NDC Travels to…Colombia

NDC Project Coordinator Maria Isabel Garcia Diaz is back in the office after participating in the International Development Design Summit (IDDS): Construyendo Paz, Reconciliación desde la Co-Creación. IDDS is a program that runs from MIT’s D-Lab and serves to educate participants on co-design methods while engaging in place-based challenges of the summit’s host country. In partnership with the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, the IDDSCPaz, for short, was focused on how to construct peace, especially after the Colombian government signed a peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end their 53-year civil war. The summit ran from January 20 to February 4 in the ECTR Jaime Pardo Leal, a designated zone in the Guaviare region of Colombia, where ex-combatants have been placed as they reintegrate into civilian life.

Here are three lessons Maria brought back after co-designing with fellow professionals, university students, ex-combatants, and local residents:

Three Lessons from Colombia by Maria Isabel Garcia Diaz

  • Building confidence…literally: To get us comfortable with building items from scratch, we did different DIY challenges, like building a water pump. a wooden tool to turn plastic bottles into thread, and a table to use in our group projects. It made me excited to come back and finally put my Station North Tool Library membership into good use.
  • Forgiveness through action and interaction: This was a professional development opportunity for me, but the topic hit on a personal level. When I left Colombia with my parents violence was at an all time high and the FARC were seen at the forefront of it. By being in teams with ex-combatants, we focused our energy on working together to design interventions to build peace in our country. We discussed past experiences and laughed quite a lot as we worked until the hours of the night to finish our projects.  
  • Sustainability can be accessible: At IDDSCPaz, we were always thinking about innovative ways of caring for the earth, but in a practical and accessible way. We did it for two reasons: one, the FARC ex-combatants take pride in caring for the earth, especially after spending decades living with the jungle ecosystems. The second reason: basic resources, like water, were always scarce. As participants we learned to be conscious for the earth as we went through our packed schedules for each day.  

This experience was unforgettable in many ways—I met some incredible people through IDDS, and I brought back many lessons to integrate in my work at NDC. However, the thing I miss the most is seeing the sunrises and sunsets in Guaviare.