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Imaginación Post-María: Designing Justice After Disaster

We dream of a Puerto Rico recovery designed by Puerto Ricans and we have come together to catalyze that desired future for our island.

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Viewing Imaginación Post-María as a common journey of what communities have undergone since the passing of Hurricane María - from the fear that reigned in the wake of the disaster to the unimaginably courageous growth that followed - we decided to put our model to the test by inviting our pilot communities to draw over and question our 6-step model. Our hope was decipher if our graphic and textual renditions resonated with their own personal stories and visions for the future.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

When Hurricane María made landfall, self-organized relief efforts became of life-saving urgency across the island as a failed governmental response became evermore evident. Liberated, community-led enclaves became a direct reflection of how self-sustainability, daring creativity and unshakable solidarity can counter the daunting reality of having been left in the dark. Eleven months after María and still faced with crippling austerity measures, communities are now needing to tackle a different kind of priority: how do they transform these inspiring, short-term relief efforts into a long-term, sustainable recovery that can better prepare them for the future perils of climate change? Through IPM, La Maraña leverages this much-needed priority by introducing participatory design and community planning methodologies that help identify collective talents, needs and dreams and by offering micro-finance and capacity-building tools for communities to further sustain long-term organizing goals.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

On September 21 2017, our already economically depressed island was struck by category-5 María. Thus further mounting onto the dire statistics that shape our social and political reality: an un-payable 74 billion dollar debt, 3-times national poverty rate, longest blackout in modern US history, 400+ schools closed, over 335k denied FEMA applicants and skyrocketing diaspora. It is amidst and in reaction to this bleak landscape that we dared to imagine a community-driven alternative to our future.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

Imaginación Post-María offers an unprecedented opportunity to envision independent enclaves of community-based recovery as an interconnected roadmap that will offer replicable, long-term and systemic solutions to our current climate crisis and bleak social, economic and political panorama. It is there where we will discover alternative development models, innovative governance structures, regenerative economy practices and new narratives for “justice”.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

For every concrete difference, we ensure the capacity-building necessary for communities to continue to drive change beyond IPM support. Infrastructure projects go hand-in-hand with talent sharing between environmental design experts and local construction workers, mapping processes integrate and train neighbors every step of the way, and the community-driven master plan and grant offer a shared vision and economic leverage that will guide and ignite each community's long-term just recovery.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

We have been gathering beneficiary feedback since the birth of IPM. In the process of supporting communities to define their terms for a just recovery the priority has been involving them every step of the way and offering them creative liberty to adapt the model. Composed of hand-made, Puerto Rican inspired icons, each phase of IPM is meant to offer a graphic story of our just recovery - ravished landscapes (phase 1) to colorful communities (p6). Hence, we invited communities to draw their own journey. The results were a kaleidoscope of awe-inspiring drawings, enticing stories and insightful feedback. Here is a bit of what we are learning: Our language is still too technical, i.e. assets vs. talents. P1 does not capture the trauma communities went through in a humanized manner. P2 proposes 1 community collective. Comerío created 7 collectives, each with its own recovery focus. We are collaging/digitalizing community drawings so they can become active composers of the model.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

Core Team La Maraña (lead organization) is responsible for creating, administering and implementing IPM with all three pilot communities and our organizational partners. Defend Puerto Rico (principal partner organization) is responsible for the storytelling, multimedia and audiovisual components of IPM. Community Partners We are collaborating with community-based organizations and hiring community coordinators to be the on-the-ground liaisons and leaders of IPM in their communities.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

Our hope is for BridgeBuilder funds to support Phase 5 (Launch Elected Project) and Phase 6 (Envision Future) of IPM, which entails offering a grant in each community for them to bring their community plan to life by voting for and launching their very own social impact project. Moreover, BridgeBuilder funds could supplement the creation of the IPM open-source toolkit and mid-length documentary so as to inspire and spark the model’s future scalability across the island.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

- How can we improve our storytelling to engage more international allies and garner further support for recovery efforts in Puerto Rico? - What examples are there for scaling or replicating models in a just and humane way (without losing the beauty of small-scale, grassroots organizing)? We are interested in scalability models that shift from “mile wide inch deep” movements to “inch wide mile deep” movements (“Emergent Strategy”, Adrienne Marie Brown) and would love to figure out ways to make that a part of our project. - What examples are there that can support us with thinking about how to measure our data in both quantitative and qualitative ways? We know this would strengthen our project and want to learn more on how to make it happen. - We would also love to simply get general feedback on our application!!!

