encuentra en sitios públicos (se sienten más vulnerables en las calles, en los centros comerciales, y en sus autos), en contraste con su permanencia en sitios privados (se sienten más seguros en sus casas).


Respecto a conflictos, datos de la misma fuente, revelan que tanto en la ciudad de Colima-Villa de Álvarez como en la ciudad de Manzanillo, sus tasas (relativamente similares o cercanas entre sí) son más elevadas que la tasa nacional, sin embargo, no participa de todos los mismos tipos de conflicto que se presentan a nivel nacional, pues mientras que a nivel país en determinados contextos urbanos son recurrentes los conflictos con los desconocidos, con las autoridades, con los establecimientos, y con compañeros, en cambio en los contextos urbanos de Colima-Villa de Alvarez y de Manzanillo los conflictos que más ocurren son en primer termino con los vecinos (por motivos de ruido, basura, etc.), y en segundo término con desconocidos (por motivos de estacionamientos, drogadictos, etc.).




En cuanto a Convivencia, según a datos de la Encuesta de Cohesión Social para la Prevención de la Violencia y la Delincuencia 2014 del INEGI, en las ciudades de Colima-Villa de Álvarez y de Manzanillo se practican formas de interacción entre vecinos similares a las que se practican a en promedio a nivel país (platicar, visitarse, confiarse, reunirse, organizarse, etc.), sin embargo, la población reconoce que ello ocurre poco o nunca. Esto muestra que colimenses-villalvarenses y que manzanillenses están poco dispuestos a la organización vecinal dentro de su barrio y a la gestión participativa de la ciudad, así como que los factores socioculturales de cada ámbito local pueden limitar al comportamiento individual y colectivo.

Finalmente, opinión vertida por habitantes beneficiados y promotores comunitarios ligados entre si con la implementación del Programa Nacional de Prevención del Delito en los siete polígonos prioritarios del Municipio de Coima, refiere que las problemáticas en seguridad y en convivencia barrial están fuertemente asociadas a incivilidades cometidas por los habitantes en el espacio público (drogadicción, narcomenudeo, y ruido) o en el hogar (violencia intrafamiliar), así como a la existencia de insuficiencias urbanas (obscuridad), e institucionales y socioculturales (desconfianza hacia la autoridad, intolerancia, y desorganización comunitaria).


IV. Conclusiones y Recomendaciones Generales



La ausencia de una relación estrecha y de calidad entre los habitantes, aunada a la apatía o desdén de la población para interactuar, reunirse y organizarse con sus vecinos, parecen no estar fuertemente asociadas a la sensación de inseguridad, pues la interpretación de los datos sugiere que la desconfianza hacia “el otro”  es una concepción que los habitantes no le cargan fundamentalmente al vecino sino “al desconocido”. Por ello, como se revela en el caso de la ciudad de Manzanillo, el sentimiento del peligro está más ligado hacia el uso y la permanencia de la población en el espacio público abierto (calle, centro comercial y autos), que hacia al entorno comunitario y a los vecinos.

En cambio, la sensación de inseguridad expresada como un sentimiento de peligro que se le adjudica al extraño o al desconocido, sí podría estar asociada a la ocurrencia de delitos de alto impacto, sobre todo al de los homicidios, pues la revisión de los datos mostró que en los entornos urbanos donde es mayor esta prevalencia, en la ciudad de Manzanillo, la tasa de temor es mayor, en comparación a los entornos en donde se observa que esa prevalencia es menor, principalmente en el caso de la Ciudad de Colima.

jueves, 11 de mayo de 2017


La gestión de la velocidad, esencial para salvar vidas y mejorar la vida en las ciudades



GINEBRA, 5 de mayo de 2017 – En su nuevo informe titulado Managing speed («Gestión de la velocidad»), la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) señala que la velocidad excesiva o inadecuada es la causa de una de cada tres víctimas de accidentes de tránsito en el mundo. Las medidas de control de la velocidad previenen muertes y traumatismos en la carretera, y contribuyen a mejorar la salud de las personas y la sostenibilidad de la vida en las ciudades.

