March 7, 2019 Print

An award-winning film is helping Atlas Network partner Centro para Renovación Económica, Crecimiento y Excelencia (CRECE) change the discussion about poverty in Puerto Rico. Poverty, Inc., a film by Acton Institute’s Michael Matheson Miller and featuring international development expert William Easterly, illustrates how global poverty alleviation is best addressed by local entrepreneurship, rather than massive amounts of foreign aid. CRECE is using the film to bring this message to the commonwealth, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.  

“Puerto Rico CRECE uses the documentary Poverty, Inc. as a tool to initiate an open dialogue on poverty and its solutions,” says Tere Nolla, executive director at CRECE. “The documentary presents real-life stories that are relatable, although not identical, to many of Puerto Rico’s challenges as we recover from Hurricane Maria. The initiative has influenced the dialogue on poverty by asking the audience to focus on solutions. It challenges people to ask how to minimize dependence, and what are the social and economic benefits of entrepreneurship.”

The aftermath of Hurricane Maria exposed troubling questions about infrastructure, debt, and government relief efforts. The storm left Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million people without electricity or water, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, and left people struggling to survive. Prior to Maria 40 percent of families relied on nutritional assistance. Afterward, this percentage jumped to 60. As a result of this increased reliance on government programs, CRECE decided to develop a campaign and influence recovery efforts with an emphasis on self-reliance rather than dependence on government services.  

CRECE hosts film screenings and has published two op-eds in Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper, El Nuevo Día, which reaches roughly 180,000 people. As a result, CRECE is building relationships with two of the largest grant-giving organizations on the island—MCS Foundation and Fundacion Banco Popular—and developing plans for further collaboration.

CRECE received a grant from Atlas Network in support of this project.