The Center for a New Economy will receive $1.9 million over the next two years from the Open Society Foundations to develop a “specific and measurable plan to increase civic capacity, transparency, and access to justice and equity in Puerto Rico.”
The CNE competed with 16 other cities and organizations for the funding, which may be extended for as long as 10 years. In this cycle, the local think-tank was one of three groups selected, along with organizations from Buffalo and San Diego.
“This funding extends the CNE’s scope from a place to rethink Puerto Rico in its economic aspect, to a facilitator of more concrete actions to spur viable social change, which is essential for a sustainable economy,” CNE President Mike Soto-Class said Thursday.
The CNE will work with the ACLU of Puerto Rico, the University of Puerto Rico Law Clinic, the Center for Investigative Journalism, the Angel Ramos Foundation, Banco Popular Foundation, and the Flamboyán Foundation to develop the strategy, Soto said.
The project will focus on developing the resources, tools and civic skills needed by individuals and nonprofit organizations to effectively engage with government and private organizations as well as for systemic change, he added.
“The Open Society Foundations has a long-term interest in addressing equality, justice, and democratic practice at the local level, said Ken Zimmerman, director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations. “As part of our core belief in the importance of a robust and capable civic sector, we are excited to be helping these local communities develop their capacity to promote civic, political, and economic opportunity for all their residents.”
“By investing in collaborations between nonprofit organizations, and supporting them in their partnerships with government, business, and community, we aim to expand their potential to pursue effective responses to the profound demographic, economic, and technological changes that are taking place throughout the country,” Zimmerman said.
The participating groups in each site determined their own priorities and plans to catalyze local systemic change over the long term, responding to the most pressing needs of their communities, Open Society Foundation officials said.
“On an island facing very difficult social and economic situations, high unemployment, and very low labor participation rates, there is an urgent need to strengthen the civic sector,” the stateside nonprofit founded by philanthropist George Soros, said.
The Puerto Rico team seeks to increase equity and improve democratic practice for the most marginalized while building its capacity to advance long-term change. Its initial work will focus on increasing government transparency, creating new models to facilitate access to legal representation in civil cases, and launching initiatives to create income supports and encourage savings for low-income residents.
“Buffalo, San Diego, and Puerto Rico have exciting plans that extend beyond their current capacities and agendas to manage both challenges and opportunities in ways that further local equity and justice,” said Diana Morris, Director of OSI-Baltimore, the field office for U.S. Programs, who is spearheading the initiative at the foundation. “We’re proud to be working with them.”
The three Open Places sites were awarded the grants after a rigorous and competitive selection process. They, along with five other sites from around the country — including Albuquerque, New Mexico; Denver, Colorado; Jackson, Mississippi; Louisville, Kentucky; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin – were awarded planning grants in April 2013.Joseph Stiglitz (Credit: Wikipedia)
CNE annual conference
The think-tank is gearing up to hold its annual conference Feb. 21, an event that will be anchored by Nobel Prize-winning economist, Prof. Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, who will share his point of view on the concept of “learning societies” during his keynote speech.
Stiglitz has defined “learning societies” as the key to successful and sustained democratic growth, based on democratic and inclusive societies. He believes knowledge and ideas are fundamental for any 21st Century economic development concept.
Prior to appearing at the CNE’s convention, Stiglitz will spend time at the University of Puerto Rico, where he will speak to students about the issue of inequality, said Sergio Marxuach, director of public policy for the CNE.