Cerca de 1,25 millones de personas fallecen cada año en las carreteras del mundo. De acuerdo con los estudios, entre el 40% y el 50% de los conductores no respetan los límites de velocidad señalizados. Los conductores varones, jóvenes y que han consumido alcohol son más propensos a circular a una velocidad excesiva o inadecuada que puede provocar accidentes. Los accidentes de tránsito continúan siendo la principal causa de muerte entre los jóvenes de 15 a 29 años, y se calcula que cuestan a los países entre el 3% y el 5% de su PIB y sumen a muchas familias en la pobreza.

Sin embargo, solo 47 países siguen unas prácticas correctas en relación con una de las principales medidas de control de la velocidad: el establecimiento de un límite máximo de velocidad de 50 km/h en las zonas urbanas, que las autoridades locales pueden reducir en las calles cercanas a las escuelas, residencias y comercios.

La Dra. Margaret Chan, Directora General de la OMS, señala: «La velocidad excesiva o inadecuada es la principal causa de los traumatismos por accidentes de tránsito, un problema de ámbito mundial. Atajando solamente este problema, los países lograrían una mejora inmediata de la seguridad vial, tanto por lo que respecta a la reducción de la mortalidad como a la mayor proporción de personas que se desplazarían a pie y en bicicleta, y los efectos sobre la salud serían profundos y duraderos».

Estas son algunas de las medidas de control de la velocidad:
  • incorporar a la construcción o modificación de las calles y carreteras elementos que pacifiquen el tránsito, como rotondas y badenes;
  • establecer límites de velocidad adecuados a la función de cada tipo de vía;
  • hacer que se respeten los límites de velocidad, tanto por métodos automatizados como mediante controles realizados por agentes;
  • dotar a los vehículos nuevos de innovaciones tecnológicas, como los sistemas inteligentes de adaptación de la velocidad y de frenado de emergencia;
  • sensibilizar sobre los peligros de circular a una velocidad excesiva o inadecuada.



Las tasas de mortalidad por accidentes de tránsito son casi tres veces más bajas en Europa que en África. Los países que han logrado reducir más drásticamente las tasas de mortalidad y de traumatismos por accidentes de tránsito en las últimas décadas —Países Bajos, Reino Unido y Suecia, entre otros— son los que han abordado el problema con un enfoque amplio, priorizando la conducción a una velocidad segura como uno de los cuatro componentes del denominado «enfoque de sistemas para la seguridad vial», que abarca también la vía pública, el vehículo y el usuario.
  • jornadas de ralentización del tránsito en Belarús, Bélgica, Benin, Botswana, Colombia, España, India, Malasia, Nepal, Qatar, Trinidad y Tabago, Túnez y Viet Nam;
  • campañas en torno a las escuelas en Brasil, Camerún, China, Fiji, Gambia, Jordania, Marruecos, Rumania, Sudáfrica y Uganda;
  • actividades con parlamentarios en Armenia, Australia, Myanmar, Reino Unido, República de Moldova, Tailandia y Ucrania;
  • simposios en Filipinas, Montenegro, Nigeria, Polonia y Sierra Leona; 
  • vigilias para víctimas de accidentes de tránsito en Irlanda y Mauricio.
Dentro de los países, los responsables municipales han sido unos de los principales impulsores de un movimiento creciente, a menudo promovido a nivel local, que aspira a transformar las ciudades y hacerlas más habitables para todos. La reducción de la velocidad y la mejora de la seguridad comportan beneficios adicionales para la población, como el aumento del uso de la bicicleta y de los desplazamientos a pie, así como la reducción del ruido y de la contaminación atmosférica. A su vez, estas acciones contribuyen a mejorar la salud, ya que disminuye la incidencia de enfermedades cardiovasculares, cáncer, diabetes y otras enfermedades no transmisibles.

El informe Managing speed se ha publicado como preparación de la Cuarta Semana Mundial de las Naciones Unidas sobre la Seguridad Vial, que se celebra del 8 al 14 mayo de 2017. Con la campaña Save lives: #SlowDown («Salvemos vidas: reduzca la velocidad») se pretende alertar de los peligros del exceso de velocidad y explicar las medidas que se deben aplicar para combatir este riesgo importante de muertes y traumatismos.

