Behind the Scenes



Mabe, Edgar, and Axel decided to start an organization after their Harvard classes as students -- ruminating at lunch on debates and discussions, wondering about the best course of action for Latin America through an organization using urban tactics, and interdisciplinary unity, and a governance building society dependent on multiple voices and debates to create a future. Edgar Mora, mayor of Curridabat with Axel (professor in Mexico and Harvard Fellow) were united on developing an organization that allowed Latin America to be rediscovered within happy metrics. Edgar is currently applying his own metrics and projects in Costa Rica, where he is acting Mayor. Axel continues his work as a researcher but also as an avid believer in developing countries' metrics that include a different angle in data collection. 


Maria Beatriz Garcia (Mabe) always thought a foundation was the best use of an organizational system to apply the manifesto, and systematically worked to align the larger organizational goals with her ultimate passion, which was healing the most vulnerable in Latin America reach a better quality of life. Later, she integrated some of her connections and classmates from London School of Economics, where she first learned how environmental policy and urban development, interrelate at Urbanisation and Development Master of Science. There she had already met Helene Meurisse and her Chevening class of 2011, she met Mariana Rendon (UCL), who united the group in 2016. 


Mabe also recruited Adriana Guitierrez, Laura Cepeda (JFK Harvard from Barranquilla, Colombia), and a few others including Alan Waxman (Harvard GSD Landscape Architecture) and Abner Calixter (Brandeis) to join in on the discussions at her home, late night cooking, and talking.


The BBQs allowed them to write a manifesto, which outlined the reasons for the organization (and later the Bylaws) and motivated them to keep true to the Latin American ideal of happier places along with healthier outcomes. Edgar, (mayor in Costa Rica's Curridabat) Axel, Mabe, Laura, and Alan spent about 3 months working on the manifesto, recording their ideas, and outlining the business plan and functions of the organization. These recordings were later transcribed and used to program the logic model and outputs in a 5-year plan. 


Mabe, Alan, Adriana, Judith,  and Axel (met every week) continued this work exhaustively, piloting their project at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard in October 2014, sponsored by Latin GSD. They tweaked and turned the bylaws into a set of rules and obligations through which the organization would transparently abide.


Alan Waxman began to work out the methodology and test it in Brownsville New York, where he worked on the ecosocial design. He worked with UEF writing, developing ideas the into ecosial design in action.


Mabe left to Latin America to spearhead their work in Caracas, Brazil, Colombia, and now in the USA (local citizens) to futher evolve the organization in Northeast USA. Each country has its own locally elected board. 


Increasingly holistic, the topics involved sound environmental practices at the local scale to target disenfranchised populations of cities in Latin America and the Global North.


The discussions began with six Latin American from all around South of the equator and two Americans who included perspectives on the cultural, economic, and historic exchange and symbiosis between the continents. From these weekly meetings and discussions, UEF evolved into our current passionately involved team and a foundation dedicated to doing service for barrios and favelas. Our team is growing and currently composed of specialists in Landscape Architecture and International Development as well as urban public policy, engineering (civil, hydraulics, and electric) and urban international development metrics.


At Urban Labs Exuma Lab and Zofnass for Sustainable Growth at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) where all three met, they were able to hone their skills further to find alternative mechanisms for inclusive funding mechanisms, holistic interventions on infrastructure and bottom-up planning mechanisms that see eye-to-eye with top-down Municipal and Action Plans provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and Metropolitan Area Mayors as well as local governance structures.


The projects are purposefully established within the community, with the community and enhanced though the community.



Urban Elements seeks to create environmentally, socially just informal settlements, where the community is invited to develop its own social capital for an inclusive financial system that improves its social, environmental and infrastructure surroundings. It hopes to deliver microscopic cities within cities themselves where animal life, ecology, activation of civic participation and robust governance and institutions with multi-scale stakeholders are key to its success.


The new economic system, mentioned above, replaces outdated economic value systems with a new economic 'valuation' of Latin American employee work at the current US minimum wage average ($) to better translate results to our investors as well as contribute community social capital, enhancing 'apple to apple' comparisons. Fundraising is delivered in dollars ($) to keep all rates relevant to the global economy and conscious of Latin America inflation rates, which often times carry negative effects and shift on a monthly basis.


Holistic Ecological perspectives use sound economic tools to re-evaluate' edge and periphery zones. The 'Periphery' is conceptualized as communities with less than average salaries and educational and psychosocial healthy living standards. We are strongly influenced by Amartya Sen's writings to understand the concept of poverty as well as philosophers ranging through the disciplines (Manuel Castells, Michael Taussig, Pearlman, Mike Davis, Diane Davis, Ed Soja, Harvey, Henri Lefebvre, to name a few).


Many of the four pilots will use MIT Poverty Lab's method's of scientific inquiry to test our approaches and explore international development projects. However, most of its theoretical undertakings, as well as exploratory analyses, are driven from the London School of Economic's Urbanisation and Development program. 


Our Inspiration


London School of Economic's International Development Urbanism Program, Professor Gareth Jones and  Professor Hyun Shin, as well as Architect Ricky Burdett and Professor Suzzie Hall at the LSE Cities' Program. 

Urban Think-Tank (U-TT), under Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, Caracas Office, 2010-2011. Team: Rafael Machado, Manuel Toledo, and Joost Boost.

Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, continued literature and portfolio work. 

WACA, West Africa Coastal Area, World Bank, Dahlia Lotayef, Task Team Leader (TTL) for the creation of a project that covers $211 million dollar investment from the GEF and other IDA funds across 6 countries in West Africa. 

Harvard University's Graduate School of Design's (GSD) Landscape and Urban Design perspectives.

Harvard University's Planning in the South, Professor Diane Davis' literature and class. 

MIT's International Development innovative methodologies as well as a wide array of organizations that are truly pushing the envelope for new international development aid.

World Bank's Corporate Social Responsibility Work 2008-2010.

IADB's Sustainable Cities Program and Action Plans.


Credit & Ideas   

Alfredo Brillembourg's book, Caracas Case Study, as well as during the work of year-long research in San Agustine, Caracas under the leadership of Metrocable, Metro Caracas, Community Development at San Agustine and Urban-Think Tank (U-TT), at

London School of Economics' (LSE) Professors Gareth Jones and Hyun Shin

Harvard University's Diane Davis' Urban Planning Class on Global South Planning. Carmen Lacambra from Cambridge University and Oxford University and Principle at Grupolaera on exploring coastal environmental development and planning under different levels of strata in barrios

Landscape Architects from GSD helped on mapping and social integration of ideas;

Micucci Architects under Principle and Founder Franco Micucci worked with Mabe to gain an honorable mention in the CAF for Social Inclusion competition for El Calvario Holistic Planned Integrative Project Design

The Dukakis Center at Northeastern University's program "Resilient Cities" on District Level Sustainable models in North America

Axel Becerra's post-doctorate at Harvard University on Sustainable metrics

Edgar Altimano's Mayor of Curridabat on effective development of urban cities as healthy and happy places 

Adriana Guitierrez' work in Bogota under Mayor Penalosa


The voices of all these great professionals have found their way into this organization. They are also reflected in our organizational minutes and archives with recorded discussions that reflect a melange of voices from Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, USA, Puerto Rico, and Brazil. 


Our Team's Credit: 


Mabe Garcia-Rincon [Maria-Beatriz]

Edgar Altimano

Axel Becerra 

Judith Rodriguez 

Alan Waxman

Adriana Guitierrez 

Laura Cepeda 

Abner Calixter