As the second week of our TEM Lab project begins, our team reflected on some of the lessons learned during our first week in Piura, Peru:

Fluid Approach to Time

Every member of our team has lived and worked in Latin America, so we all expected a fluid or extremely relaxed approach to meeting times and schedules. However, none of us have worked in rural provinces where expectations for punctuality are radically lower, and attendance at meetings appears to be optional. As a result, our team has had to be extremely proactive.  We have stopped extending invitations for stakeholders to come to us, and instead we have started going to them. We have leveraged an excellent relationship with a contact in our office who has an extensive network in Piura. This has allowed us to gain an audience with key stakeholders on relatively short notice.

Piura is Relatively Advanced

During our departure week preparation, our team was under the impression that Piura was not very developed in terms of science or technology. Our first week here proved us wrong. We knew Piura had two univerisites - La Universidad de Piura and La Universidad Nacional de Piura- but we underestimated how robust they are. These universities produce skilled engineers and economists who are often underutilized in the local labor market. Many of the professors are so dedicated to their discipline that they fund their own research due to a lack of public funds.

Repercussions of a National Political Shift

Over the past ten years Peru has undergone a process of political decentralization. This move was intended to give autonomy to provincial governments, which would allow them to prosper. However, many provincial governments and universities still feel discriminated against by Lima. Local governments typically implement strict policies handed down to them by the central government, and they are given little discretionary authority. From an academic standpoint, local university professors’ research are chronically underfunded and they are given little national recognition or respect despite impressive achievements.

Our team realizes that TEM Lab will be a constant learning experience. This past week has unveiled interesting lessons that will help us move forward in our project. We are excited to see what this week has in store.