Foundation for Puerto Rico CEO Launches Center for Strategic Innovation
Coalition Looks to Provide Social, Economic Solutions; to Be Led by Alexandra Lúgaro
After a decade of policy achievements as CEO of the nonprofit Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR), former business owner Jon Borschow, 70, is launching his most ambitious project yet, the Center for Strategic Innovation (CSI), a multisector entity that aims to set Puerto Rico on the path to become a regional leader that shares its prosperity with the island’s communities.
The CSI’s board of directors will comprise government officials, including members of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi’s cabinet, municipal and community leaders, members of academia, and the heads of other nonprofits. The center will be housed at FPR’s 8,000-square-foot headquarters in the Ciudadela condos and commercial complex in Santurce.
Alexandra Lúgaro, the former gubernatorial candidate for Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (Citizen’s Victory Movement), will be the board’s executive director.
“They will all bring to the table all of the perspectives to develop a joint vision for Puerto Rico and look for solutions to its problems,” Borschow told Caribbean Business, adding that the CSI board will meet for the first time later this month.
“We are creating a team of people with expertise in their respective areas,” continued the former head of the family-owned Borschow Hospital & Medical Supplies Inc., acquired by Cardinal Health in 2008. “They will see what solutions are being applied to problems throughout the globe and see what solutions can be applied to Puerto Rico. We want to look for novel solutions that depart from the conventional. Solutions cannot be just from the government or just from the business sector.”
Borschow said that CSI will not only fund field research in several areas vital to Puerto Rico’s economy and quality of life, such as healthcare, education and local resiliency, but also in training community leaders to implement solutions as quickly as possible.
“We are also developing a field intervention engine—this is the other dimension of the foundation. This involves intervening in communities with the solutions developed by the center. There has to be a link between the grassroots and the grasstops. We must integrate policy with what is happening in the communities,” explained the former member of the Sila Calderón Foundation board. “We are creating an academy of leaders to integrate with our community efforts, beginning with the northern region. We are going to have training programs for community, municipal and business leaders. The idea is to make them effective in the communities, so these can forge ahead.”
CSI will “create the capacity to work with any subject that has an impact on the development of Puerto Rico,” Borschow said, adding that the aim is to improve the island’s quality of life to not only attract businesses but also Puerto Ricans who have emigrated in search of opportunities they have not found locally.
FPR has already helped achieve important policy changes during its first decade of existence, including the creation of Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s destination marketing organization (DMO), and helped in the lobbying that led to the federal government granting Puerto Rico a waiver last year for the international transfer of cargo and passengers on the island. The organization also assisted entities such as Guayacán and Parallel 18 to develop an “ecosystem of innovation” to facilitate startups on the island.
The nonprofit, which receives funding from the federal government as well as the private sector and has completed the second year of the single audit system with no adverse findings, established a Clinton Foundation-recognized community program, called Bottom-Up Destination Recovery Initiative, with the help of the Economic Development Administration. The program helps design plans to attract visitors to dozens of communities in 13 municipalities, which Borschow said did not have an economic base.
“We are having record numbers of visitors, even in the midst of Covid-19,” he said, noting how tourism has become the fastest growing economic sector on the island.
“A lot of the added value that is developing in the 21st century is not only in agriculture or the manufacturing of physical products, but also in the creation of value in products that are virtual or mostly virtual such as technology and software, digital content, and the expertise and the design of the processes, all of which cannot be put in a box and exported,” Borschow said. “We proposed that for Puerto Rico to progress it has to participate in that new economy of exporting innovation.”
Despite the island’s fiscal, economic and social issues, the FPR head expressed optimism that the work done by nonprofits in conjunction with the government will lead to a brighter future.
“By the end of this decade, we should see Puerto Rico turning into the Singapore of the region, economically speaking,” he said.