Entre los cientos de eventos organizados, destacan los siguientes:

La Semana de las Naciones Unidas es una oportunidad única para promover las metas 3.6 y 11.2 de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible relacionados con la seguridad vial, y contribuir a su consecución. Paralelamente, la OMS dará a conocer un documento titulado Save LIVES: A road safety technical package, en el que se presentan las 22 intervenciones basadas en datos probatorios con las que más se puede reducir el número de muertos y heridos en las carreteras, algunas de ellas relacionadas con el control de la velocidad.

ENLACES CONEXOS
Managing speed (Gestión de la velocidad) – en inglés 
http://www.who.int/entity/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_traffic/managing- speed/en/index.html

Control de la velocidad: un manual de seguridad vial para los responsables de tomar decisiones y profesionales – en inglés
http://www.who.int/roadsafety/projects/manuals/speed_manual/en/ 

Cuarta Semana Mundial de las Naciones Unidas sobre la Seguridad Vial: 8-14 de mayo de 2017
http://www.who.int/roadsafety/week/2017/es/ 


Campaña de la cuarta Semana Mundial de las Naciones Unidas para la Seguridad Vial
https://www.unroadsafetyweek.org/es/home
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Para más información, sírvase contactar con:

Laura Sminkey
Departamento de Enfermedades No Transmisibles, Discapacidad, Violencia y Prevención de Lesiones, OMS


Teléfono (oficina): +41 22 791 4547
Móvil (celular): +41 79 249 3520
Correo electrónico: sminkeyl@who.int 

Paul Garwood
Departamento de Comunicaciones, OMS Teléfono (oficina): +41 22 791 1578 Móvil (celular): +41 79 603 72 94
Correo electrónico: garwoodp@who.int 

Correo electrónico: garwoodp@who.int 





viernes, 18 de noviembre de 2016

Urban Living in Colima. How it changed my preconceived notions in defining “City Living”.

I have lived the typical second generation lifestyle of being born and raised in the downtown core of a city, to then be forced to participate in the wave of mass suburban sprawl with parents wishing for a bigger home, a car dependent lifestyle, and dare I saw it “the all American dream.” Against this idea of suburban life, I have always made it a point to move back to the downtown core where walkability scores were high, transit plentiful, and I was immersed in the core of historical and cultural spaces buzzing with energy, restaurants, markets, shops, amenities and people.
This was my understanding of urban living.
So when I was given the opportunity to work in the City of Colima living within walking distance to downtown and where the office also happens to be, I jumped with excitement for a chance to continue my lifestyle in an urban setting. The thought of living in Mexico where I had quick access to events, an abundance of fruit stands and vegetable markets littering the streets at all hours, and access to all the amenities I was used to, only this time, it was going to be the “latin way” meaning, plentiful fresh fruits to my liking.
I was told Colima is “a small city” and though I was well aware of that, I continued to withhold the same preconceived notions of what I understood as a “city”.
To my surprise, my understanding of “cities” and “downtowns” happened to be the complete opposite once I’d arrived here. Yes, I live walking distance to the heart of the city, but the streets were sparse, if not mostly empty. You can easily encounter convenience shops every other block, but they weren’t the fresh fruit stands I’d been expecting. And for the most part, the downtown wasn’t this centre of exciting activity filled with people, restaurants, and an abundance of things to do.
Quite contrary, Colima operated a little differently. The general sentiments here are to avoid unnecessary walking due to daily temperatures of scorching heat. Historical and cultural spaces has largely been abandoned with the younger and mobile actively deciding to sprawl outwards ultimately relying on car ownership to get around. All the modern spaces, malls, and entertainment now reachable only via driving reserving the downtown area for a majority of retirees and pensioners.
Occupying the central area now are a mix of newly constructed, large-sized homes alongside smaller, decaying ones. Lining up the streets also lay abandoned colonial buildings with various neglected plots of land, beside homes that are converted to restaurants by day – everything is just a little random.
I found it interesting and eye opening with the realization these homes didn’t have setbacks from the walkway – a common guideline I was used to seeing. Rather, when you walk on the narrow sidewalk one can easily peek into each home to see homeowners laying in bed, watching tv, or cooking in the kitchen. It seems Colima happens to be a random mix of varying structures of height and width with no regulations on density.
Colima has helped shed light on how city centres and downtowns can have very different meanings depending on where you are. And it finally dawned on me that historically speaking, city centres were a place that witnessed its initial settlers. My preconceived notions of these spaces are based on more modern cities that have witnessed much of its regeneration process, and therefore depending on which city you’re in, there can be different connotations and perceptions to the term.
It’s interesting because everything I knew about “downtowns” have now been reversed. Living close to the centre I still reap the benefits of walking to necessary amenities, but beyond that if I’m seeking great products, services or restaurants, the need of a car is absolutely more desirable here. What was once a standard, leisure 30-40 minute stroll in Vancouver or Toronto is now an uncomfortable, sweat-drenched, heat-stroke inducing activity, deterring many from getting around unless they have a car.
And it is only now after living in Colima that I realize what the City is trying to achieve in rebranding and regenerating the downtown core. I’m understanding the reasons for opposing views as well as the City’s aggressive agenda to transition Colima to become a collaborative, smart city. There are certainly many challenges to overcome, but more than anything after only being here for a couple of weeks, I am empowered by the City’s objectives. I couldn’t be happier to be living here and a part of the process in witnessing Colima achieve its sustainable urban planning goals.
Ly, Wendy . 17 de noviembre de 2016. Urban Living in Colima. How it changed my preconceived notions in defining “city living”. Recuperado de: Sustainable Cities International Youth Internships

