Personal and Community Transformation in Rural Colombia – Stephanie Pirroni

Setting – Caribbean Coastal region of Colombia

This study examines an education for development initiative called Preparation for Social Action (PSA) being implemented in the Caribbean Coastal region of Colombia. The program works with indigenous and Afro-Colombian youth populations that are marginalized from quality education and employment opportunities. The aim of PSA is to help equip individuals and communities with the capacities they need to become the protagonists of progress in their communities. The PSA program was developed by Fundación para la Aplicación y Enseñanza de las Ciencias (FUNDAEC), a non-governmental organization in Colombia.


The Research

The research is a cross-sectional qualitative case study of the PSA initiative. The study explores the potential that participation in a rigorous education for development program concerned with personal and societal transformation has 1) in fostering the identities of youth as promoters of community wellbeing, and 2) for improving the wellbeing of youth, their families, and communities in conflict-affected areas of Colombia.


Community Youth Activities


The data was gathered from five communities involved in the PSA program that had illicit armed activities, large-scale palm oil farms, limited economic opportunities for youth, and at least eight years of experience with the program.  Using interviews, focus groups, and participant observation, the study sought input from PSA participants and graduates, program staff, parents and community members.



This study found that youth engagement in a program of study with a clear social purpose that contains elements of a scientific, technical, community-oriented and moral education and is imparted through a tutorial methodology that integrates theory and practice contributed towards fostering identities aimed at promoting the common good.


In addition to the knowledge youth acquired through study of the content of the program and engagement in social action, networks of social support were key to the development of youth’s identities as promoters of community wellbeing and to bridging them to resources that improved their education and livelihood opportunities.


The author
Stephanie Pirroni worked for a number of years in Colombia with FUNDAEC’s education for development programs. Her research grew out of that experience.  This research was undertaken for her doctoral dissertation which she received in February 2019. At present, Stephanie is serving as the Director of the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity in Haifa, Israel.