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Empowering Puerto Rican Communities through Transdisciplinary Collaboration for Resilience

The communities of Puerto Rico face significant vulnerabilities to climate change due to a series of compounding crises and extreme weather events. To address these challenges, a collaborative transdisciplinary effort is essential. This case study presents an empirical examination of an online collaboration between a group of academics and a Puerto Rican non-governmental organization, Caras con Causa. The collaboration focused on a National Science Foundation Project, The INFEWS-ER, aiming to enhance the resilience of Puerto Rican food, energy, and water systems. See the full paper here!

Figure 1. Process flow diagram of the steps towards the outcomes for the cohort (in purple) and the NGO specifically (in orange), incorporating the eight identified themes with placement at their most pertinent parts in the process.

Role: Lead Researcher

Project Goals:

1. To understand the dynamics and impacts of a transdisciplinary collaboration between academics and a non-governmental organization in the context of disaster-prone regions like Puerto Rico.

2. To identify key discussion themes and lessons learned from the collaboration.

Methodologies Utilized:

1. Participant Observation:

  • Engaged in active participant observation to gain firsthand insights into the collaborative process, interactions, and dynamics between academics and Caras con Causa.

  • Documented observations to inform the analysis.

2. Document Analysis:

  • Analyzed meeting notes and documents related to the collaborative efforts between the academics and Caras con Causa from October 2020 to April 2021.

  • Extracted key discussion themes and identified patterns and insights.

Key Discussion Themes:

1. Team Organization:

  • Explored how the collaborative team was structured, roles were assigned, and communication channels were established.

2. Collaboration with Caras con Causa:

  • Examined the nature and depth of interaction between the academic cohort and Caras con Causa, highlighting areas of synergy and potential challenges.

3. Deliverables:

  • Assessed the tangible outputs and outcomes of the collaboration, including reports, tools, or resources developed.

4. Team Contributions:

  • Analyzed the individual and collective contributions of team members towards achieving the project goals.

5. Context Understanding:

  • Explored how the academic cohort gained an understanding of the specific context, challenges, and opportunities in Puerto Rico.

6. Participation Outcomes:

  • Investigated the perceived impact and benefits of the collaboration on both the academic cohort and Caras con Causa.

7. Technology Setup:

  • Examined the technological infrastructure and tools utilized to facilitate the online collaboration.

8. Lessons Learned:

  • Identified key insights and takeaways from the collaboration, providing valuable knowledge for future transdisciplinary efforts.


This case study highlights the importance of collaborative transdisciplinary efforts in addressing the vulnerabilities of disaster-prone regions like Puerto Rico. The findings provide valuable insights into the dynamics of NGO-academic collaborations and offer practical lessons for enhancing institutional capacity in community resilience work.

I played a crucial role in observing and documenting the collaborative process, contributing to the understanding of how transdisciplinary approaches can empower non-governmental organizations to positively impact local food, energy, and water systems. This case study serves as a blueprint for similar collaborations in comparable transdisciplinary settings.

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