My name is María Paz Sagredo and I am from Chile. Before enrolling at the MSc in SDP at the DPU I studied Sociology in Chile. While I was in college, I started volunteering in TECHO, an NGO working with families living in extreme poverty. During four years, I worked with different housing and neighbourhood associations of slums in Santiago, in slum-upgrading and social development programs.
When I completed my studies in Sociology, I began to work professionally in TECHO, first as a researcher and later implementing permanent housing programs funded by state subsidies. After almost three years in Techo, I worked for two years in a private consulting firm, specifically in a socioeconomic and cultural Development Program oriented towards urban and rural families affected by the construction of a dam in the south of Chile. I also took part in the design of a model of territorial intervention in vulnerable neighbourhoods of Santiago.
I first heard of the SDP programme because of some friends that were studying at the DPU. I became really interested in the approach and the academics working there. The main reason why I finally chose the MSc Social Development Practice was its critical approach to people-centred development. I also valued that the program considers diversity and local identity as a very important variable of development. Additionally, I was attracted by the fact that practical experience is as important as the delivery of theoretical content, that I felt would complement my previous professional experience. What I hoped to achieve by participating in the course was learning about theories and practices of social development, identifying development practices that have contributed to the reduction of poverty and inequality in an efficient and sustainable manner. I was also interested in analysing the role played by public and private institutions in this area.
While studying the programme, I really enjoyed the theoretical modules (SD1 and SD2). Both courses helped me learn and understand the different existing approaches to people-centred development. I also really enjoyed the practical module and the possibility to work with different NGOs and civil society organizations in concrete projects, both in the UK and overseas. I valued learning new techniques and methods to carry out participatory research. I also got the chance to wprk with Alex Frediani and some of my classmates in two projects along with Citizens UK. One of them was a video for an exhibition for Euston residents and organizations involved in the HS2 citizens’ charter, (https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/dpublog/2015/05/21/action-learning-in-euston-inputs-for-hs2-citizens-charter/). I also participated with Alex in two seminars delivered to a group of Municipal Councillors and Mayors from four of the poorest municipalities from the south of Chile, organised by the Embassy of Chile in the UK. The main topic of the meetings was the relevance of networks in processes of participatory local development. Finally, I also participated in a DPU Summer Lab in Mostar, working with local organizations in the design of development strategies for a rural town located near Mostar (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/development/sites/bartlett/files/dpu_sl_2015_final.pdf). In sum, I appreciated both the theoretical and practical knowledge acquired while studying the programme, but also the possibility of getting to know and become involved in projects along with SDP and DPU academics and partner organizations.
After completing the program, I moved back to Santiago and started working in the Citizens’ Participation Unit of a local government office. There I worked with local organizations and different units inside the Municipality promoting the involvement of citizens in the design, execution and evaluation of public programs. I worked there for almost a year and afterwards I have been working as an independent consultant for different research and development projects. Currently I am working in a research project regarding participation and territorial dialogues and negotiations in the context of economic development projects such as electricity generation and mining. I am also working with an NGO involved in the construction of a new Metropolitan Park in Santiago, promoting and facilitating citizens’ participation in the design of the project. Soon I will start teaching a participatory research methods course for sociology students.
My main advice for current and future SDP students is: take advantage of all the opportunities that UCL, the DPU and the programme have to offer. Go to class, read the readings, get actively involved in the practical module projects, but also go beyond that. Get involved in the work done by the partner organizations such as Citizens UK, talk to your teachers and work with them in other projects if possible. And finally, make new friends, learn about their countries and their cultures, have fun and enjoy London together.