"NGO’S SECTOR MUST INTEGRATE THEMSELVES IN ORDER TO SERVE MORE PEOPLE AND BE ABLE TO GET THE RESOURCES NEEDED TO FULFILL THEIR MISSIONS."- NERMA ALBERTORIO BARNÉS, CO-FOUNDER CENTER FOR ENTREPRENEURS
Puerto Rico, the unincorporated US territory, has been the focus of the public eye due to a very controversial bankruptcy, escalating debt, a category 5 hurricane, and one of the lowest economies in the United States. However, Puerto Rico has a lot to offer, and much work needs to be done before we can make crucial decisions about our future.
If we get to discuss the reasons why we are in this situation, we would need a whole dissertation to get to the root of how we got here. For decades, Puerto Rico relied on tax incentives as a strategy for growth within the manufacturing industry. When those companies left, the government tried to attract wealthy people to move to Puerto Rico under another tax incentive law to boost the island’s economy. With this, Puerto Rico has become a tax haven for very wealthy US Citizens and Crypto Investors. At the end of the day, we have not been able to maintain a sustainable economic growth strategy through the years. All these changes have provoked a lot of discussions between sectors that support the economic development of the island. In top or that, it is important to address that we are a US Territory, and we are therefore US Citizens. A lot of ours NGO’S have 501C3 exemption. Nevertheless, when we are looking for funding, there are a lot of US based foundation that don’t recognize Puerto Rico as part of the US, and we are no able to diversify our funding strategies. So being an NGO in Puerto Rico is very challenging.
At the verge of all this there is a group of fully committed Puerto Ricans and nonprofit organizations that are making the grassroots, deep, transformational work that needs to be done to thrive again as a nation. At this point, the third sector must agree on the socioeconomic agenda that we want for Puerto Rico. It must come from the third sector, since the government institutions have proven that even though they have good intentions, it is not enough, and we cannot be changing agendas every four years if we want to see a real shift in poverty levels.
For the past ten years, a lot of organizations have been working together supporting entrepreneurs, and people that want to become entrepreneurs to adapt to new market conditions, find opportunities and to create value. This is possible because they are working in collaboration and that allows them to escalate efforts. This is how we should be moving forward. The NGO’s sector must integrate themselves in order to serve more people and be able to get the resources needed to fulfill their missions. It is a matter
being able to transform Puerto Rico to an entrepreneurial island so that Puerto Rican citizens can improve their quality of life. This means having access to equitable education, healthcare, and decent work.
What do we need?
Intentional philanthropy that can think of Puerto Rico as a social investment platform and be on lookout for the organizations thar are doing the work. US based Foundations need a deeper awareness of the situation of Puerto Rico, the work that has been done, and the one that still needs to happen. There are so many Foundations that support the type of work that we are doing, but when we want to apply, Puerto Rico does not exist as an option. We are invisible to most of them.
Puerto Rico is a US Territory with US citizens that has the right to the same support system as the US mainland. Is important to highlight that the third sector is adding and creating value with their programs and services, is worth to look at the work taking place on this island in the Caribbean and be part of the profound transformation that is happening here.
**The author is the Co-Manager Director of Project Makers, a social impact program and fund and Founder of Centro para Emprendedores.
CENTER FOR ENTREPRENEURS