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Hero Reports: Positive Information Driving Social Change in Mexico

Hero Reports asks citizens of Ciudad Juárez, Monterrey, and Tijuana/ San Diego to report positive acts that take place in their cities.  As Ernesto Priego previously explained to Global Voices [es], the project started in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico [es], as an initiative from the MIT Center for Civic Media under the name ‘Crónicas de Héroes‘. The project is led by Yesica Guerra, an urban design researcher with a master’s in Architecture and Urbanism from MIT.

Below, you will find the interview [es] with Yesica Guerra, Director of Hero Reports, carried out by Periodismo Ciudadano (Citizen Journalism) journalist Paula Gonzalo. The interview is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. (CC BY 3.0).

HeroReports

Hero Reports or ‘Crónicas de Héroes’ is a project that geo-tags information relating to postive acts that take place in Mexico. This information is gathered via crowdsourcing or citizen participation. We at Periodismo Ciudadano have already talked to you about this initiative [es] which aims to recognise all kinds of acts “which represent hope rather than fear”.

In her interview with Periodismo Ciudadano (PC) Yesica Guerra (YG), Director of Hero Reports (HR) tells us more about this project.

PC- How and why did HR emerge?

YG- It came about because of the need to provide citizens with a platform that will guide and focus their participation towards positive activities and attitudes which, in turn, will encourage significant social changes.

PC- How do you think the information about positive social behaviour is going to contribute to improving life in Ciudad Juárez?

YG- With this tool we aim to restore the balance in corrupt areas, offering concrete examples of citizen cooperation and social values, encouraging this idea that the long-awaited change should arise from within the society itself.

PC- Do you have any figures regarding the number of users, reported behaviour, etc.?

YG- The webpages for Ciudad Juárez [es], Monterrey [es] and Tijuana/San Diego vary so much with regards to the number of users and reports. Users around the world have visited the site, from the following countries: Japan, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Argentina, France, Guatemala, Venezuela, United Kingdom, Thailand, etc. This makes us check whether we are achieving some of our objectives like changing the very negative image of the cities in which we are implementing this initiative.

PC- What stands out to you from the work carried out so far?

YG- After the implementation of a strategic assessment that measures the impact of programs like HR we confirmed that:

a. People want to have more information regarding the ‘good things’ that happen in their cities.

b. Access to this type of information stimulates community spirit among the citizens.

c. The awareness of these reports and activities strengthen shared identity and community pride.

PC- What do people have to do to participate?

YG- The initiative has various channels to reach the people, one of them is their web page, where citizens can tell us their story directly and geo-tag it. For those who do not have access to a computer or to the Internet, we gather their stories in a different way, either through informative talks, workshops or workgroups, etc. Similarly our initiative aims to be a tool to establish public activities which are aimed at regaining a civic presence in the city. We have carried out different public interventions like painting in the park and other areas in the city, public art exhibitions, etc. All this is in cooperation with various private and public organisations, such as; educational institutions, associations, independent organisations, the media, etc.

PC- Do you use any type of filter to check the incoming information?

YG- All of the stories go through a filter for security reasons, and to filter out political or commercial content. I myself and other members on the local boards are committed to revising the stories before we publish them.


PC- What do you think about the work that HR has done so far?

YG- It has been particularly interesting for the HR team to see how a project that was initially web-based in New York in 2001 has become a combination of mechanisms, where social contacts and active methods have reflected greatly online and in daily involvement. The response from the participating citizens has helped us to determine the level of interest towards this initiative and has allowed us to see how a society affected daily by negative events, can contribute to constructing a more civilised society, if it is offered the adequate tools.

PC- I think the experience should be exported to other countries….

YG- We have been in contact with various communities around the world, like: Paris, France; Vancouver, Canada; Havana, Cuba; Wellington, New Zealand; Belarus, etc. They contacted us with an interest in implementing this initiative in their communities. This comes as a result of HR’s progress which can be seen on our website and in the positive reports that have come in via different means of communication which illustrate the development of the initiative as an example of working together. However, there haven’t been any globally-implemented webpages as of yet.

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