Medellín, a city of complex contradictions, is our first pop-up location. Once given the moniker the "world's most dangerous city," Medellín has a fraught relationship with security, safety, and crime that disproportionately affects its youth. On the other hand it's a city of dazzling urban innovation, which has been recognized internationally for its innovation and use of creative urbanist interventions to further economic opportunity and accessibility. Medellín is often looked to as a global success story not solely because of how it managed to dramatically lower its crime rate over the course of a couple decades, but also because it used innovative technologies to do so. Perhaps most famous is the city's complex network of over 3000 security cameras, to which it credits a dramatic drop in crime over the past few years.

Quick Figures on Medellín:


Our Work in Medellín:

As an organization dedicated to examining the impact of digital technologies on the urban social contract, we were drawn to Medellín for its complex history and innovative future. We wondered: had there been an open conversation about striking the complex balance between civil liberties and public security? And how are these practices of surveillance changing the city’s social contract, particularly for young people? Spurred by these questions and the city’s reputation as a hub for innovation, the Edgelands Institute selected Medellín as its first pop-up research location in a global series. Our work in Medellín has followed our Edgelands Methodology, a step-by-step process of rigorous research that informs our pop-up engagement model in each chosen city.

Phase 1, Preparation (May - August 2021)

To prepare for our planned pop-up activities in Medellín, we started our analysis of the city’s security and surveillance policies and the status of the city’s social contract by conducting background research over the course of several months. We divided our research into two segments, with the first being a comprehensive literature review of the security landscape in the city and the second being interviews with 30 key informants from a diverse set of backgrounds.

You can read the full diagnostic report here. [Link to report]

Phase 2, Research Sprint (October - December 2021)

The research described above gave us the crucial jumping off point that we needed to launch our hybrid research sprint in October of 2021. In partnership with EAFIT University’s Center for Political Analysis, we launched “Te Estamos Grabando (We are Recording You)” an 8-week research sprint.

During the 8-week sprint, which concluded on December 1, participants conducted their own group research on an independently chosen topic. They also created a shared manifesto that declared their hopes for a future urban social contract for Medellín. Want to learn more about research results? Read “Another Urban Social Contract is Possible: Learnings from Te Estamos Grabando,” our comprehensive program report. [LINK]

Phase 3, Exploring Co-existence with MATZA Production (January - March 2022)

Can art uncover solutions to urban insecurity? We partnered with MATZA Production, a Swiss art lab on Common Grounds, a project on co-living and co-creation. For three weeks, artists representing Colombia, Geneva, and Kenya lived together and created 11 individual art works on the theme of coexistence.

Explore Common Grounds art works here.

Phase 4, Using photography and data to explore surveillance technologies (March - April 2022)


How do you visualize something as invisible as surveillance, security, or coexistence? This challenge, among others, is what participants of our newest series of research workshops - “Decoding Security, Surveillance, and Coexistence in Medellín” - (in partnership with EAFIT University) will be undertaking through March and April.


With this same quest to “visualize the invisible,” we’re partnering with Magnum Photos and photographer Peter van Agtmael on a new series of events in Medellín. Peter will visit Medellín and work with Colombian photographers to use document visually how digital technologies are changing Medellín’s urban social contract.

Phase 5, Community Conversation (March - May 2022)