Juan Martín Pérez García
This profile was prepared when Juan Martín Pérez García was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
As the founder of El Caracol, A.C., a Mexican citizen organization (CO) dedicated to helping street populations appropriate their rights as citizens, Juan Martín is transforming the way street populations are conceptualized and how their needs are being met by government and citizen sector programs. In a field where there has long been an emphasis on street children rather than street populations, Juan Martín’s model of intervention strategies responds to the extensive social networks that exist in the streets. El Caracol’s intervention model has introduced a human rights framework to this field with an innovative perspective that engages street populations in a dialogue, rather than impose decisions and value judgments. Given his years of experience in the field, Juan Martín has been asked to help other organizations working with street populations adopt the most successful elements of El Caracol’s model into their strategies and programs, both in Mexico and in countries throughout Latin America. He is leveraging his expertise within this sector and his extensive contacts with national and international COs, as well as Mexican policymakers to spread a new paradigm that approaches this population as a group of citizens like any other with a clear set of rights. He is persuading COs and governments to question many long-standing assumptions about this population, such as the premise that the COs or the government know what is best for them, and to create new strategies that take into account what varied street populations want to do with their lives.