Puerto Rico Big Ideas Challenge Awards over $1.6 million to Community Projects

Caras con Causa and El Corredor del Yaguazo, Inc. win first prize in the Puerto Rico Big Ideas Challenge launched by Banco Popular Foundation and Hispanic Federation

SAN JUAN, PR. August, 19th 2019 Banco Popular Foundation and Hispanic Federation announced the winners of the Puerto Rico Big Ideas Challenge, the first social innovation competition on the island.

The winners of this competition, which awards over $1.6 million to community projects, included Caras con Causa -and El Corredor del Yaguazo, Inc., who walked away with the first prize of $450,000. Their project designs and operates a research center and community laboratory for environmental restoration that engages students from public and private schools, teachers, neighbors, college students, and scientists from the U.S. and Puerto Rico in  conservation efforts at the Ciénaga Las Cucharillas Natural Reserve and in the sustainable protection of the area by its citizens.

The second place was won by the collaborative project spearheaded by CMTAS Yauco, which was awarded $300,000. This project seeks to promote a genuine alternative for generating renewable energy and dealing with the pollution affecting communities that are not connected to traditional sewage systems. For this, they construct and employ bio-anaerobic digesters, which are basically hermetically sealed containers that produce clean energy and organic fertilizers.

The alliance led by Interamerican University of Puerto Rico Barranquitas Campos received the third prize of $200,000. The project seeks to strengthen the agricultural sector by, among other ways, developing essential seeds that are resistant to diseases and extreme climate conditions–such as plantain and banana seeds–in partnership with farmers from Puerto Rico's interior mountain region.

In December, 2018, these three finalists put their ideas to the test for a period of six months with the help of a seed prize of $150,000 per project. In addition, six semifinalist projects received $225,000 in honorable mentions.

“For Banco Popular Foundation, the legacy of this competition goes way beyond funding. It's about hope and action in the face of a long recovery. Puerto Rican communities have a wealth of knowledge about how to solve problems and overcome challenges. They have played and continue to play a leading role in this process. Al sectors of society have the responsibility of listening to them and believing in them,” said Richard L. Carrión, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Banco Popular Foundation.

On his part, José Calderón, President of Hispanic Federation, pointed to the importance of drawing attention to community work on the island.

“Since before the devastation brought on by Hurricane María, Hispanic Federation has been committed—along with the diaspora—to stating and advocating for the concerns of all Puerto Ricans. We think true transformation is rooted in the principles of equality, social justice, and civic engagement. It is through education, mobilization, advocacy, public policymaking, and strategic philanthropic investment that we have witnessed how much community organizations in Puerto Rico can teach us about the challenge of transforming a country.”

The Puerto Rico Big Ideas Challenge was launched last year as a challenge to Puerto Rican organizations to build alliances with different sectors and propose great ideas that will bring about social change, starting in the community.