miércoles, 16 de noviembre de 2016

Cooperation in Colima

Por Ruth Casanova


I have just completed my first month here in Colima working at the IPCO office (Planning institute for the city of Colima). It has been a very welcoming experience thus far. My supervisor, coworkers, and fellow interns have gone out of their way to integrate me into the office and I can easily say I already feel confident making my way around the workplace.

                                                            Most of the currentl IPCO team!

A big part of the projects that IPCO has undertaken have to do with a wider goal to reactivate the downtown in Colima that has been abandoned and underused since a major earthquake in 2003. IPCO therefore has an agenda of several projects all linked to the economic, social, and cultural, reactivation of the city centre. Because it is a city planning office, these projects are linked to the ministry of culture, human resources, economics, etc. For that reason, our projects require ongoing communication and cooperation between a numbers of different actors. Learning about this process of cooperation has been a very interesting part of my first month here, along with my research for a potential city branding project.
My supervisor, Jesus Rios, nicknamed “El ingeniero” because of his endless knowledge on a range of disciplines, has been persistent about inviting us interns to attend all meetings that touch on any of the projects that IPCO is involved in the centre. Having sat in on a number of meetings thus far, I feel like I  have already  learned so much about the processes that take place in city planning, the obstacles, the public and private partnerships involved, and the interactions (often difficult) between the federal, municipal and city governments.
Palacio Municipal de Colima, located across the street from the IPCO offices, where they hold many of the meetings we sit in on. 


As IPCO continuously participates in sharing new initiatives and communicating advances in current projects, other offices of the municipality also present what they are working on and it is inspiring to see the will to drive forward the reactivation of the city centre working towards benefiting the wider public. For example,  the ministry of culture in our last meeting presented two of their upcoming cultural events that they are organizing in a meeting with merchants of the city centre. These cultural events take place over the course of several consecutive days in the various gardens of the city centre with the objective to attract people to the city centre to spend time, eat, drink, and drive foot traffic and therefore commerce in the area. These bigger cultural events are initiatives that are relatively new in the city since 2003 and are an exciting part of the city centre reactivation agenda for the year to come. I am looking forward to being in Colima and experiencing these cultural events first hand, not only to evaluate their success but also as a way of  further getting to know the city that I am living in for the next 5 months.

Most recently, I attended a meeting with other members of IPCO, with merchants located in one of the gardens in the centre one of the area we are looking to improve. The meeting was to inform and encourage the merchants on rebranding certain aspects of the physical appearance of the front facing part of their businesses. This has the purposes of unifying the businesses of the centre under one consistent color palette, theme, and image for the end goal of having a cleaner, more organized, attractive city centre. During the meeting, some of the merchants took the time to stop and thank the organizers for inviting them and including them in the discussion and decision-making matters that directly affect them and their businesses. That was very cool to see.
Jardín Libertad right around the IPCO offices. This is one of many gardens in the city centre.


Jardín Libertad is surrounded by Los Portales (sidewalk are with the archs) which holds many businesses with patios and umbrellas that we are looking to organize and rebrand. 


