This profile was prepared when Joakin Mayorga was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
In Mogotes, a town of 13,500 people dominated by corruption and whipsawed by guerrilla and paramilitary forces, Father Joakín Mayorga has been instrumental in developing "sovereignty" so that residents can stand up to these challenges and determine their community's future. "Sovereignty" means the freedom and capacity for towns to govern themselves peacefully, inclusively, transparently, autonomously, actively without the interference of armed groups or corrupt politicians. To transform Colombia's towns into "sovereign" communities, Joakín builds on towns' assetsstrong local pride and profound historical and cultural rootsas well as the principle of local decision making enshrined in Article Three of Colombia's Constitution of 1991. Other attempts to strengthen local autonomy have not had such dramatic success, nor have they utilized the same set of strategic principles. Joakín created in Mogotes an eight-step process that culminates in the achievement of local sovereignty. Part of Joakín's strategy is to create a Popular Municipal Assembly that can analyze local needs and address them. The Assembly, an institution for ongoing local decision making, is a contribution to the peace process and to development generally. Leaders in the Mogotes transformation are becoming replicators in other municipalities. Additionally, Joakín is partnering with a broad-based peace campaign as a means to promote the model nationally.