Project Fortaleza – Strengthening Civil Society


For years the slum dwellers, like the people who lives in Chimalhuacan or San Vicente Chicoloapan, have being abandoned to their luck by the systems and social and political structures, being object of multiple kinds of abuse and political manipulation because they don’t have a voice or representation in the power structures. In fact, instead of support real empowerment for those communities, many times they use them as electoral spoils, buying their votes with paternalistic promises and welfare assistance.

As expected, there are big deficiencies among civil demands, social issues and public and private investment because the particular interests of the government employees, business men and covenants among them, are above the community’s interests. This explains the government administrations mired in corruption and the discontinuity of social programs. Urban poverty, in essence, is based in a relational rupture and this rupture contributes to the isolation of the working class. Transforming the urban slums, in other words, needs to address this underlying causes of poverty, otherwise, it simply would not be possible to sustain a positive change.

At the same time, underdevelopment of urban slums is due to the disorganization of civil society and the low levels of citizen participation. The social cohesion is vital for the societies that want to thrive and sustain development. Unlike rural communities that have their own customs and traditions, urban slums are mainly heterogeneous and chaotic, lacking of social capital and cohesion. This bounds the union of slum dwellers to work together for the common good. The rupture of relationships is not only affecting the different social classes but also the relationships among the slum dwellers, due to the lack of trust among them.

Without the community organization and advocacy promoted by the active civil society, those on power will have to reaffirm the status quo, categorically ignoring the slum dwellers’ interests. So the construction of trust and relational power at a local level as at a municipal and regional level is very important to achieve a real sustainable change.

In this sociopolitical context of social inequalities, institutional crisis, clientelism, corruption, bureaucratization of democracy and a lack of social cohesion, Transformación Urbana Internacional, therefore, considers that citizen participation and the strengthening of civil society are essential  for building community development and more just societies. Because in an organized community lays the strength and popular power that is capable to transform structures and social systems that oppress and maintain people inmerse in a extreme poverty, vulnerability and isolation. We also believe that lasting social change can happen to the extent that communities build their social capital from organizational processes that are developing within, resulting in a citizen power based on relationships marked with trust. So if in a slum is built the organization capacity and build trust, this will help to bring a change, because this capacity allows people to observe their own experiences, comment where they came from, analyze their situation and finds ways to help each other. Without it, any achieved change will disappear within few months or years.

Fortaleza, Project Description

Transformación Urbana Internacional, therefore, has created the project Fortaleza to promote trust and social capital building among the slum dwellers. The project Fortaleza also seeks to promote citizen participation and the strengthening of civil society to create the community basis that allow the use of the instruments that the law gives to the Civil Society Organizations to advocate in the municipal entities. Therefore, Fortaleza focuses on:

  1. Awareness, sectorization and community organization to build citizens’ committees with the capacity and ethics to design and implement small community projects that work for the common good.
  2. Training and accompaniment of community promoters in themes such as servant leadership, emotional healing, human rights, project design and management, community organization, civic education and citizen participation mechanisms, so that they can promote citizen participation.
  3. Promote, create and strengthen civil society organizations (CSO), providing advice and technical assistance in the implementation of community projects and products as well as professional organizational development.
  4. Create networks of professionals and government employees interested in holistic transformation of social aspects.
  5. Promote strategic alliances and develop networks, coalitions and citizens’ movements without a party oriented interest made out of community groups, CSOs, faith communities, social enterprises, foundations of social investment and other actors that allow the creation of a citizen power that is able to advocate in public policies and restore spaces for citizen participation.
  6. Building social capital and create the foundations for a social movement capable of influencing power structures and public policies to promote the exercise of governance and democratic governance, the enforceability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), and accountability, in order to promote healthy cities and holistically transforms, from civil society.


Through community organizing processes we have accomplish: campaign against street dogs, environmental cleanup of a field with the removal of 65 trucks of trash – today, a sports field is under construction on that site; improvement of a main street in our community, improving the traffic for 5000 people; a tree planting project that made an impact in 150 families; construction of a community organization with their own board  and we are starting up some advocacy labor within the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute.


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