The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Three SDP students on a joint journey

SDP students
Anukie De La Parra, María Huerta and Vero Lara Polanco met at the DPU while studying Social Development Practice in 2014-2015. In a group of 23 people, we were the three Mexicans. We did not know each other before, but we all studied International Relations and knew some of the same people back in Mexico City. We became friends quickly, and we worked together on some of the programme's projects and supported each other through some of the challenges (and perks!) of living in London. 

Our masters was only the beginning of our friendship. When we came back to Mexico, each of us pursued different projects. Still, they were related to social development, so we were able to keep each other in the loop and occasionally ask for advice. Maria took on a role as a junior advisor for the Undersecretary of Social Development in Mexico in what was formerly the Development Ministry. Vero held a position as Senior Associate at a private consultancy firm developing social development programmes for the government, analysing and evaluating social policy. And, Anukie got her first grant (along with DPU PhD Alumna Hector Becerril) to implement a project related to climate change resilience in Coyuca de Benitez, Guerrero. In 2018, the three of us crossed professional paths again when María was working as the Strategic Alliance Specialist on the Civil Society Activity, an initiative funded by USAID and designed to strengthen civil society organisations in northern Mexico. Because of the programme's scope, Vero and Anukie's expertise was very relevant, so they became vital consultants. Our work in this project aimed to design methodologies and tools for organisational capacity development, an area of work necessary to strengthen Mexican democracy. 

Around the same time, another DPU Alumna (Daniela Muñoz) informed us of a consultancy requested by Mexico City's government to design a participatory process to build the new city's mobility strategy for the 2020-2024 period. So, we began working on this ambitious project with three other professional women and got an award to implement participatory processes that would enable citizens to be part of the mobility strategy in Mexico City. The participatory process involved different forms of engagements: two citizen participatory activities (one virtual and one face-to-face), four spaces for multi-sector dialogue, three internal sessions for strategic planning, and eleven semi-structured interviews with specialists. We interacted with over 5,000 citizens. An innovative part of the participatory process was using a methodology called SenseMaker that focuses on the analysis of personal stories to highlight what they experience during their journeys in the city's mobility system. Once the personal stories are recorded, and the survey questions are answered, the software then analyses the data to arrive at quantitative and qualitative conclusions. These conclusions allow us to reflect on and analyse actions related to strategies, concepts and visions. In general, terms, to design mobility policies based on the needs of the users. This methodology has been used around the world as a diagnostic tool that links experiences with actions.


This project was the beginning of our ongoing collaboration in SIA Development. This social development consultancy was founded by Anukie. SIA specialises in advising governments, organisations, and companies on the design, implementation and evaluation of people-centred projects that contribute to sustainable well-being. We have collaborated on a number of projects for clients such as Catholic Relief Services, USAID, the Center for Human Rights, Gender and Migration at the University of Washington in St. Louis, amongst others. We think that these are only the beginning of a life-long friendship that will take us to more social development adventures worldwide!