Cuba Facing Forward: Balancing transition with development in the Caribbean's most-watched nation

Cuba Facing Forward: Balancing transition with development in the Caribbean’s most-watched nation was a one-day intensive executive-level symposium that brought together the best, up-to-the-minute, forward-looking thinkers on the changes taking place in Cuba-U.S. relations and how these changes might impact the built and natural environments in Cuba. Speakers included leading professionals, both Cuban and international, in architecture, urban planning, ecology, law, and real estate development. The conference took place on November 14th, 2015 in William James Hall at Harvard University, and was organized by the Affordable Housing Institute, a Boston-based 501c3 focused on housing policy and finance in emerging nations, in collaboration with students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

The primary goals of the conference were to:

  • Create an open, frank, and constructive discourse on Cuba’s future.
  • Explore the possible effects of transition on Cuba’s built and natural environment, and how to harness the forces of change to improve both.
  • Foster an ongoing multi-party conversation leading to guiding principles for economic, ecological, and cultural resilience in Cuba.

The main themes discussed were:

  • The nature of transition: that it is constant, and that moving forward implies paying attention to - and understanding - what was before us.
  • How optimism, confidence, and faith exist side by side with trepidation.
  • Change, its origins, and what it may bring.
  • Tendencies toward bilateralism, specifically Cuba and the U.S. at the exclusion of everyone else.
  • Multidisciplinary approaches, partnerships, and collaboration as a model for growth.
  • Cuban people as creative, talented, and innate problem solvers.
  • Opportunities for nascent civil society organizations and local governments.
  • Ensuring that those facing scarcity do not continue to be marginalized.
  • Challenging the status quo model of international development and investment.

Cuba Facing Forward was attended by over 80 people, including academics, entrepreneurs, developers, policymakers, students, and decision executives.