Alejandro Maza Ayala

Ashoka Fellow
Distrito Federal, Mexico
Fellow Since 2014

Citation

This profile was prepared when Alejandro Maza Ayala was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Alejandro Maza is narrowing the communication gap between citizens and public institutions by using a number of civic participation tools combined with new technologies that allow citizens to express their concerns, needs, and suggestions to policymakers. These methodologies facilitate the processing of complex data sets including open-ended questions which allow for new channels of participation focused on the citizen’s preferences and incentives, not only government’s possibilities for data recollection and analysis. More complex and comprehensive data sets then help policymakers craft programs that directly influence the social wellbeing of their constituency and re-design failed programs. Alejandro has designed a series of innovative technological tools that allow for open, inclusive, pluralistic dialogue between citizenry and institutions. This use of information technology and data bases allows for the inclusion and analysis of data obtained in multiple formats, including data gathered without internet access. The most significant innovations in Alejandro’s model are his coordination with the government to ensure impact in public policy, the use of big data for community gain, and the organization’s dedication to empowering communities with information gathered from surveying community members.

Unlike other civic participation initiatives, Yo Propongo operates in a way that ensures that the information it collects is being used productively by either the government, civil society organizations, or the surveyed community. Yo Propongo works with the government on the condition that the participating government agency agrees to allow Yo Propongo to make public all the information gathered in a project. Yo Propongo directly negotiates with the Mexican government in order to do away with confidentiality surrounding the data collected from communities which, as the organization has proven, facilitates a political discussion that will further social wellbeing. The organization also charges the government for its services, and these two characteristics of Yo Propongo’s work protect the organization from collecting information that is either unused or misused. Alejandro has thus built impact in public policy into Yo Propongo’s daily operations.

The use of big data technology for community benefit is another of Yo Propongo’s innovations. Big data refers to data sets that are too large to analyze by hand or using other traditional data analysis methods. There are a number of recently developed technological systems that are able to analyze such data sets, but these systems are normally used exclusively by corporations, think tanks, and other large business actors. Big data technology used for social benefit is thus, in and of itself, a new idea. Yo Propongo uses this cutting edge technology to gather and analyze information, but it also returns the results of big data analysis to the surveyed community in an effort to empower the community with information. Big data systems are incredibly advanced technologies that enable Yo Propongo to collect and analyze huge data sets of information from communities in formats that allow survey respondents total freedom of expression by providing multi-channel communication tools (such as SMS text messages, or social network based platforms) that allow citizens to communicate in a natural way that can be secure and anonymous.

Yo Propongo’s totally transparent manner of conducting its surveys and returning analyzed information to the surveyed communities serves as a way of restoring the broken trust between the Mexican government and its citizens. The organization’s methodology ensures that information is collected with a maximum degree of trust between respondent and interviewer by intentionally selecting locally esteemed community members to conduct the surveys. Survey participants have an assurance that they will see the final report of information collected, which was not the case previously when the government would hide results that it did not find desirable. To date, Alejandro Maza has been able to reduce the costs of civic participation to sixty Mexican pesos per person. This price both incentivizes the institutions to conduct large surveys while providing useful information to both the communities surveyed and the institution that commissioned the survey.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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