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Reducing Turnover with Participatory Design

The Chilean city of Antofagasta is using participatory design to work with companies and government to create a community people want to live in.

Transforming a Mining Town into a Community People Want to Live In

The mining boom of the last decade led to new projects around the world. Chile was no exception. This boom often led to expanded settlements relatively distant to the mining operation. The city of Antofagasta suffered all the socio-economic impacts of this phenomenon, including double-speed economy, pressure on services, and changes in cultural practices and identity.

The Problem with Employee Retention

Companies and community suffered the impacts of a city unprepared for explosive growth. Antofagasta is seen as an unattractive city in terms of transport, services, and quality of life. As a result, professionals and workers did not want to live there. Many preferred to live in the capital, Santiago, or other cities with higher quality of life or where their families were located, and to travel to Antofagasta only for rotating work periods. People lived in Antofagasta only temporarily, planning to return to their original cities. The result: high employee turnover and loss of significant human resources investment by the companies. Despite incentives, the city did not help the industry to attract and retain talent; companies’ competitiveness declined.

Forming a Collaborative Governance Initiative

Mining companies invested many resources in social responsibility programs in Antofagasta. However, they focused on individual stakeholders, and so did not systemically address the socio-economic impacts of the mining boom and the living experience for workers. With the mines expected to have a long useful life, companies saw issues in Antofagasta as strategic. A shared value initiative was necessary. Given the scale of the challenge, individual company efforts wouldn’t be enough.

As in Calama, a large mining company in the area took a leadership role to confront the challenge of growth in Antofagasta. The company first built an alliance with local government. Then, to create a broader collaborative governance initiative, the company engaged all companies willing to participate. The 13 companies ultimately involved came from different sectors and designed a plan that included high quality participation of the entire community of Antofagasta, through different participatory designs: malones urbanos, territorial forums, and citizen forums, among others. They named the initiative Creo Antofagasta.

Participatory Design Approaches

Malones urbanos:

This citizen participation approach invites neighbors to share a meal, to discuss the problems and important aspects of their neighborhoods, and build community.

Territorial forums:

Citizen participation occurs in the local headquarters of each district, deepening dialogue with the community on strategies to improve their quality of life. The conversation focuses on objectives, indicators and targets for each territory.

Citizen forums:

These are open public participation events used to communicate and discuss and to improve long-term strategies and initiatives proposed by the initiative.

A Participatory Master Plan

Creo Antofagasta proposes a portfolio of projects aimed at city’s sustainable urban development, with a completion date of 2035. The projects focus on seven areas of action: land use and growth, transport and mobility, public space and green areas, environmental sustainability, participation and social society, economic diversification, and identity and culture. Creo Antofagasta is now in the communication stage of the Master Plan or project portfolio developed. Some projects are already being implemented.

For more on this topic, reach out to Verónica Devenin, PhD of the Centre for Business Sustainability at Universidad Adolfo Ibañez.

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