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structure of local government operating in the colonias. Because the governance structure we are contending with is so decentralized and complex, we chose to start by developing a clearer picture of the situation in three counties with different patterns. It is our hope that this analysis will be useful as community leaders develop approaches for engaging local government in addressing their infrastructure needs.

4. Identifying a strategic approach for combined action, and policy targets for change in the system of governance and public finance. The various problems which residents of unincorporated communities confront are interconnected, and there can be power in building several kinds of connections and relationships. The project, through its reports and convenings, will explore five kinds of connections that should be made:

  • Linking people in individual communities across the region that are experiencing similar problems.

  • Linking the efforts of researchers and advocates who have specialized in a particular issue or service area, such as water, infrastructure, housing, or environmental health, so that they can see where there is a basis for common or parallel actions.

  • Exploring the extent to which the experiences and policy options for the three types of colonias

    • island, fringe, and hinterland communities – overlap and can be the basis for common action.

  • Examining the opportunities for coordinated action at four levels of geography and governance: the community, the county, the region and the state.

  • Identifying opportunities to link the challenges in colonias to existing and planned community improvement efforts at the local and regional level.

If some or all of these bases for common activity are confirmed as valuable, then a wide range of collaborative strategies can be developed. The toolbox for policy change has many instruments, and it may be best not to choose the specific tool before working through the issues and strategies thoroughly. To be sure, there will be a place for several kinds of legal action, for grass-roots organizing, and for legislative advocacy. There also will be opportunities to build new alliances to generate sufficient support for certain the various strategies. Various kinds of research and forms of communications will be employed in support of each approach.

Our discussion to identify and select broad policy objectives to improve basic infrastructure and services in colonias will be informed by a “lay of the land” discussion about policy targets (that is, the decision- making organizations and individuals responsible for addressing the various issues), the unique challenges the policy making bodies currently face, opportunities to tie-in to related advocacy efforts


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