Community stations: a field-based classroom approach
The border region is a unique urban laboratory for researchers to engage solution-centered processes that produce new inclusive forms of sustainable urbanization. This is the premise of the UCSD Cross-Border Initiative based in San Diego – Tijuana border region led by Fonna Forman, Associate Professor of Political Science, and Co-Director of UCSD Center on Global Justice (ORU), and Teddy Cruz, Professor of Public Culture and Urbanism, and Co-Director of Center for Urban Ecologies, Department of Visual Arts. UCSD-CBI belongs to a growing network of interdisciplinary hubs at the University of California’s Blum Center for Developing Economies based in Berkeley that are focused on understanding and acting on global poverty.
This Cross-Border Initiative proposes a new model of partnership between university and community-based agencies, that assembles students, community members and experts through community stations. These stations are field-based research hubs, and also a platform for community engagement and experiential learning – in other words, they are a resource for the University to have access to community networks, test solution-based approaches and methods, and measure impact while developing community leadership and addressing specific challenges of underserved communities.
Announced in the Fall of 2013, CBI has worked a couple of years now bringing together a multidisciplinary group of undergraduate and graduate students through an summer field internship program. Students, faculty, community organizations and residents work collectively using the community stations as a platform. Three of them have been created already under a distinct identity and focus: Blum Cross-Border, Earth Lab and Democracy Lab, and they are located both in Tijuana (Los Laureles neighborhood) and San Diego (Diamond District, and San Ysidro). Their field work and projects are being intensively documented through narrative, videos and other visuals that are available in their website, and convey the broad scope of their ambition.