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Notes from the Field: Jordanian Mayors and Municipal Councilors Study Tour of Colombia, Day 2

On our second day in Medellin, Colombia, our Jordanian delegation of mayors and municipal councilors spent the morning looking at innovation and how it can help build and shape a community.

Having shed its image as “murder capital of the world,” Medellin has instead recreated itself as the “Silicon Valley of Latin America” through the help of business acumen, ingenuity, and good urban planning.

The group toured Ruta N Medellin, an innovation incubator that houses both Colombian and international companies and research institutions, identifies potential projects for them to tackle, and encourages collaboration to solve pressing problems.

 

The design of the building itself invites innovation, with airy, open spaces and modern workstations; collaborative areas with playful features like beanbag chairs scattered on patches of Astroturf; and a green building certification that goes beyond basic green principles to include flooring made from recycled tires, plants that cascade down the building and lightly shade windows, natural ventilation systems that reduce the building’s reliance on air conditioning, and elevators that wait longer to close to encourage more people to ride at once.

Ruta N’s manager, Eduardo Quiroz, talked to the group about working in the innovation “ecosystem” to change the face of Medellin, emphasizing the importance of investing in research in order to attract companies to an economy.  Medellin was the first city in Colombia to create a venture capital fund, and is now planning an entire “innovation district,” where innovators can live, work and socialize with one another and continually build connections that may lead to new ideas, discoveries and products.  

In the afternoon, the delegation found themselves on more familiar territory – Medellin’s city building.  On the way in, IRI’s Regional Program Director in Colombia, Gabriella Serrano, pointed out the window in the city building’s lobby designated for registering citizens’ ideas, complaints and concerns.  Each comment is recorded by a municipal staff member, and must be responded to within 15 days.The President of Medellin’s City Council showed the group the chamber he presides over and talked with them about his role, how the mayor and the council interact with one another, and some of the initiatives his council is working on.  The city is in the process of rolling out a website that will allow it to collect even better ideas and feedback from citizens in the future.

 

The council president then took the delegation to meet with Medellin’s mayor, Anibal Gaviria Correa, who highlighted Medellin’s emphasis on international cooperation and urged the Jordanian mayors and councilors to keep in touch with his office to close the gap between the two countries and work to solve common problems. 

Mayor Correa also emphasized the importance of including citizens in city planning and decision making, saying that he takes the opportunity to collect ideas and opinions at every event he attends.  He highlighted the role citizens played in Medellin’s transformation, and stressed the need to continue to provide equal access to the city and its services to all citizens.  

The Jordanian mayors expressed their thanks to Mayor Correa with symbols of their country and cities, promising to share what they have learned and to work to implement some of these ideas in their municipalities. 

And that’s a wrap from another long, inspiring day in beautiful Medellin. Be sure to keep following our tour, and go back and catch up on part 1 if you missed it!

 

Posted by

Carrie Schenkel Reasonover

Senior Program Manager, Europe