Casanova, Ruth . 15 de noviembre de 2016. Cooperation in Colima. Recuperado de: Sustainable Cities International Youth Internships


viernes, 30 de septiembre de 2016

Love, Idleness, and Proust

Por Cody Brooks


I first heard the Proust questionnaire three years ago while listening to an episode of CBC Radio One’s, The Next Chapter. It was a brief clip – perhaps 30 seconds long – and consisted of an unnamed French accented male voice interrogating a Canadian writer I can’t remember while minor piano keys rang ominously in the background. “What is the lowest depth of misery?” he asked. I don’t remember the answer, but the question stuck with me. “What is the lowest depth of misery?”

Over the next few months, I began tuning in to The Next Chapter more regularly. The guests were always an interesting assortment and the banter they shared with host Sheilah Rogers was consistently thought provoking. However, the part that I looked most forward to every episode was that dramatic, French accented voice, and his Proust questionnaire.

As I eventually learned, the decision to cast a French male in the role of interrogator was not likely accidental. Originally an English parlour game, the modern name and popularity of the questionnaire is owed to French writer Marcel Proust. In its Proustian form, the questionnaire consists of thirty-five questions, each devised to reveal the specific tastes, fears, and aspirations of the test taker at that particular moment in time. The range of questions is an interesting one, from the philosophically bent, “what is your favourite virtue?” to the peculiarly specific, “what is your favourite flower?”

Since I first heard those melancholic piano keys and that striking voice, I’ve toyed with the idea of completing the Proust questionnaire myself. Yet, for one reason or another, I never got around to it. At least until now. With my return to Canada now less than two months away, I’ve begun to reflect on my life abroad over the last few years; and in the spirit of reflection, I’ve sought Proust.


For the last week or so I’ve been working my way through the Proust questionnaire. Thus far, it’s been a cathartic, yet surprisingly difficult experience. Perhaps nowhere is this difficulty more evident than in my struggle with the question, “What is the lowest depth of misery?” Given that this is the first question from the questionnaire I’d actually heard, it’s also the one that I’ve had the most time to think about. Time, however, has not made it any easier to answer and, if I’m honest, this question is probably the reason that I’ve been so reluctant to start this project.

This reluctance has largely been the result of two observations: first, as should be clear to anyone reading this, I have not experienced the entire range of situations that are likely to produce misery in a human being, and so I cannot provide an authoritative answer by way of comparison; second, I’ve noticed that my answer is apt to change depending on my life circumstances. Of course, created as it were with the function of revealing information about one’s present mental state, answers to the Proust questionnaire are not supposed to be definitive. Still, though I recognize this, it’s been difficult to rid myself of the feeling that my answers are somehow inadequate. For this reason I’ve created a disclaimer that I’ve grown fond of repeating: these answers are personal, temporal artefacts of my present condition, and they are subject to revision as conditions change.

Right now, perhaps one of the most noteworthy conditions in my life is one of living and working in Mexico. While certainly there are other facets of my life at play, as I read through my answers to the Proust questionnaire it’s clear that many of them have been influenced by my experience here. Here are two of the more obvious examples.

miércoles, 7 de septiembre de 2016

Focus Groups 101: Get out the megaphone

A look at our project in Colima and some tips for designing and directing focus groups.

By Hannah Matthews

Over the past couple of months, Cody and I along with the IPCO (Institución de Planeación de Colima) office have been in the process of conducting a study on a local park, las Huertas del Cura. You can see Cody’s first blog post which discusses his original encounter with the park and the story of how Huertas del Cura came to be 5 years ago when another Canadian intern was working with IPCO. However, since that project, the park’s facilities and ambiance have steadily declined. The park is still in use, for football games, zumba classes, fishing in the small pond, and people just strolling and enjoying some time in nature. But these activities are limited because of how the facilities have been maintained and how this lack of maintenance has brought issues for the park’s environment. This is a troubling finding for IPCO considering it was one of the organization’s first projects to come to fruition. Cody was very curious about learning more about these problems and quickly gained the interest of the rest of us at IPCO into investigating possible solutions from this space.

