Puerto Rico/Caribbean Development Initiative

Planning students from MIT and the University of Puerto Rico film their interview of Caimito resident Camilo Porrata as he shows them examples of contamination of the Piedras River. Photo by Aly Bryson.

In 2011, CoLab began a research and teaching project focused on developing creative solutions to address long-standing socioeconomic problems in Puerto Rico. Carried out in collaboration with the MIT Political Science Department with the support of the Foundation for Puerto Rico in San Juan, the project aims to address a variety of issues that affect the island by supporting civic and academic efforts to boost growth through a series of research and planning interventions. Issues to be addressed through the project include Puerto Rico’s extensive poverty, very low labor force participation rates, low growth in productive sectors, and unsustainable land-use practices. For more information on the MIT initiative, visit the project website.

As a first step in developing the vision and focus of CoLab’s involvement in Puerto Rico, a practicum course was offered in the Fall 2011 semester on watershed management and community development. Two parallel classes were held in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, taught by Professor Diane Davis, and the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Planning, taught by Professor Criseida Navarro. Students worked in mixed UPR-MIT teams to do field work in communities along the Piedras River watershed and develop recommendations for the course client, the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico. Students presented their results to an audience with representatives from communities along the watershed, governmental agencies, environmental organizations, and universities in early February 2012. These results are written up in a final report.

For more information on the first Practicum course, visit the Future of the Piedras River Project website. The site was developed by graduate students in urban planning from MIT and the University of Puerto Rico between September 2011 and February 2012. It includes an Interactive map of the Piedras River that documents community member profiles and narratives along the watershed.

During the 2012-13 academic year, CoLab will work with Professors Xav Briggs and Criseida Navarro to hold another Practicum course, this time focused on regional economic development in the Castañer region of Puerto Rico. Students from MIT and UPR will work with a variety of regional actors, including coffee farmers and community leaders, to develop policy and planning recommendations for project partners in Puerto Rico.

Faculty Affiliate: 

Xav Briggs


Aly Bryson