Puerto Rico’s Route 123 runs through the rural Castañer region, which is located in the central, mountainous part of southwestern Puerto Rico. In the context of high unemployment and poverty in the region, the nonprofit PathStone Development Corporation of Puerto Rico is leading a multi-faceted and collaborative development initiative with support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rural Innovation Fund. The project aims to combat regional economic decline by strengthening the Castañer coffee industry, developing small businesses, offering training, and constructing high-quality, affordable new housing. As part of this work, PathStone asked a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) to analyze the potential market, both on the island and abroad, for “niche” tourism, such as cultural, agro, and eco-tourism, and the implications of that potential for local economic development strategies
This document emerges from a process of collaborative inquiry between MIT CoLab and PalmasLab. As such, it is not an exhaustive guide that covers all research methods that can be utilized, nor is it a manual that provides step-by-step instruction for designing and carrying out a research project.
Rather, this document focuses on key tools and methods identified as relevant to PalmasLab as it continues to build capacity for research design and knowledge production in the periphery of Fortaleza. It synthesizes key concepts relevant to community-led action research, describes some of the possible methods relevant for systematic inquiry and knowledge production at PalmasLab, and presents techniques for successfully guiding the research process and facilitating research-related activities. As this resource guide results from an actual process of collaborative research at PalmasLab, the document complements the methodological considerations with the stories of how this particular research project emerged and evolved.