Magic Cabinet and PolicyLink Invest $3.6 Million to Advance Community-Led Solutions in Puerto Rico

Magic Cabinet and PolicyLink have announced a $3.6 million investment and partnership to support community-led solutions in Puerto Rico. The funding partnership will support a Municipal Innovation Lab, a collaborative cohort of nonprofits working to strengthen local governance, champion sustainable community revitalization, and ensure transparency and accountability. The funding — provided over four years to three nonprofit organizations — will work to deepen investment in Puerto Rico communities and support ongoing systems-change work.

The partnership represents support for impactful work that’s underway in Puerto Rico under the leadership of local organizations. For the past several years, the work of nonprofits La Liga de Ciudades de Puerto Rico, Sembrando Sentido, and Centro para la Reconstrucción del Hábitat in Puerto Rico has been ongoing, focusing on increasing participation in local governance, democratizing information, and transforming the housing system. Magic Cabinet and PolicyLink now aim to help steward the next chapter of philanthropic partnership, focusing on community-driven and community-led solutions.

Photo Credit: La Liga de Ciudades de Puerto Rico, Sembrando Sentido, and Centro para la Reconstrucción del Hábitat.
The Genesis of Our Partnership

The catalyst for Magic Cabinet’s involvement follows a roundtable discussion during the Biden-Harris Administration’s Puerto Rico Economic Dialogue, held in late 2022. This gathering, co-organized by PolicyLink, featured Administration officials, philanthropic figures, local government representatives, and community leaders. The discussion underscored the vital role grassroots community organizations play in expediting the fair allocation of federal and philanthropic funding. The overarching goal of the dialogue and continuing initiative is to improve equity by shifting information, decision-making, and financial resources to people who are most impacted by high economic inequality, poverty, and vulnerability to disastrous climate change consequences across the archipelago and promote sustainability through the long-term reconstruction efforts on the island.

As a philanthropic foundation committed to catalyzing social transformation, we saw an opportunity to develop a deeper partnership with PolicyLink, a recognized leader in advancing equity and justice, to mobilize philanthropic resources to support community-driven change strategies in Puerto Rico. Magic Cabinet was able to unlock an additional $1 million through an incentive to match additional investments from the existing network of philanthropic partners, including Filantropía PR and Fundación Segarra Boerman. These funds will deepen a collective investment in Puerto Rico communities and support ongoing systems-change work. 

Architecting Systemic Change Together

Magic Cabinet’s role in this partnership centers on facilitating a paradigm shift in philanthropy. The accelerator grants, evenly distributed to the three anchor nonprofit organizations, will lay the foundation for community-driven discourse and participatory grant methodologies. Through this innovative approach, Puerto Rican nonprofits can design strategies that address their unique contexts, catalyzing systemic change from within.

Christina Engel

“Our commitment extends beyond financial support as we collaborate closely with all the Puerto Rico partners to promote equitable grantmaking. We are excited to bring our expertise to the partnership and share our community-led approaches to philanthropy through our ‘Cohort model’ framework,” said Christina Engel, CEO of Magic Cabinet. “We believe this model will help guide the creation of community-centric solutions, ensuring long-lasting impact.”

PolicyLink has embarked on a long-term engagement in the archipelago of Puerto Rico. The work will live at the intersections of their Winning on Equity in Places, Racial Equity Governing Agenda, and Infrastructure Equity portfolios. The work is anchored in a community-led reckoning, repair, and transformation framework that leverages this unique moment of federal resources to advance equitable investment in Puerto Rico. PolicyLink aims to advance collaborative governance, strengthen transparency and accountability, support systems change (in the sectors of housing, land use, equitable recovery, infrastructure, and climate), and do this in a way that strengthens an ecosystem of community-based partners on the island. Their work is centered on supporting shifts in policy and practice that advance transparency, accountability, and equity in the deployment of federal and local resources.

“La Liga, Sembrando Sentido, and Centro para la Reconstrucción del Hábitat are leading powerful work advancing new models for Puerto Rico’s equitable redevelopment and we are proud to join them in this next phase,” said Jerry Maldonado, Vice President of Programs at PolicyLink. “Our goal is to help bring national attention and resources to not only the challenges being faced in the archipelago but also the innovative solutions being developed and led by these incredible community-based groups. Our tagline at PolicyLink is Lifting up What Works, which is exactly what we are doing in this partnership with Magic Cabinet and our Ecosystem partners in Puerto Rico.”

Looking to the Future

As we move forward, we are excited to embark on a multi-year funding and community-building partnership with PolicyLink in Puerto Rico. Philanthropy can be a powerful force for change, and our journey in Puerto Rico reaffirms our commitment to reimagining how philanthropy can make a lasting impact within communities. Together with PolicyLink, we aim to build upon existing work in Puerto Rico and challenge philanthropy’s role in co-creating a future fostered by the community.

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