As part of the sustained efforts to link the Puerto Rican diaspora to the reconstruction efforts in Puerto Rico, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Hunter College-CUNY) announced the Social Entrepreneurship and Reconstruction conference taking place on the island Oct. 5-6.
The conference will convene representatives of the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Planning as well as the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association and other civic organizations on the island and its diaspora.
“The conference will be a forum to assess the potential impact that core federal economic assistance programs may have after the catastrophic strikes by Hurricanes Irma and María,” Edwin Meléndez, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies director and professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College.
“The main goal of the conference and the workshops is to gauge the challenges and opportunities at this critical juncture in Puerto Rico’s economic recovery, and to examine the extent to which federal programs may be deployed and matched to support economic development, job creation and the reduction of poverty,” he said.
The conference opens today at the University of Puerto Rico. Saturday’s schedule will entail an array of workshops, to be conducted at the PRMA’s headquarters in Guaynabo.
The conference will open with a panel entitled “Perspectives on Social Entrepreneurship and Reconstruction” that includes the director of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Efraín Maldonado, PRMA President Rodrigo Masses, and the undersecretary of Puerto Rico’s Housing Department, moderated by Mildred Santiago Ortiz, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Cooperatives League.
Today’s program will also feature panels on the Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), civic sector capacity-building for social entrepreneurship: go-betweens and philanthropy, among others.
On Saturday, the conference will feature workshops targeting grassroots and community-based organizations, representing the first event coordinated event by the newly formed PRMA’s Diaspora Committee.
The workshops seek to provide practical experience with federal programs and financing that may be used for social enterprises, housing, community centers and schools, farmers’ cooperatives, and the ways in which private enterprises may become involved, etc.
“There is a wide range of federally funded financing mechanisms for the reconstruction Puerto Rico faces, from tax credit, bond issues, loan guarantees, grants and other incentives,” Meléndez said.
“Unfortunately, these resources are underutilized in Puerto Rico. In fact, one of the most important challenges that Puerto Rico is facing in its recovery is the relatively lack of effective civic capacity to take advantage of these federal programs,” he added.
“Our purpose is to contribute to capacity-building of individuals and entities in those fields so they may use those resources available for the island’s reconstruction and for the strengthening of its civic sector,” Meléndez said.
The workshops offered at the conference are free of cost and will be conducted in English. They are specifically designed for nonprofit organizations, municipalities and social enterprises.
The workshops will assist in developing practical skills that individuals and organizations may need to find federal funding, and frame social investment from both the public and private sectors. Renowned experts will share their expertise and will link to appropriate resources to promote social enterprises.
For those who may not be present, Centro plans on offering the workshops as live-streamed webinar, in which participants may be able to follow the ensuing discussion, even if they may not be able to participate actively. Recorded proceedings of the workshops will be available for future viewing at the Centro’s website.