November 15, 2017; New York Times
This week, three major US foundations—Rockefeller, Open Society, and Ford—pledged five million dollars to a pooled fund called Fondo Adelante to help Puerto Rico guide a sustainable and equitable recovery effort. Miguel Soto-Class, founder and president of the local think tank Center for a New Economy and co-chair of a commission to lead the effort, says, “We have to reimagine how we’re going to rebuild.”
The new effort comprises three initiatives. The aforementioned commission is the “Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission,” which builds on what we’ve learned from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. The effort will also provide on-the-ground capacity building to Puerto Rican foundations and NGOs through the island-based Network of Puerto Rican Foundations (La Red de Fundaciones de Puerto Rico). The third initiative is an assessment of the Hurricane Maria damage.
The goal is to “maximize federal recovery funds” to ensure the island’s future resilience. NPQ readers may recall that community groups have been calling for a just and sustainable economy, counter to current recovery norms, which focus on building to pre-crisis quality. Though it has taken two months to mobilize (we know it takes time to sense make and move money), we are optimistic to see a strategic investment and local leadership. In addition to the five million, the foundations also pledge their joint expertise and expect to commit more money after this first phase.
Past recovery efforts in the US have demonstrated that foundations have a crucial role to play in strengthening the capacity of nonprofits to respond in times of crisis, when we can help shape the re/emergent institutions. According to the Ford Foundation, “This includes the development of aligned agenda setting, policy dialogue, and grantmaking strategies designed to advance equity, inclusion and resilience.”
The commission—which will have approximately 25 members—is charged with developing a report with “local communities, NGOs, philanthropies, the private sector, governments, academia, members of the Puerto Rican diaspora, and others,” to be released March 2018, that “will identify concrete projects and initiatives to make the best use of federal relief and recovery funds and better prepare the island for future challenges.”
According to an Associated Press article in the New York Times, “Soto-Class said it is important that the recommendations come from a neutral platform and not from local or federal government officials.”—Cyndi Suarez