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An action-tank of innovation for Puerto Rico’s future

Rooted in our legacy of driving development strategies at scale through collaboration, the Center for Strategic Innovation seeks to achieve transformative change in Puerto Rico through research and cross-sector partnerships. As part of our Fast Forward Puerto Rico series, we invited Alexandra Lúgaro, executive director of the Center, to discuss her vision and plans for this initiative. Alexandra brings an extraordinary set of assets to FPR along with her new ideas, courage and passion for addressing our island’s challenges and opportunities, both in business and public service.

The Center for Strategic Innovation seeks to establish itself as a thought leader in Puerto Rico. Rather than becoming another think-tank, Alexandra aims to become an action-tank, where ideas, research and data will push forward an action plan in collaboration with different sectors. The Center will focus on four main areas: education, access to technology, climate and sustainable economic development.

The amount of funding allocated to Puerto Rico is ideal to change the island in a transformative way, impacting communities across the island and serving as a model for neighboring countries. However, we must first understand the needs of the individuals to apply cohesive strategies. For Alexandra, the Center will be “a brain for FPR, but also a guide on how funding should be used.”

When preparing for future disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, experts advise us to assemble a backpack with the necessary equipment to deal with the emergency. Alexandra assimilates the Center as “Puerto Rico’s backpack for the future”, to give communities the tools to make better decisions to confront the problems of the modern world.

The Center has three main priorities for the year: launching a Leadership Academy, convening a Council for Innovation, and developing a “brain trust” for ideation. After meeting with more than 30 community leaders, small business owners, policy makers and NGOs, the team was able to craft a unique curriculum, in which participants will learn more about problem solving strategies, critical and design thinking, journalism, entrepreneurship and more. The hybrid curriculum is taught through a project-based learning approach, where each member will also have a mentor for each step. For the first two years, the 12 municipalities with the highest poverty rate and lowest academic numbers will have access to this curriculum. “In order to change, impact and transform, we have to decentralize from the metropolitan area,” indicated Alexandra.

Through the Council for Innovation, multiple sectors will be able to sit on the same table and exchange ideas to avoid duplicating efforts. With this method, the government, private sector and experts will be able to collaborate on a team-based approach. This will help to identify an agenda of priorities and work towards innovative public policy. Furthermore, different groups will be part of a brain trust for ideation. These people will provide “radical solutions to problems we haven’t been able to solve in the past years”, stated Alexandra.

In order to measure success, the participants will be evaluated on their knowledge before and after taking the classes. However, “you don’t measure innovation the same you measure a business”, said Alexandra who talked about a three-part formula for these projects: it must solve a big problem, with a radical solution and it must be viable to implement the idea.

The Center aims to make an island-wide impact, while improving research, analytical and critical thinking skills in younger generations and proving access to quality education and technology.

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