Transforming Communities with Youth: Progress at the Social Lab Castilla
Just like plants depend on their entire environment that surrounds them in order to flourish and thrive so too does sustainable peace. Both need an environment that suits their needs, and yes, their aspirations. Plants need water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, space, etc. And, in turn, water needs oxygen and hydrogen, space needs time, and so on. This is also true about sustainable peace. In places where there is rampant conflict or the absence of a peaceful environment, many elements need to collide in order for peace to begin to flourish, and this collusion of elements needs to be in check, and consciously intentioned, in order for it to be sustained. Authentic leadership, knowledge about the territory and its history, entrepreneurship, commitment, passion, etc. are all needed for the “plant of sustainable peace” to flourish and thrive.
This collision of elements and a conscious direction within such conditions is precisely what the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) program looks to develop with its partners, mostly youth community leaders in Medellin, Colombia. Currently, the YPS program is cooperating in building a Social Lab in one of Medellin’s most socially troublesome sectors: comuna 5, Castilla. In this Lab, distinct people and organizations that represent the social reality of Castilla are coming together. This group is beginning to represent a “living” map of the community; There are members of the LGTBQ community, representatives of the local government, environmental activists, human rights advocates, artists, and managers of one of Medellin’s largest private public transportation companies.
The group joined for a full day “encerrona”, a colloquial term from Medellin youth leaders that literally means, “hideaway”, with the aim of identifying the common problem the group wants to transform together through the lab. YPS director, Beth Fisher-Yoshida, and YPS project coordinator, Joan C. Lopez, along with the entire group, elicited ideas, engaging in hours of conversations, workshops, and a meditative walk in the woods. Eventually the group reached a consensus: “we need to set the conditions in Castilla for people to feel secure”—How can we generate tools for social transformation to set the conditions that allow us to construct human security in Castilla?
This shared problematic has become the guiding question per se that the lab members will explore and investigate, following Otto Schwarmer’s “Theory U” approach. The lab’s efforts are to find, experiment on, and enact an array of possible ways to transform the current conditions of insecurity in Castilla, to those of human security.
All photos taken by author, Joan Lopez.