Fina Moisés
Director of Urban Land Institute (ULI) Mexico

Collaborative Learning for Improved Urban Planning

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 17:22

Mexico has typically overlooked urban planning but a little education could go a long way to improving the landscape going forward, says Fina Moisés, the Director of Urban Land Institute Mexico. She adds that the best urban planning is rooted in knowledge-sharing between governments, industry and academia. “Collaborative learning may be the key to educate Mexicans on improved urban planning,” Moisés says. “Our mission is communication, information and education.”
ULI, an expert in the responsible and sustainable use of land, brings infrastructure experts together to share their knowledge on how to build the best infrastructure that cities need but it also educates young people through mentorship programs. One of the organization’s core initiatives to foster collaborative learning is the Young Leaders Group (YLG). This involves a team of professionals under 35 years old immersed in mentorship programs with groups of six people mentored by an industry leader. “This allows new generations to immerse themselves in the knowledge of experts,” Moisés says.
Technical Assistance Panels (TAPs) are another component of ULI’s legacy and Advisory Services Programs. Its goal is to solve real urbanism cases through the collaboration of both authorities and industry experts. “TAPs have significantly helped in the rehabilitation of cities,” Moisés says. These are run and implemented by ULI’s local district councils. These councils select the panelists who will collaborate in working sessions to address land-use challenges. In Mexico, the first TAP took place in Tijuana in June 2013. Moisés wants to continue promoting the program across new governmental administrations. “We want to carry out more TAPs with greater participation from the authorities.”
But Mexico’s gap in education needs to be addressed through multiple strategies in which TAPs and YLG are only two pieces of the puzzle. Technology is one way Moisés says the country can learn to better integrate urban planning. But while new technologies contribute to create public spaces, it is vital to inform the users on how to use them safely. For example, the public needs basic training on the use of public transport, such as biking systems.
To further address cities’ mobility issues, the industry wants to provide mass public transport systems, such as new Metrobús lines. In metropolises that often never sleep, with people in the street at all times, safe public transport solutions working at all times are required, Moisés says. “I have seen positive changes regarding transport and the creation and rehabilitation of public spaces but we still have a lot to do.”
Education and mobility are two pieces of the puzzle but Moisés says this should not be the only focus. The growth of secondary cities should be fostered to alleviate the pressure from the biggest urban centers like Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara. Moisés gives the example of the US and Europe boosting secondary cities where people can still access opportunities. “Fostering gentrification of secondary cities must stem from urban planning,” she says. That being said, Moisés acknowledges Mexico is learning from other countries’ best urban planning practices. “I think we are moving in the right direction and it is our mission to foster this trend,” she says.
Moisés adds that the gentrification trend implies urban planning for emerging sustainable cities. With ever more people living in urban areas, cities are experiencing a population boom that calls for new building techniques. “The use of land is being concentrated and mixed-use projects are setting the trend for real estate infrastructure,” she says. “Construction is shifting to verticalization, as the industry aim to make the best use of land and natural resources.”