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

From the moment we created Imaginación Post-María, we have passed it along to over a dozen experts in disaster recovery and directly to communities in hopes of always being open to adaptation, growth and evolution. The multi-media and open format of this Challenge has made us realize the importance of community participation in our audiovisual strategies. Similarly to our participatory rebuilding and mapping efforts, our team is creating participatory storytelling workshops so that communities can become active directors of the recovery narratives that we hope to amplify. Additionally, in the User Experience Map exercise neighbors shared that our mapping practices felt too abstract and distant. Together we have found solutions. We have not only begun training community leaders in Adobe Illustrator and GIS so as to channel capacity building (Mapping Gide attached), but have also decided to integrate less technical tools to mapping exercises - such as community drawing journeys.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

- After re-visiting the final version of the User Experience Map with the communities, we adapted the narrative more closely to their experience. - We re-edited the short videos to make them accesible in Spanish (we hope to use them in fortifying our social media outlets and storytelling efforts) - We added more GIFs with the individual user experience maps created by community members. - In response to a comment by our community coach (Luz Alba Gallo), we restructured our the Imaginación Post-María proposal (see attached) to add images of it along our Challenge Contribution. - We added an attachment with the new Mapping Guide we are beginning to use to train community members in GIS and Adobe Illustrator, so they can edit their own community maps!

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Faced with the widespread devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and María, we have been dedicated to leveraging community-driven development as a pathway to Puerto Rico’s just recovery. Driven by our organization’s vision of a Puerto Rico where every community has the opportunity to take charge of their own future and motivated by our country's deep need for locally-embedded, long-term recovery efforts, we have designed a participatory community recovery model, titled Imaginación Post-María, that offers citizens direct power to imagine, plan and build the changes they desire in their communities. Combining participatory planning and design with the power of micro-finance and capacity-building, Imaginación Post-María enables community members to collaboratively design a community-driven master plan and implement a commonly elected social impact project in their community, so as to acquire the skills and tools necessary to believe in their innate capacity to bring forth change. As part of our large-scale vision we are currently collaborating with three diverse communities across the island, specifically in urban, central, and eastern landscapes, as a way to establish distinct case studies and measure the replicability of the Imaginación Post-María participatory recovery model. Working hand-in-hand with these three community partners, we hope to collectively pave a path to facilitate bottom-up action and catalyze local solutions to our long-term, just recovery. Our ultimate goal is to transform our current pilot implementation into educational, open-source deliverables that can spark future bottom-up recovery efforts. Specifically, we will be creating an Imaginación Post-María Toolkit that will outline our methodological approach and best practices in each community and a Medium-Length Documentary produced in collaboration with the multimedia non-profit Defend Puerto Rico that will highlight the most powerful stories of this empowering recovery journey.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The principal beneficiaries of Imaginación Post María will be the members of the three communities we are collaborating with in the current pilot phase: - La Vuelta del Dos and Los Guaretos is a colorful and quaint neighborhood nestled in the mountainous central municipality of Comerío (approx. 100 families) - San Antón is a historically black and industrial community in the northern municipality of Carolina (approx. 13,000 families) - The rural community of Mariana is in the eastern municipality of Humacao, one of the hardest hit regions by the hurricane (approx. 3,000 people) Moreover, due to the replicable nature of our participatory community recovery model, we expect to benefit communities across Puerto Rico that hope to learn from and/or adopt the findings and methodologies of our approach.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

