In the municipality of Villaflores, patronage has traditionally defined service delivery. Government authorities and their chosen civic group leaders exerted absolute control over resource distribution. This internal corruption alienated the public from the city’s government while diverting public spending away from those in most need.
To encourage citizen participation and more egalitarian resource distribution, the current city council proposed the “We Unite to Plan Development” Program. This initiative is intended not only to stimulate local participation in government planning, but also to reorient service provision in Villaflores to address the needs of its population.
The program delivery was designed to reorganize the local branch of the Planning and Development Municipal Committee (COPLADEM) according to guidelines issued by the State of Chiapas Secretariats of Social Development and Planning and Finance. To encourage development of the municipality, innovators designed ways for citizens to participate in execution of the Committee’s plans by devolving implementation to local civil society groups. While planning and programming remain in the hands of municipal employees, the city has hired so-called civil employees, members of Villaflores’s civil associations, to inform the population of the city’s plans and objectives through forums and community action debates.
Since the beginning of Villaflores’s “We Unite to Plan Development” Program, tangible results in the areas of citizen participation and morale building have been achieved, particularly in the area of public works. Local activists have been employed by the municipality to collaborate with the authorities in distributing city resources for local development. This increased access to city resources on the part of the citizens of Villaflores has raised citizen trust in the municipal bureaucracy. To date, 117 Committees of Citizen Participation and four sub-committees on Planning and Development have been created in Villaflores. At the same time, innovators have begun compiling a database identifying and tracking the needs of different communities, which allows easy requisitions for assistance by the city from state and federal institutions.
By emphasizing local community development through citizen participation and the devolution of responsibility for resources, Villaflores’s reformers have been able to distribute materials to communities in need more equitably. Also, as civil society groups gain influence and resources and are able to undertake development projects through this Program, cooperation and social cohesion improves in these communities.