Community & Territorial Innovation in the Colombia Pacific Region


The Colombian Pacific Region is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the world, with extraordinary natural, human and cultural resources. Yet, this wealth in the Pacific contrasts with a socio-economic reality characterized by extreme poverty and lack of access to basic services, an extractive development model that damages the natural environment and reproduces inequality, the effects of a decades-long armed conflict, and structural racism that poses a barrier to inclusion and equitable development.

At the same time, for centuries, Afro and indigenous communities in the Pacific have developed rich cultural and ancestral knowledge systems that are deeply tied to territory and identity. This knowledge is a powerful form of wealth that exists in the region, and includes sophisticated insights about the use of natural resources and ecosystems as well as political and community organization.

The 2016 Peace Accords represent a pivotal moment of change, and offer important opportunities to leverage the unique assets that exist in the Pacific Region to advance regional development, strengthen civic participation, and improve community wellbeing. Additionally, the Pacific has entered the national and international spotlight as a key site for large-scale development investments. However, a business-as-usual approach to development planning runs the risk of replicating the exclusionary and extractive models that have fueled and perpetuated conflict over the last half century.

With prospects for sustainable peace inextricably linked to an equitable and inclusive development agenda, sustainable peace-building efforts will require long-term development planning that includes the voice and vision of communities across Colombia, particularly those in the country’s most marginalized regions.

Since 2014, CoLab has worked with networks of Afro and indigenous leaders in the Pacific region of Colombia to co-create knowledge, support collective leadership development and build capacities for community innovation.

Now in the third phase of this work, CoLab is working with partner organizations in the cities of Quibdó and Buenaventura to deepen a focus on territorial development and social infrastructure for peace. This phase of the work will involve monthly programming that brings together youth and community leaders from distinct sectors for capacity building, prototyping, and capturing stories that demonstrate the role of community-led innovation in generating shared wealth, peace, and wellbeing. With this focus on “territorial innovation,” the program aims to create spaces and build capacities for experimentation and collaborative problem solving around territorial development challenges.

More information about our work in the Colombian Pacific, including resources and documentation, can be found at:

Information about CoLab's other work focused on Inclusive Regional Development in Latin America can be accessed here


Alison Coffey