This paper presents reflections on an experience of university-society engagement in rural areas of Chiapas State in South Mexico. This area is characterised by problems such as poverty, ecological degradation, and social conflict. The author analyses some of problems in creating models and methods to establish links between the university and social groups at the local and regional level, specifically in the poorest, and most isolated areas. The reflection is based on the experience of a programme at the Universidad Aut¾noma Metropolitana (UAM), called the Interdisciplinary Research Programme on "Human Development in Chiapas" (Programa de Investigaci¾n Interdiscilinario "Desarrollo humano en Chiapas") in which teachers and students from different fields (social sciences, biological sciences, design) work with communities, social organisations and non governmental organizations on for example, local health models, sustainable production, technologies and public policy evaluation. As well as detailing the strategies developed within this programme to work with local organisations and communities, the paper also discusses the establishment and nature of relationships with local groups. It gives examples of learning participation in social health systems, agro-ecological production and designing appropriate technology.
International Institute for Environment and Development