Mexico City and global urban policy: Incorporating global Best practices into Local planning institutions

Authors: Ryan Whitney*, University of Toronto
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Latin America, Urban Geography
Keywords: policy mobility; institutional design; socioeconomic inequity; Mexico City
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This research explores how urban planning ‘best practices’ are adopted, legitimized, and contested through translocal and transscalar knowledge networks and expertise within Mexico City’s complex history of socioeconomic stratification. In 2013 the mayor’s office in Mexico City formed Laboratorio para la Ciudad [Laboratory for the City], the first department in Latin America designed to encourage innovative thinking within the municipal government. Specifically, Laboratory for the City is tasked with addressing a broad set of urban planning issues by adopting policy ‘best practices’, yet has no authority over decision making or municipal budgets. This unique institutional arrangement makes the Laboratory a contested domain of policy making that warrants careful scrutiny. Through a blended institutional ethnographic approach to collect data (e.g., semi-structured interviews, participant observation), this research unpacks how and why the Laboratory prioritizes some policies and projects over others when engaging with local city residents and global knowledge networks. On one hand the Laboratory’s employees engage city dwellers from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to inform municipal policy and programming. On the other hand, the Laboratory is connected to national and international knowledge networks composed of political and cultural elites. Using policy mobility theory, I explore how employees in the Laboratory prioritize city dwellers and the professional ‘experts’ to reach consensus on what urban planning policies and programs are appropriate for adoption and implementation. I then explore how these decisions are prioritized and contested within the context of Mexico City’s extreme socioeconomic stratification, including supporting process of neighbourhood development, gentrification, and social displacement.

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