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Clark University and Centro receive a Knowledge Challenge grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Clark University and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro) received a Knowledge Challenge grant for $224,000 from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to study how local ecosystems drive entrepreneurial outcomes in Puerto Rico after recent disasters devastated the island. Professor Ramón Borges-Méndez, Principal Investigator for the project, asserted “this study intents to address systemic challenges that affect entrepreneurs’ ability to start and grow businesses as a key component of economic recovery in Puerto Rico.”

Specifically, this 20-month research project, will examine how ongoing collaborations between Puerto Rican and stateside community development corporations (CDCs), private and nonprofit financial intermediaries, investors, and housing professionals can lead to the creation of a predevelopment fund to support affordable housing and other local economic development projects. Centro will provide the ReBuildPR digital platform for enhancing the design and implementation of the fund and support the project’s effort to training Puerto Rican CDCs staff on housing project development (capacity building) and cooperation among these CDCs.

In Puerto Rico, there is a unique window of opportunity to capitalize on federal reconstruction funding to support the development of a more robust community development ecosystem and industry. To take advantage of such window of opportunity, seven CDCs in Puerto Rico will participate in and benefit from the project: (1) Programa de Educación Comunal de Entrega y Servicio (PECES-Humacao); (2) Corporación Desarrollo Económico, Vivienda y Salud (CODEVyS-Arecibo); (3) Corporación para el Desarrollo Económico de Trujillo Alto (CDETA-Trujillo); (4) Corporación para el Desarrollo Económico de Ceiba (CDEC-Ceiba; (5) Ponce Neighborhood Housing Services/NeighborWorks (PNHS-Ponce); (6) Instituto para el Desarrollo Socioeconómico y de Vivienda de Puerto Rico (INDESOVI-Mayagüez); (7) Lucha Contra el SIDA, Inc. (LUCHA-San Juan).

Samee Desai, director of Knowledge Creation and Research at the Kauffman Foundation, remarked the following about this project and the Knowledge Challenge initiative:

“The grants under this Knowledge Challenge are focused on inclusion and the importance of answering questions about the relationship between entrepreneurship, economic opportunity and mobility. We’re excited to learn from the research collaborations that are investigating this nexus, as well as to a more inclusive research pipeline that will continue to push us forward. As we all struggle with the very serious effects of COVID-19, we need research that informs our way forward, not to go back to how things were, but to achieve a more resilient and inclusive economic system that serves all of us in the future.”

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to increase opportunities that allow all people to learn, to take risks, and to own their success. The Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and uses its $2 billion in assets to collaboratively help people be self-sufficient, productive citizens. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org.

The research team will be led by Prof. Ramón Borges-Méndez, PhD, and Prof. Edwin Meléndez, PhD. Prof. Borges-Méndez is Associate Professor in the Community Development and Planning Program of the International Development, Community and Environment Department at Clark University. Founded in 1887, Clark University is a small, liberal arts research university renowned for excellence in scholarship and teaching, especially in geography, international relations, and international development and social change. The University Park Partnership (UPP) is a nationally recognized partnership that connects Clark with neighborhood residents and organizations, local churches, government officials, the business community, and Worcester public schools. Together, these groups are organized around the Main South Community Development Corporation (CDC). Community engagement has long been a priority at Clark and they seek to bring that expertise to support economic recovery in Puerto Rico.

During the last three years since Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the island, CENTRO has devoted substantial resources to celebrate six major conferences and symposia on the impact of the hurricanes on the island and its reconstruction. They have attracted over 5,000 people in Puerto Rico, Washington DC, Florida, and New York City. In addition, CENTRO has produced ten publications (for diverse audiences), which analyze the impact of the natural hazards and the economic crisis of the island, and organized a support and relief platform to maintain close ties between Puerto Rico and the diaspora community in the mainland. CENTRO has facilitated policy dialogue between public, private, non-profit stakeholders to support reconstruction efforts.