Lorenzo Pérez Alvarez

Ashoka Fellow
Illustration of a person's face depicting a fellow
Mexico
Fellow since 1991
This description of Lorenzo Pérez Alvarez's work was prepared when Lorenzo Pérez Alvarez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991 .

Introduction

Lorenzo is establishing a model for information generation and sharing by and for grassroots organizations all over Mexico.

The New Idea

Citizens and citizens' organizations working on social issues have special and interconnected information needs. Individual groups also often have developed a great deal of information that other groups could very profitably use but that they cannot access.Lorenzo began experimenting long ago with how to pull together relevant articles and other data and then to share it with social groups and others in his home state of Chihuahua in Northern Mexico. He started with printed digests, but now he is moving beyond paper to electronics.He is also now working to spread his network both more broadly within Chihuahua and also beyond it to other states. At the same time, he is deepening the flow of information, expanding the nature and quantity of interactions among the participants, and organizing complimentary workshops.In his own words, his goal is "democratization information."

The Problem

In recent years, the northern state of Chihuahua has been the scene of so many major social and political changes that many speak of the region as the catalyst for much of what goes on in the rest of Mexican society. Chihuahua's dynamism is partly due to its well-organized political opposition which puts pressure on the local and national governments. The state also has many private voluntary organizations. They need efficient, economic access to large, often complex bodies of information to be effective in providing services or in pressing the public debate.

Mexico has witnessed a great increase in the number of such independent social organizations over the past few decades. Most private organizations and large corporations have access to information services which keep them informed. The social sector, however, lacks both the financial resources and the expertise of larger organizations to obtain these essential information services. In areas such as human rights, misinformation or lack of information can mean the difference between life and death. In the field of labor relations, legal information is critical regarding precedents for wage claims or union negotiations.

The Strategy

Lorenzo is riding the information revolution. Every year as the power of computing increases and as its costs decrease, his opportunities and leverage increases. The new, increasingly computer literate, and more socially engaged generation further increases the opportunity he is now totally committed to seizing.

Increasingly he is trying to increase his impact by helping even requiring his users to learn how to use information systematically. For example, he requires all members to attend an unusual "Analysis of Reality" workshop. In this workshop, for example, he'll help member learn how to coordinate their work using local and national statistics.

Unlike other information services, Lorenzo's organization has members, not clients. They share both information and time.

Lorenzo also plans to create a database by computerizing 15 years worth of information on the social problems of Chihuahua. He will make it available on a payment basis to social organizations in the states and see if it can be self-supporting.

The Person

Lorenzo's rich background includes religion, bank, academic and journalistic experience. At the age of 20, he entered the seminary to study for the priesthood. He stayed for 6 years before leaving to follow his second vocation, that of journalism. He began to write on social Christian themes for 2 local newspapers in Chihuahua. At the same time he embarked on a career in banking. Nonetheless, even as a bank executive, he found time to participate in the School for Trade Unionists in Chihuahua and to begin his experiments in democratizing access to information.

He left the bank to teach labor psychology at the University level and then returned to journalism in 1988 to work for the major Chihuahua newspaper El Norte. In 1991, he decided to devote himself fully to Information for Democratization.