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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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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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