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Reflections in B(t+1)

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Moving from building an infrastructure project to providing a service, such as water and sanitation (W&S), entails close coordination with both affected population – those who are within the project’s area of influence during the implementation of the project – and beneficiary population – those who will receive the service provided after the execution of the project. This “hinge” role requires leadership, problem-solving skills, and empathy to understand diverse needs.


Carmela Gavonel is a specialist with more than 20 years of experience in the design and implementation of the social component of large infrastructure projects in Lima, Peru. In a country where 22% of the population self-identifies as belonging to the Quechua ethnicity, she has the value added of being bilingual: she speaks Spanish (maternal language) and Quechua (native local language), which allows her to facilitate dialogue among the diverse project’s stakeholders. She will tell us more about her experience in this pivot role between the Lima W&S company and the affected and beneficiary populations, for which she was awarded the 2018 IADB Superheroes of Development Prize.



Can you give us an example of a W&S project that involved direct participation from the community?

I worked in a project that had an unexpected change in its (physical) design: the water treatment plant was no longer going to be built as part of the project, so we proposed an alternative to still be able to provide W&S services to the beneficiary community. Now, a temporary pipe that ran below a main motorway would be installed outside the project’s area of influence.


What did this entail for the social component of the project?

I approached the new affected population and coordinated with them in order to get the “social approval” – namely, the permission of the affected population to carry on with the project through the new area of influence. First, we contacted their community leaders (approximately 15 people) and explained them what the project consists of. Second, we organised a public assembly (of approximately 500 people) where we presented the details of the project to obtain the social approval.


What challenges did you encounter during this process?

The pipe also had to run through a group of houses that were located in unregistered land. Therefore, I had to negotiate with their inhabitants: we would provide them of W&S services (although they were not part of the initial beneficiary group) and this, in turn, would allow them to claim urban renewal status, which means they would be able to formalise their land.


What are the main lessons learned from this experience?

With adequate dialogue with the affected and beneficiary communities, W&S infrastructure projects can promote formalisation of land property rights, which: i) gives them the opportunity to get access to credit; and ii) facilitates the process of urban development.

  • Writer's picturemaricfg

My doctoral thesis is now open access. It examines the relationship between internal migration and human capital among young people. Specifically, it looks at migration’s drivers, effects, and timing by addressing three research questions:

1. How do transitions to adulthood relate to the decision to migrate?

2. Does youth migration affect cognitive and psychosocial skills?

3. Does the effect of child migration on skills depend on the age at migration?


Regarding the first question, I argue that ‘favourable self-selection’ into migration is not systematic across young migrants: they are a very heterogeneous segment of the population and it would be a mistake to label them as one single group since life-course decisions made during the transition to adulthood shape their migration patterns. For example, those who move for studies are on average better educated than non-migrants, whereas those who move for work or for family formation are not. This is a crucial insight since understanding the determinants of youth migration, which is when most of migration happens, is important to disentangle the effect of migration on skills.


With respect to the second question, I show that migration has an impact both on cognitive and psychosocial skills, although these effects are heterogeneous across subgroups of migrants since, as mentioned above, the reasons for their move shape the impact of migration. This is important because it is what one chooses to do after the move what ultimately shapes the impact of migration. In this chapter, I formalise these relationships with a conceptual framework that delineates the potential mechanisms through which migration may affect skills.


Finally, regarding the third question, I provide evidence that the hypothesis of sensitive periods at early ages dominates the impact of age at migration on skills: younger migrants perform better than older ones in both cognitive and psychosocial skills. In this chapter, I propose a conceptual framework, in which I argue that the capacity to adapt is what ultimately affects the impact of migration on skills. This is important since it informs policymakers on how to tailor initiatives that encourage migration of families with children, and on how to facilitate their corresponding assimilation to the host locality through education.


To my knowledge, this is the first doctoral thesis that focuses entirely on young migrants and their cognitive and psychosocial skills using longitudinal data from a rich study, such as Young Lives. Check my thesis here.

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