Sunday, October 21, 2018

Summit in Puerto Rico to focus on social entrepreneurship and post-hurricane reconstruction

By on October 4, 2018

SAN JUAN – Social entrepreneurship and the reconstruction of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria will be among the main topics of discussion at the two-day conference co-sponsored by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro) at Hunter College, CUNY, the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) Graduate School of Planning and the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (PRMA), among others.

The conference, “Empresarismo Social y Reconstrucción,” will be held Friday and Saturday.

The conference Empresarismo Social y Reconstrucción seeks to provide a forum for examining the potential impact of core federal programs supporting economic recovery after the catastrophic impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria. The main goal of the conference will be to “assess challenges and opportunities at this critical juncture of economic recovery and to examine how federal programs could be deployed and combined to support economic development, job creation and poverty alleviation,” according to the center.

Federal programs supporting economic recovery “will be examined through the lenses of stakeholders in the reconstruction process: nonprofit, faith-based, community development corporations and other civic organizations; credit unions and other community development financing institutions; the private sector, state and local government, academics, and others,” the center said.

Empresarismo Social y Reconstrucción begins Friday with six panels with leading experts in various fields. There will also be a special presentation in the morning by Dr. Edwin Melendez, who earned a doctorate in economics is a professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College and the director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Public relations consultant and columnist Sandra Rodríguez Cotto will take on the role of Master of Ceremonies.

The conference at the UPR begins with “Perspectives on Social Entrepreneurship and Reconstruction,” a panel composed by Efraín Maldonado, field office director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Rodrigo Masses, president of the PRMA; and Dennis G. González Ramos, undersecretary of the Department of Housing of Puerto Rico. Mildred Santiago Ortiz, executive director of the League of Cooperatives of Puerto Rico will serve as moderator. Lectures will also be offered on the Community Development Block Grant Program for Disaster Recovery(CDBG-DR); Capacity Development of the Civic Sector for Social Enterprise: Intermediaries and Philanthropy, and others.

From 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association headquarters in Guaynabo, there will be a program of workshops that aim to give members of the civic sector—everyone from small business owners to community groups—the opportunity to acquire the tools they need to further their projects via grants, private funding, data collection, etc.. There will also be a workshop for those interested in data mapping.

Saturday’s workshops are the first activities coordinated by the newly created PRMA Diaspora Committee, led by Archer Lebrón. The workshops seek to provide practical experience of federal programs and financing to finance social enterprises, housing, community centers and schools, agricultural cooperatives, how private companies could participate, etc.

“There is a wide range of federal funds for the reconstruction that Puerto Rico faces–from tax credits and bond issuances to loan guarantees, grants and other incentives,” the center’s Melendez said. “Unfortunately, Puerto Rico does not use them to the extent that it could. In fact, one of the most important challenges facing Puerto Rico is the diminished civic capacity that exists to take advantage of the opportunity offered by these funds. Our intention is to contribute to the training of people and entities in this area so they can make use of these resources that are available for the reconstruction of the island and the strengthening of the civic sector of Puerto Rico.”

The conference is free and open to the public. Those interested can register via Nation Builder.

To see a live-stream of the conference Friday, visit: https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/tv/. A live-stream of Saturday’s workshops can be seen by visiting http://centropr.nationbuilder.com/workshop_program and clicking on the Zoom (livestream) link next to the name of the session.

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