We began our study by having different members of the team go to Huertas del Cura to document observations for an hour each during different times of the day. In my own observations, I noticed lots of transit through the park, people on their way to school or work. As well, many children came to play while adults came to exercise or walk their dogs. Some parts of Huertas del Cura still hold lots of life throughout the day but it also possesses spaces that remain untouched by most. I never felt comfortable walking behind the soccer stadium due to abandoned rooms where I observed drug usage, a space for the homeless, and overall state of filth from garbage and human excrement. This is probably the most extreme example of the disarray of the park but because of these conditions, the park has attracted petty crime and feelings of insecurity for its users.

These observations allowed the IPCO team to begin forming questions to ask the users about their experiences and opinions on las Huertas del Cura. During my Masters, I had directed my own interviews and focus groups which allowed me some background when creating these types of research plans. But in that case, I had easier access to my participants because I was working in the organizations where they were already involved and they had gotten to know me. In the case of the park, we were strangers asking people to speak with us. On a personal note, this was a challenge because I have difficulty engaging new people in discussion due to my own anxiety and feeling as if my intrusion might bother them. I had to overcome this anxiety very quickly when we began the survey portion of our research. Through both practice and self-talk, I completed surveys with Cody which proved to be great success in hearing about the neighbours’ experiences and opinions on the park.


Some points on surveys:
  • What questions do you want answered?
    • It’s good to have a project objective in order to form what type of questions you will to ask.
    • It’s also important to consider how you are going to design your questions. Open ended, tables with rankings, yes or no? There are multiple options to choose from. We did a mix of questions since ranking would allow for easier analysis of data as well as open ended questions so people could provide feedback and opinions that set questions would not allow them to elaborate on. Open ended questions added time to our surveys but helped us get detailed data.
  • How and when are you going to distribute your surveys?
    • This may depend on how big your survey sample is but our team decided to do surveys door to door. This had the advantage of making contact with people and getting the chance to personally explain our initiative. However, door to door takes up a lot of time. Even with a team of six people with 15 surveys each, it took at least an hour to complete five surveys.
    • Be strategic when choosing a time and place for your surveys. Because we were going door to door with neighbours, it was ideal to do our surveys before dinner time when people would be home from school or work. And because of the location in Mexico, we had to consider when people would be ‘out and about’ because of the summer heat.
    • Furthermore, the way in which the surveys are distributed may impact which groups of people are included or excluded in your data. We only surveyed the surrounding neighbourhoods however this could exclude other park users who do not live in the vicinity.
  • How are you going to conduct surveys in person?
    • Our surveys were part oral and part written depending on who we were talking with. We gave the option to people if they wanted us to recite the survey to them orally and write down their answers or allow them to complete the survey by writing the answers themselves. It is important to consider that some people may have trouble reading or writing, so in order to facilitate to their needs offer them alternative methods. However, it is also important to consider that reading surveys to them orally could cause people to respond differently since the researcher is present, which could alter their answers.
Despite the surveys being a time consuming activity, it was very rewarding speaking with neighbours about their perspectives on the park as well as learning more about Colima in general. Now onto… focus groups! This was my big part in the project as I designed the format for how it would be carried out. I wanted the focus groups to be dynamic and creative in order to ensure interest and engagement from participants. The following will give an account of our original plan for the focus group and then an explanation of how the focus groups were actually carried out.


Pre-Activity:

Who to Invite:
  • We had a lengthy debate over how we would divide groups by age for each focus group. We ended up going with:
    • Ages 6-14 + family (5 females, 5 males)
    • Ages 15-29 (5 females, 5 males)
    • Ages 30-50 (5 females, 5 males)
    • Ages 51+ (5 females, 5 males)
  • When deciding based on age groups, a good guideline to follow would be government designations for age. But it’s also important to consider that following these age guidelines may not only always be the best categorization for your participants. For example, we categorized youth between 15-29 but it is possible that people of this age may not identify as a “youth”. It is important to consider how these designations represent each group.
  • When considering participants, it always important to realize power dynamics (whether it be age, gender, class, etc.) within these discussions may impact who speaks and what they say.
  • For the children’s age group (6-14) we decided it was essential for these participants to be accompanied by a guardian because they were underage. We planned on having two groups, one for the children and one for adults so both could participate while still ensuring the age groups for our data. Although this helped in terms of liability, this approach could limit the participation of some children in this age group depending if their guardians availability and the interest of these guardians in participating.

