EPIC-Latin America & the Caribbean


When implementing an EPIC model, universities begin a discussion about the challenges academic institutions face when tackling global sustainability change issues through education and extension initiatives, the how to do it question. EPIC offers a framework of best practice for community engagement. We argue that the co-production of knowledge methods used by EPIC university-community partnerships has potential to target awareness, understanding and action to develop and implement improved strategies at the city and community level to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). EPIC strengthens the meaning of partnership for a common cause, learning and developing solutions together, bringing a transdisciplinary approach to the table and knowledge co-production that can contribute to adaptive capacity for SDGs and improve environmental challenges.

EPIC-N recently started a more directed expansion in LAC. In 2022 we began a regional assessment of universities and communities in LAC led by various institutions ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability  ICLEI, the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research IAI, and United Nations Global Adaptation Network UNEP-GAN .  These institutions are part of EPIC-LAC’s Steering Committee that support and advise EPIC-LAC implementation.

This scoping exercise let us plan and connect with future program partners. At the end of 2022 EPIC-N opened a call for seed funds and granted 10 university-community partnerships that are in the process of implementing the model with 14 respective total city partnerships.

The introduction of the EPIC model in LAC happens at the right timing when many universities are launching a set of innovative academic and experiential approaches in which university extension represents a fundamental support unit for problem-solving and addressing community demands and needs, thus strengthening community engagement. Our scoping exercise showed that universities were restructuring their mission and vision of community engagement beyond the typical outreach approach and moving to a more reciprocal and respectful synergistic relationship with impactful takeaways for students and communities. This is a major opportunity for EPIC to integrate itself into this process and facilitate implementation and meaningful collaboration that follows approaches of co-design and co-production of knowledge.  The new learning modalities and community focus presented by the EPIC model has the capacity to bring academic forces together, reflect on improved solutions and strategies, methodologies, experiences and strengthen critical and practical thinking among communities and local governments potentially advancing SDGs.

EPIC-LAC Programs

EPIC-LAC Steering Committee

Joel Rogers

EPIC-N Chair and CEO
Director – COWS – Faculty – University of Wisconsin-Madison

Joel Rogers is the Noam Chomsky Professor of Law, Political Science, Public Affairs, and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also directs COWS, the national high-road strategy center. Rogers has written widely on American politics and democratic theory. Along with many articles, his books include The Hidden Election, On Democracy, Right Turn, Metro Futures, Associations and Democracy, Works Councils, Working Capital, What Workers Want, Cites at Work, and American Society. Joel is an active citizen as well as academic. He has worked with and advised many politicians and social movement leaders, initiated and helped operate several progressive NGOs (including the New Party, Economic Analysis Research Network, Apollo Alliance, Emerald Cities Collaborative, State Innovation Exchange, and the EPIC [Educational Partnership for Innovation in Communities] – Network). He is a contributing editor of The Nation and Boston Review, a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and identified by Newsweek as one of the 100 living Americans most likely to shape U.S. politics and culture in the 21st century.

Kim Portmess

STeP Program Lead, IAI

Kim Portmess is the Program Lead for the Science, Technology and Policy (STeP) Fellowship Program at the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI). Kim is responsible for the implementation, monitoring, and expansion of STeP, including the professional development and mentorship program in partnership with expert trainers and other IAI partners. 

As part of her work, Kim helped launch the STeP program from pilot stage with 17 fellows in 4 countries to its current level of 66 total fellows working in 14 countries. She has led the creation and implementation of virtual and in-person training in the pillars areas of science diplomacy, communication, and transdisciplinary leadership tailored for early career researchers and policymakers from across the Americas. 

Kim previously worked at the  Institute for Scientific Research and Advanced Technology Services (INDICASAT AIP)  in Panama.  She has a BSc. in Plant Science and Natural Resource Management from Cornell University in the United States and is currently pursuing a master’s degree Disaster Risk Management and Climate Governance.  

Pourya Salehi

Head of Urban Research, Innovation, and Development Department at ICLEI World Secretariat

Pourya Salehi is the Head of Urban Research, Innovation, and Development Department at the World Secretariat of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, where he leads a team to advance evidence-based policy making and science-informed local action through initiating, maintaining, and fostering effective collaboration with relevant stakeholders globally. He is also the coordinator of ICLEI’s Global Research & Innovation Strategy across 24 offices, overseeing ICLEI’s research and innovation (R&I) portfolio and activities, from partnership building to curating R&I-related events such as Research Symposia, designing R&I projects, co-developing peer-reviewed publications and other knowledge products with partners, and contributing to international agendas such as the updated Global Research and Action Agenda, UNCCD’s Global Land Outlook 2.0.

