The Vega Viva platform driven by the Canary Islander Cristina Calero was one of the initiatives that made it as a finalist of the latest edition of Santander Bank’s Explorer Program for young entrepreneurs.
Cristina Calero is Vega Viva’s main driving force, a pioneering project born in Arrecife, in the Canary Islands, aimed at changing the concept of belonging to a place where we currently live. The young woman, selected by Santander Bank as a finalist of the latest edition of the Explorer Project for young entrepreneurs, is convinced of the future importance of citizen participation in the decision making of communities, councils, and municipal governments.
To achieve this, Calero’s tool is capable of developing maps and reports of collaborative networks, polling community residents, and inviting them to suggest improvements and proposals for changing the municipality. “We want people to fall back in love with their neighborhoods, to be able to propose improvements and to adapt them to their needs.” The current goal is to have an information bank regarding the needs and requests of neighbors to provide the user with a platform for interaction and management of their surroundings: “We try to generate a map of the needs of a city while, at the same time, generating the solutions. In addition, it’s very simple because anyone is able to participate in Vega Viva.”
“We cover everything. From mobility, town planning, landscaping… Then we analyze that pool of data and redirect it depending on the specific job we want to achieve in each space”, said Calero while leaving a conference in San Francisco’s financial district. As a finalist of the Explorer Initiative, Cristina was, just a few months ago, able to share the experience of visiting and getting to know the heart of the Silicon Valley, the international mecca oftechnological innovation, with fifty other young entrepreneurs from all over Spain. There she was able, in addition to attending conferences at the offices of Facebook, Google, and Airbnb, to share her knowledge with the rest of the finalists. “Exchanging ideas and opinions and getting to know the other projects has been very rewarding, a great experience.”
Citizen participation and the use of collaborative tools that try to improve urban coexistence is a trending area of work amongst social entrepreneurs from all over the world. Cristina is aware of this and stresses that, beyond applications and technological tools, the most important thing in achievingsignificant prosper in the field is “a feeling of belonging”. This is exactly why residents of every locality are involved, irrespective of their age, gender, or socioeconomic level, in the management and improvement of public spaces.
At the moment the platform is expanding and collaborating with the council of the Island of Lanzarote. “Collaboration with public entities is essential for the getting all proposals coming from the platform implemented.” Vega Viva is a laboratory of ideas aimed at improving the use of and daily life in our neighborhoods. But the idea, despite having a clear technological component, is hoping to make human interaction and citizen dialogue the tools capable of increasing urban development within cities. “In addition to data collection, there must be an activity that encourages the improvement of urban environments.”
The initiative is therefore another example that young people are more interested than ever in the social applications of technology, and, starting with their municipalities, are already using the tools that are provided to them for changing the urban paradigm of their communities.