How is Hispanic Federation Helping? 

To encourage innovative and visionary post-Hurricane María recovery work, Hispanic Federation joined our partner Fundación Banco Popular in funding collaborative, multi-sector teams led by Puerto Rican nonprofit organizations. The teams competed for a total of $1,400,000 in funding and the results were announced in August 2019.

Who Won the Big Ideas Challenge?

Caras con Causa y El Corredor del Yaguazo, Inc. won the first prize in the Fundación Banco Popular and Hispanic Federation Puerto Rico Big Ideas Challenge.


Meet the top 3 winners!


What Was The Process?

In October 2018, three finalists were announced and each received $150,000 to pilot their ideas over six months, at which point they were re-evaluated for final prizes. The first-place team would win up to $600,000, second-place up to $450,000, and third-place up to $350,000. These finalists would also receive customized mentoring and support for two years from local and global experts as they implement their ideas. An additional honorable mention prize of $100,000 was granted to one team for potential impact, and the five remaining semifinalists each received $25,000 in seed money.


First Place-Caras con Causa (Cataño, Guaynabo) – Caras con Causa developed a Community Laboratory (LabComm) dedicated to environmental sciences as part of a wider strategy of sustainable community development that tackles air, soil, and water pollution as well as frequent flooding in areas of Cataño and Guaynabo. Among LabComm’s main objectives is to improve the academic opportunities available to local youth at a neighboring nature reserve called Ciénaga Las Cucharillas. The lab also aims to serve as an investigative base for visiting scientists wishing to perform research at the Ciénaga Las Cucharillas Nature Reserve. LabComm will serve as a potential source of employment and revenue by allowing the nonprofit Caras to apply for research grants from entities such as the National Science Foundation without having to use an intermediary such as a university or college.

Second Place-Centro Microempresas y Tecnologías Agrícolas Sustentables CMTAS (Vieques, Guánica,Yauco) – CMTAS installed an anaerobic bio-digesters in three areas of Vieques, Guánica and Yauco that are not connected to the central sewage system. Anaerobic digestion converts waste to energy and serves as an environmentally sound solution to the pollution caused by the lack of connection to the public sewer. Bio-digesters also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, generate renewable energy, and help reduce contamination levels in areas with livestock. Their derivatives include organic fertilizers which can, in turn, be used in farming.

Third Place-Universidad Interamericana Recinto de Barranquitas – The alliance led by the Universidad Interamericana, Recinto de Barranquitas, developed the Center for Agriculture Security and Sustainability. The Center will be focused on transferring knowledge and supplying micropropagation materials for crops with commercial value. Micropropagation is advanced technology that produces large number of plants in a short time and within limited space. Local farmers will be provided with training as well as access and support from agro-industry key players in areas such as self-management, economic sustainability practices, agriculture in controlled environments, and the aggregate value of agricultural products. The project seeks to revitalize the agriculture industry in Puerto Rico’s interior mountain region with a modern focus on sustainability and entrepreneurship. In its pilot phase, it will work directly with 50 local farmers.


Unidos por Utuado – Unidos por Utuado created a community cooperative to purchase and operate three abandoned hydroelectric plants. These plants have the capacity to power the municipalities of Utuado, Jayuya and Adjuntas with enough power generation left over to sell excess supply to neighboring municipalities. The revenues achieved could potentially provide a monthly return to cooperative members.


APRODEC – This organization developed the Eco-Tourism Center of the East through the rehabilitation of a set of abandoned structures in the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. The goal is for the Center to be a sustainable community development project that generates economic development in the area by offering cultural, ecologic, and scientific tourism experiences. By the end of the pilot phase, the Center will have an operating hostel, cafeteria, storefront and training spaces. Long term goals include a neuroscience laboratory and an archaeological museum with adequate storage space for historic artifacts. The entire building will be redesigned as fully self-sustainable.

Centro del Estudiante y Maestro Investigador (CEMI) – CEMI developed a Multi Sector Agribusiness Circuit to integrate the Puerto Rico Department of Education with farmers, distributors, and entities involved in land management to establish points of sale for products farmed and harvested by students and other community sectors. Long-term goals include guaranteeing the supply of fresh local produce for local consumption, training citizens with the skills needed to preserve and grow food in an emergency, and motivating youth to work the land with the goal of establishing small businesses to earn a living.

Fundación Ismael Rivera – La Fundación promotes local tourism and sustainable entrepreneurship through the development of community tourism initiatives in six diverse areas in the municipalities of San Juan, Ponce, Las Piedras, Sabana Grande, Morovis, and Vieques. Tourism is one of Puerto Rico’s main economic drivers. The goal is to create local economic opportunities by incentivizing communities to generate sustainable tourism practices that preserve and promote their environmental and sociocultural heritage. This idea bets on the creation and commercialization of a set of tourism offers made up of experiences and assets designed through citizen participation.

Puerto Rico Historic Building Drawing Society – “Human Streets, Community Resilience” is a project that uses tactical urbanism strategies to rehabilitate traditional transportation spaces (streets and sidewalks) for the use of pedestrians, cyclists, and people in wheelchairs. The project seeks to minimize the risk and mortality rate for those who regularly get around without a personal vehicle, at the same time that it creates sustainable transportation projects.

Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Rio Piedras – La Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras, supports the Berwind Middle School’s process to become a specialized Urban Agroecological School. The goal is to make the school’s specialization viable in phases by promoting collaboration between the school and the community and establishing a network of alliances that build community awareness around topics such as food sovereignty, entrepreneurship, cooperatives, and a collectively managed agro-ecologic production. In the long term, the project seeks to develop a school-centered, agro-ecological curriculum that promotes the active participation of citizens in sustainable nutrition practices and includes students in the decision-making process of transforming the failed local food model.