The sluggish and inhumane governmental response that marked the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and María, has unexpectedly sparked a never-before seen activation of communities across the island. Having to navigate innovative ways of survival, neighbors have come together to imagine and build parallel recovery efforts on a local scale - setting up solar power hubs, leading community-led kitchens, and strategizing the re-activation of abandoned properties. Yet, despite this historical juncture of grassroots empowerment, these individual, community-scale efforts are not being presented as a collective movement. As a woman-led participatory design organization with years of on-the-ground work in Puerto Rico, La Maraña has an unprecedented opportunity to connect these bottom-up recovery effort in hopes of envisioning a replicable, community-driven development model that can shape the future of our island by offering concrete solutions to our current climate crisis.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

La Maraña is a woman-led, participatory design and planning non-profit that promotes the inclusion of Puerto Rican voices in the creation of our cities and communities. Since its foundation in 2014, La Maraña has been one of the strongest advocates on the island for thinking of urbanism and rebuilding efforts as platforms to strengthen community-led, bottom-up and grassroots action. Check out our website ( and our instagram (@la_marana_pr) to learn more about our vision!

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

When our team of women came together after the hurricanes - each of us facing a whirlwind of questions and hurt - we sat down to imagine how our collective skills can channel the sense of justice we all desired for ourselves and our home. Inspired by the unimaginably encouraging community-led efforts that were mushrooming across the island, we dared to put our fears aside and transform our trauma into a space of collective healing and growth. That was the day Imaginación Post María was born.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace is threatened by a sweeping post-hurricane death count coupled with a government that continues to deny these numbers. Official government statistics presented a 64 death toll, but a Harvard-led study published last week revealed an astounding 73-fold increase, with an estimated 4,700 deaths correlated to the aftermath of Hurricane María. Prosperity across the island has plummeted as a centralization of power and lack of accessibility to funds not only trumped the arrival of much needed services in the wake of the hurricane, but has set forth long-term austerity measures that have radically slashed key educational, health and overall public services. Planet has been impacted by climate change, which specifically in the Caribbean has intensified natural disasters. Hurricane María is known as tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record and the deadliest storm of the 2017 tropical cyclone season.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

La Maraña’s participatory design and planning methodologies go hand-in-hand with open collaborations that foster non-hierarchical knowledge exchanges. In Comerío, the arts organization Coco de Oro (@coco_de_oro) is leading a youth-led movement of creative recovery. In Carolina, the Art for Change fellows Las Nietas de Nonó are merging community organizing with their artistic practice. In Humacao, the 30-year community organization ARECMA promptly established a communal kitchen and off-grid solar hub after the hurricane. Community partners are engaged to question their surroundings, imagine and propose new avenues for change and turn those ideas into actions. Hence we will all be challenging and testing the Imaginación Post-María recovery model in this pilot phase in hopes of jointly creating our own collective vision. Finally, we are collaborating with the multi-media organization Defend Puerto Rico (@defendpr) to dovetail La Maraña's design skills with an audio-visual component.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

La Vuelta del Dos and Los Guaretos: a strong artistic and youth-led recovery movement offers a unique platform for quick prototyping and tangible, creative solutions. San Antón: Fierce group of intergenerational women advocating to re-open their community’s abandoned school while channeling local talent - such as metal workers and ex-school directors. Mariana: This community's fast-thinking ingenuity and strong social fabric has made it one of the most renown recovery efforts on the island.

Geographic Focus

Imaginación Post-María geographically focuses on Puerto Rico.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Imaginación Post María will run until May of 2019 (total of 22 months). Phases 1-6 of the Imaginación Post María community participatory recovery model are being implemented until December of 2018. Later, the collaborative Post-Project Phase will run until May of 2019 where we hope to transform our current pilot implementation into educational, open-source deliverables that can catapult future bottom-up recovery efforts on the island. (See Full Project Proposal attached for detailed timeline).

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


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