Foundation Refocuses on Puerto Rico’s Recovery

by Rebecca Linke, MIT Sloan on October 5, 2017 · 0 comments

in Alumni Life, Management, Public Service

When Jon Borschow ’72 founded the Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR) in 2011, he wanted to help Puerto Rico reach its social and economic potential. A large part of this involved promoting an economy driven by tourism and business travel, supporting innovation, and drawing talent to the island. That focus changed abruptly when Hurricane Maria struck the island in September.

Homes in Puerto Rico lay in ruins after Hurricane Maria hit the island.

Homes in Puerto Rico lay in ruins after Hurricane Maria hit the island.

The nonprofit organization had started initiatives to meet its goals. FPR led a cohort of the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), seeking to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship in Puerto Rico. That work resulted in the improvement and development of startup accelerator programs like Parallel 18 and Guayacan Venture Accelerator.

“REAP has seen considerable success in bringing different sectors of the economy into alignment of our vision of economic development in Puerto Rico,” Borschow said.

But since the country was ravaged by Hurricane Maria Sept. 20, the Foundation for Puerto Rico’s purpose changed overnight. “The foundation has completely diverted all efforts to relief, assistance, and trying to coordinate, communicate, and liaise between U.S.-based organizations that are trying to help and Puerto Rico,” Borschow said.

The foundation has also opened its doors of its Colaboratorio, a shared workspace, to other organizations that are working towards the same goal of helping Puerto Rico. Since the U.S. territory is still almost entirely without power, the Foundation for Puerto Rico’s office offers a variety of charities and other relief efforts a space that has power, lights, and internet access.

“The amazing thing is that Puerto Ricans are an incredibly resilient and positive people,” said Alex Borschow ’06, MBA ’14, Jon Borschow’s son. “They are going out in brigades to clear streets, help their neighbors, and feed and shelter each other.”

As Puerto Rico starts the process of rebuilding, Jon Borschow said he wants to be ensure the island is prepared for future natural disasters. “Our purpose right now is to get Puerto Rico back on its feet,” he said.

Read the full MIT Sloan Newsroom post for recommendations on how to help.

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