Where to invite:
  • We decided that having the focus group in the park and outdoors would allow participants to visually observe the space and would allow for more creativity in engaging them in their opinions by having them in the place of inquiry.
How to Invite:
  • We decided on inviting participants by distributing invitations in the park and the neighbourhood. We only wanted about 10 people per groups so we decided to distribute 25 invitations per focus group. We also gave 10 of these invitations to the local neighbourhood committee (they act as representatives of their neighbourhood in the municipality) to invite people they knew.
Focus Group Agenda:
Activity 1 – Mapping
  • Using a big map of the park, we asked participants to use 2 different coloured post-its to identify a) parts of the park they used and b) parts of the park they observe other people using. We thought this would be a good introduction to the focus group and have the participants visualize the park and think about how they use it and how they see others using it.
  • Then as a group, we would make a list of the activities for each space that was covered in many post-its, both what activities they liked to do and what they observed other people doing. Then we had them create a list of reasons why spaces without many post-its were not being used.
Mapping the park with post-it

Doing a walk around the park to mark off observations

Activity 2 – Walking Around the Park
  • Participants would be split into three groups (along with an assistant from IPCO) to do a walk around the park with a small map to mark off things that they valued in the park and things that were problems in the park.
  • Upon groups return have each group create a list of their findings.
Activity 3 – Future Ideas
  • To wrap up the focus group, each participant will receive a small outline of the map on paper and will be instructed to draw or write their dreams/wishes for new things they would like to see in the park. Each participant will have a chance to present their map and explain what they hope to see achieved in the park.
Discussing ideas for what the park could be someday


What actually happened…
  • Our focus groups were being conducted in August. August in Mexico is rainy season. So of course it rained 2 out of 4 nights at exactly the time we planned on starting. Although there is a community centre there, it was quite difficult getting in touch with who was in charge of the space which also delayed any make up events.
  • Lesson learned: have a back up when your activity is outdoors.
  • Although we managed to distribute the invitations quite successfully amongst park users and neighbours the days preceding, nobody who participated in our focus groups actually came to the event who had received an invite. We ended up just asking people who were already in the park to join our activity which affected our numbers.
  • Lesson learned: Check how people have been invited to past activities (such as a getting out the megaphone as suggested in my title) and how these were successful or not. Also make sure your timing for these events is strategic. We found out later many children and youth were busy until 7pm or so every night because that’s when school was let out.
Talking with a neighbour who happened to be walking his dog through the park


  • Depending on the people attending we had to change our activities and the agenda somewhat. Younger kids had a harder time sitting and doing our activities that involved lists. They were much more engaged when we let them colour their ideas on the map and when we were outside doing the walking activity (although being outside was also distracting because of other children playing nearby). For our focus groups where elderly or disabled people attended it was not possible to do the walking activity because of mobility limitations. So in that case, giving as visual map of the park worked as an alternative.
  • Lesson Learned: Be flexible! There are many different methods of finding data and you need to work with your group’s capabilities.
  • We planned a lot of these activities with the assistance of a municipal department. They aided in areas such as resources like chairs and tables as well as getting in touch with neighbourhood boards to promote our event. However, we did run into issues such as resources showing up late or not having enough. As well, we never heard from the neighbourhood boards regarding our event.
  • Lesson Learned: CONFIRMATION! AND REPEAT. Even if you seem like you’re bothering people it helps sometimes to give multiple reminders since sometimes things may be lost in translation or through the grapevine. As well, make sure you collect the contact information of every person you speak with so you know who to talk with if there are any issues. Furthermore, although a middle man does help in accessing certain groups, when possible it is best to get in contact with groups (such as neighbourhood communities) personally to ensure they receive correct information.
Despite these obstacles we have faced throughout the process, organizing and moderating these focus groups has been very rewarding. Engaging with people from the community allows our research to maintain some elements of participation and overall we hope that these initiatives can inspire other organizations, whether neighbours or different park users, to involve themselves in the process.


The team from IPCO after a successful focus group!

Matthews, Hannah . 7 de septiembre de 2016. Focus Groups 101: Get out the megaphone. Recuperado de: Sustainable Cities International Youth Internships