Manuel Guerra

Ashoka Fellow
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Fellow Since 1988


This profile was prepared when Manuel Guerra was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1988.
The New Idea
Important new program ideas flow from Manuel like water from a spring: making an issue of lead in gasoline; decentralizing wastewater treatment; changing when Mexico City takes its major holidays; fundamentally reorganizing the environmental ministry; raising the alarm over widespread natural arsenic contamination of groundwater in northern Mexico; and negotiating toward the introduction of the federal District's first hazardous waste treatment facility.These specific idea have an impact because of a larger encompassing idea: Manuel is building an island of trust in a sea of division and failed communication -- a center that can speak out to the public with credibility, anchor the policy debate, and facilitate problem-solving collaboration.He and those he's beginning to draw to him can talk to all the actors in their own language, understanding their values and problems. They are also highly competent technically and, far rarer, managerially and institutionally as well. The can discuss how a standard can be policed as easily as the government's enforcement staff -- and how the required controls can best be found, financed, and maintained as easily as a plant engineer. They are champions for the environment, but truly effective champions because, no one's adversaries, they are respected and trusted.From this position of strength Manuel is setting out:to (1) educated and activate the public; and, (2) suggest and catalyze a cascade of practical reform ideas.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person


Manuel's work aims to put in motion the "Mi Bici" scheme, and to encourage extensive bicycle use through tripartite involvement: local government, private and resident initiatives. With a specific design for the largest of Mexican cities, the citizens can acquire a bike worth $2000 for $500, with the other 75% covered by the private initiative. Local governments commit to building the necessary cycle lane infrastructure and bike parking stations. The goal is to significantly reduce childhood obesity in Mexico and in turn the incidence of diabetes. The bikes are not given out free as a welfare program, but are sold in order to gain unswayed participation by our youth.

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