Espacios Abiertos unveils virtual lab to empower communities
As part of its mission to develop civic capacities, Puerto Rico-based nonprofit Espacios Abiertos created the Community Laboratory, an empowerment and leadership project aimed at helping communities strengthen their recovery and sustainability skills, through a virtual platform.
Project Coordinator, Carla J. Alonso, said the online site gathers tools to support the communities developed since the Hurricanes Irma and María made landfall to make them available to the general public, while integrating new training tools created in the organization.
“The resources that we develop in this project are now available on a virtual platform so that community leaders and anyone interested in gaining new tools or knowledge can access them to continue this empowerment process for more people,” Alonso said.
“In natural disasters and on a day-to-day basis, community organizations are the first line of help to meet the immediate needs of our people. In Espacios Abiertos, we decided after the experiences lived after María hit, to support the communities by strengthening the capacities of their leadership so that they can have a greater recovery response and achieve sustainability,” said Mabel Román-Padro, the liaison between the nonprofit and the communities.
The community empowerment project has had two cycles carried out in 2019 and 2020 with a direct impact on 27 communities.
The organizations Minds Puertorriqueñas en Acción and Sembrando Sentido also participate in the Community Laboratory, along with representatives of four programs of the Sacred Heart University. During the nine-month training process, participants complete eight modules with plenary sessions, workshops and talks with experts in various fields.
“The Community Laboratory launched by Espacios Abiertas, a partner organization of Oxfam America, serves as a tool for Puerto Ricans to exercise their right to a decent, safe and sustainable livelihood,” said María Concepción, Director of Oxfam Programs in Puerto Rico.
“With this tool, more families — especially women, young people and the elderly living in situations of poverty and exclusion — will be able to exercise their civil and political rights to influence decision-making processes and participate in the recovery projects of Puerto Rich with the greatest transparency and the necessary attention,” she said.