Joanna’s blog

Post  #1 Celebrating Success

 Graduations are always an opportunity for celebration and for reflection. Amid much excitement, more than 20 participants inthe Community Economic Development program in Bolivia, indigenous leaders, community educators and other specialists working in local economic and social development initiatives proudly received their certificates of completion from Simon Fraser University and our Bolivian partner AIPE  in March 2012.

Sharing food and music are hallmarks of a healthy community. Nobody suggests that what comes next will be the hard work of realizing the social and economic plans that were seeded in the program.


Speechmaking and ceremony was an important part of recognizing the work of the graduates, including the Mayor of Viacha and the indigenous leaders of the community as well as our project team.


Post #2 Making Change Happen: From Theory to Practice

On my visit to Bolivia in March I had the privilege of meeting with several of the instructors and graduates of the program.Ricardo Poma is an indigenous leader from the municipality of Viacha, in the department of La Paz and is a recent graduate of the Community Economic Development program in Bolivia (DEC in Spanish).


He says that DEC, the process of examining and planning based on the assets of the community, has become part of his philosophy, and that of his community. For him DEC and its participatory practices and its values of inclusion are consonant with indigenous Andean culture.

Coming through the program with other members of the community has created a critical mass – people who share a vision for participatory planning and finding local solutions to economic needs. “We moving to having our plans included in the local annual municipality planning process. In this way we are becoming empowered to move them into action,” says Poma.

Among other projects that have begun since completing the DEC program is the cultivation of the Tarwi (Andean Lupin) plants.

Instructor Ricardo Valverde explains the properties of the plant, its potential. Local educator and DEC graduate Umberto Ortiz explains why the plant is so important and how the community has responded as a result of DEC graduates taking leadership on these and other economic development projects.

Post #3 Learning to Develop Community

It’s not surprising that a program designed to teach community economic development emphasizes collaboration.

Challenges do arise when learners with diverse experiences are brought together in one learning community. Those with formal education and years of professional experience carrying out community based projects seek theories and concepts that deepen their knowledge.

Community leaders with a rich history of engaging the community insist that their experience is where the greatest potential for learning lies. Both have proven true in this teaching and learning experiment that is the La Paz II Cohort – one that brings together community development professionals and practitioners. Instructors draw on artful methods of engagement while keeping the materials challenging and relevant.


Instructor Ricardo Valverde consults his notes as well as the experience of these community leaders in a program that emphasizes dialogue, participation, gender equality and relevance to local conditions.



Post # 4 Making Partnerships Work

Since the beginning of the CED in Bolivia, SFU has worked closely with project director Alberto Mollinedo, a talented and experienced academic administrator and educator.  AIPE executive director, Aquiles Davalos has also provided a strong foundation – based on collaborative effort and mutual respect and trust.

We have begun a new relationship with San Andres Mayor University’s Centre for Graduate Studies in Development (CIDES). Their experience and knowledge of Bolivia and the field of development make them ideal partners.

Instructors of CED in Bolivia are the soul of the project and those who have been dedicated to the project’s success include They have left the comforts of home and ridden in the back of pick-up trucks to deliver training, , and been a constant source of inspiration to over 200 students who have participated in the program.

It is always humbling and exhilarating to share the learning space with colleagues and students who take this opportunity very seriously, work very hard to make the program sing and do so with a spirit of fun and engagement. Teaching conflict resolution, community mobilization and dialogue planning awakens as much learning and relearning in me as I hope it does for these lively students.










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