In addition to managing, coordinating, and overseeing multiple multinational R&I projects and initiatives on various thematic topics including climate innovation, digitalization, digital finance, smart cities, nexus approaches, and sustainable development assessment, Pourya represents the organization in R&I-related spaces. In early 2022, the Strategic Advisory Board of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GcoM) appointed him as co-chair of the GcoM’s Research & Innovation Technical Working Group. He is also a member of UNFCCC Global Innovation Hub and supports the hub activities in various fronts. With a background in urban planning and management (BSc), land management and property rights (MSc), and digital innovation and finance (PhD research topic), Pourya has a strong interest in innovative approaches to sustainable development. Pourya is an accomplished author with expertise in various topics, including the Springer-published book “Resilient Smart Cities: Theoretical and Empirical Insights.” He has authored and co-authored several flagship reports, including serving as the lead author of a chapter for the UCCRN’s forthcoming Third Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities (ARC3.3). He is also a thought leader for the “Accelerating Innovation and Climate Strategies for the 21st Century” as well as “Expanded Climate and Innovation Agenda for Cities and Regions”, an initiative under Mission Innovation.

Angela Prias

Regional Liaison for Latin America and the Caribbean, Global Adaptation Network

Angela joined the GAN team in 2022 as the Regional Liaison for Latin America and the Caribbean region. Based in Colombia, she supports GAN and the LAC Regional Office (ROLAC) and network (REGATTA) to expand and strengthen initiatives with great potential to leverage collaborative work on adaptation to climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean, such as EPIC-N LAC and the Global EbA Fund.

Marcella Ohira

Deputy Executive Director and Director for Capacity Building, IAI

Marcella Ohira is the Deputy Executive Director and Director for Capacity Building at the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), where she is responsible for proposing strategies, programs, and activities to promote global change research, capacity building and the uptake of science to support decision-making.

As part of her work, she has designed and launched innovative capacity building programs at the science-policy interface, based on scientific advice and diplomacy, transdisciplinary research training, and developed multinational networks, such as the Science, Technology and Policy (STeP) Fellowship Program and the Inter/Transdisciplinary Training and the Seed Grant Program for IAI’s 19 member countries. She has also led and organized over 50 IAI training events on global environmental change issues of policy relevance, and has managed a number of IAI initiatives and grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the US National Science Foundation, and other organizations. Finally, she also conducts negotiations and develops partnerships with national and international authorities and institutions.

Marcella previously worked in international technical cooperation at the Brazilian Cooperation Agency, the Division of Technical and Technological Cooperation of Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the US NOAA’s Office of Global Programs (OGP) in support of regional global change organizations.

She has an MA in International Relations, International Economics, and Science, Technology, and the Environment from The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), of Johns Hopkins University.

Andrea Chavez

EPIC-Latin America, Caribbean, and South America Coordinator

Andrea Chavez has co-directed the activities of the Governance Infrastructure in the Amazon project from the Tropical Conservation and Development Program of the University of Florida. She is a Research Affiliate of the Space Ecology and Conservation Laboratory. Since 2009, Andrea has been working on capacity-building initiatives through applied research, training, and extension activities in natural resource management conservation in Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. Andrea received her Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Florida, an M.A. in Political Science from Karl-Ruprechts-Universität in Heidelberg, Germany, and an M.A. in Geography from the University of Miami. Andrea has a deep interest in integrating science with society and fostering a better understanding between practice and theory. Likewise, a very important aspect is to promote knowledge as a service to society.

EPIC-LAC External Advisory Committee

  • Andrea Mariana Dominguez Noriega – Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (PUCP), Peru
  • Beatriz del Pilar Rahmer – Universidad de Chile, Chile
  • Yadira Sigler Chavez – Universidad de Colima, Mexico
  • Aleyda Josefina Quinteros Trelles – Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral (ESPOL), Ecuador
  • Christian Carolina Gallegos Magaña- Dirección General de Vinculación, Universidad de Colima, Gestión de Proyectos en Desarrollo Sostenible

EPIC-LAC Resources


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This work © 2017 by EPIC-N is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

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