Brendan Baines is working in Colima, México in Networking and Partnerships
The world of development is filled with admirable people who are driven to affect change with limited resources. Most focus on what they can do, few focus on what they dream.
Like similar organizations around the world, The Planning Institute for the Municipality of Colima, México (IPCo) is addressing environmental impact and sustainability in an era of unprecedented urbanization. More important than what IPCo is doing is how.
In México, financial decision making goes from federal to state and no further, leaving municipalities voiceless. General Director Gisela Méndez, a globally educated architect and urban planner, knew she had the capability to take ownership of her city’s future. But without money and authority, that future was limited.
With a vision of a sustainable Colima firmly fixed in her mind, Méndez was the force behind the restructuring of the Colima metropolitan fund. Though still administered by the state, all decisions are now made at the local level, which means projects are designed for the city, by the city. All five municipalities of the greater Metropolitan area are currently working together on an integrated transportation plan with a level of autonomy which has not yet been seen: this is a one-of-a-kind political arrangement in México.
It’s a great success story, for sure, but in the age of the mega-city, does it really warrant attention? México City has over 20 million people and has massive environmental challenges. Aren’t there bigger fish to fry?
Maybe there are, but there are also a lot of little ones. Since scaling out has the most success when replicated in similar circumstances, opportunities to transfer a project from México City are limited. Meanwhile, México has 163 small cities (100,000 – 1 million) which are home to a total of 46.3 million people. When a small city strikes green, it can spread in many directions.
By changing the rules of the game, IPCo has set an example of how a small city can do what it dreams. If replicated, the results would not be confined to a city – it would be a nation transformed.
Maybe it’s time we start sweating the small stuff.