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Unexpected translations in urban policy mobility. The case of the Acahualinca development programme in Managua, Nicaragua

Journal article
Authors María José Zapata Campos
Patrik Zapata
Published in Habitat International
Volume 46
Issue April
Pages 271-276
ISSN 0197-3975
Publication year 2015
Published at School of Public Administration
Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Centre for Business in Society
Pages 271-276
Language en
Keywords Policy mobility; Relational sites; Relational situations; Translations; City management; Nicaragua
Subject categories Globalization Studies, Public Administration Studies, Sociology, Business Administration


Implementation gaps between policy goals and outcomes are of increasing concern in practice and research. We explore the translation chains through which urban policies become mobile and are translated into practice. Informed by the city management and policy mobility literature, we conduct a case study of La Chureca, the rubbish dump and slum of Managua, Nicaragua, and its renewal programme. The Acahualinca Programme was implemented via translation chains enacted by many policy translators. It was translated into residents' and waste collectors' interests, its language packaged in artefacts such as prototypes in order to travel. It was made mobile via relational sites or situations providing safe and accessible connections with Chureca residents. Paradoxically, these places also allowed extraordinary connections between actors located in different scales and spaces, facilitating unexpected local community resistance. Although the Program ultimately remained almost unalterable in content, resistance unexpectedly transformed residents from passive policy transmitters into active policy actors in making the city. We conclude that policy implementation cannot be seen as the scripted translation of plans into reality, but as an uncontrollable process in which multiple translations twist policies and plans from below. The significant question is therefore not whether plans succeed, but how they succeed.

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