Building Community and Brighter Futures After School in Mexico
In June of 2016, UpMetrics Cofounder Drew Payne visited 4 community programs in the Mexico City area. Here’s what he learned.
When we sit down in the UpMetrics office in San Francisco to discuss his trip, it has already been two weeks since he returned. But as for UpMetrics CEO Drew Payne, he’s still processing it all. And, among the many challenges, what stand out most for him are the reasons to be hopeful.
“I’ve always had a core interest in the areas of education and health,” Payne says, explaining the background for his visit to the Distrito Federal—that background is also at the heart of his vision for UpMetrics. “Mexico has some significant challenges in both of those areas, in terms of education system, as well as healthcare and obesity. So, what we’re doing with UpActive and UpMetrics, our platforms, really has a direct crossover into the Mexican ecosystem around schools and healthcare.”
Over the past year, UpMetrics has developed a relationship with international organization Fight for Peace. Fight for Peace/Luta pela Paz is a boxing and martial arts program founded in 2000 by a British national, Luke Dowdney MBE, combining the discipline and appeal of sport with education and youth development. Having started in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Fight for Peace now has affiliates in 25 different countries, with academies in Rio and London. Payne’s meetings with Fight for Peace partners in Mexico marked the first international move for UpMetrics, looking to offer data and infrastructure support to a growing, global movement.
“Sports, music, theater, and art are four areas where, regardless of economic background or ethnicity or gender, you can make a real impact, and build community. People come together around them,” Payne says.
He continues: “We believe in Fight for Peace’s mission—they are using sports as a tool for community impact. They recommended that we reach out to and connect with four of their partner programs in Mexico City and the surrounding area. It just made sense to visit with them.”
The four community oriented, martial arts after-school programs Payne visited—Transformación Social (Traso), A.C., APIC Utopía, A.C., Angels de Lima Lama, and Asociación de Boxeo de Aficionados del Distrito Federal, A.C.—have different approaches, from youth and parent fitness initiatives, to advanced training for talented athletes hoping to make the Mexican national team.
“The common theme is that all of these programs are trying to serve families and kids in their communities with health and wellness initiatives,” Payne says. Also, in the cases of Traso and Utopía, the programs are young—both began roughly a year ago. In that sense, these programs are evidence of a growing awareness in their communities of the issues facing children, and how best to serve children’s needs outside the classroom.
There were three moments during Payne’s trip that spoke volumes about the dedication of these communities to building a better future for their children.
“When I met with the Asociación de Boxeo, learning that the families of these kids were driving 2–4 hours each way to be a part of their kids’ lives and support their kids’ interests, was amazing. Given the violence and gang activity faced by children in the area, it was powerful to hear about the level of commitment and support on the part of local families,” Payne says.
“The second thing, with Angels de Lima Lama—there were three core components as to why kids want to join their organization: the leadership; having teachers and mentors who can help them improve over time; and the friendship network. All of these elements combine to create a supportive community for the kids.”
And when Payne says that they’re going the extra mile to build community bonds, he’s not kidding.
“They have 11 different sites in one community, where before there were no after-school programs. One of their sites is located inside founder Juan Gutierrez’s brother’s house—I went to his house, and he had an entire section set aside for training. They’re literally opening the doors to their own homes to make a difference.”
He was left with that same sense of dedication after meeting with Utopía leadership.
“Lastly, when I was at Capaz [a Traso program], there was this moment when I was in a hallway with all these parents, while their kids were all engaged with program staff—there were about 12 parents there, all talking to each other. It was a simple thing,” Payne reflects, “but it just made it so obvious how programs like these build community.”
“Drugs and violence, if you look at recent history in Mexico City and the country overall, have been serious challenges,” Payne says. “Combine that with the challenges faced by the education system—it’s difficult. Leaders in the community are looking to make a positive impact. And, sports and after-school programming, whether it’s music or art, or, in these cases, martial arts, that’s the vehicle that they’re using to engage these kids and families.
“Policy-wise, right now government funding for after-school programs and sports is very limited. So, that’s putting pressure on the communities themselves to launch programs and provide a service, an outlet, for kids from 3–6pm,” outlines Payne.
That means that a lot of these programs are run, at least in part, by volunteers. It’s also coming at a time of major technological change on a global scale.
More than ever, the ability to connect and raise awareness about your community’s challenges is in the palm of your hands. Despite income disparity and access to basic services, nearly everyone Payne encountered had a smartphone. Many regularly use WhatsApp to communicate, though few own a computer.
“How are we looking at this from an UpMetrics perspective? We want to provide these organizations with tools they can use to succeed, in terms of both making use of data to increase funding efforts, as well as engaging families in a positive way.”
Using the data and metrics that UpMetrics can offer, programs like these can begin to look for funding sources nationally, or even internationally, as a means to continue, and further, their efforts. And, connecting with organizations like Fight for Peace is already one step in that direction.
“It’s possible to help these programs, and connect with the kids and families in the ring or on the field of play—language barriers don’t matter,” says Payne.
“You can see it,” he says. “You can feel it.” ^DFG
Contact us to learn more about how UpActive and UpMetrics can support your organization.
UpActive is an activity management tool used by program staff, participants, and parents to organize, track, and communicate. Data from UpActive is integrated in UpMetrics, our analytics platform, designed to help organizations measure impact, build capacity, and access funding.