What’s the Secret to TECHO’s Success? Going Beyond Buildings

Published: Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 by Lenora

20151121TechologoTECHO, the Latin America social enterprise focused on community-led housing solutions, was this week named a finalist in the 2015/2016 World Habitat Awards for their “Development of Habitat” program in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia.

Started by students in Chile in 1997 called “Un Techo Para Mi Pais,” the organization has grown into a dynamic pan-Latin America social enterprise focusing on community and housing development and supported by thousands of dedicated and motivated volunteers, many of whom come from corporates throughout the region.

Non-profit TECHO funds itself through a combination of philanthropic and international development assistance, as well as individual giving, primarily because the organization’s model, mission and objectives all aim at the permanence and sustainability of the communities with which the organization works. Community members and organizers talk about TECHO’s projects in this moving video. The organization’s intervention model is summarized here.

Techo's Intervention Model. Source: Techo.

TECHO’s Intervention Model. Source: TECHO.

Real estate development works financially because it’s a fixed-term investment that adds value to physical assets and enables an exit for investors. TECHO does the opposite. The organization’s explicit goal is to work with communities over the long term. Communities living in informality are mobilized, engaged and allowed to lead their own regeneration process. TECHO brings a model of patient engagement, volunteers with passion and stakeholders who can contribute technical skills, like legal land formalization and urban design and architecture, to the table. Building housing is only one of many outcomes from the whole process.

TECHO is also working to inform its own work and that of housing policymakers with data on informal communities. The Chile Slums Monitor suggests that housing access is getting worse and that most residents must travel far to access basic services. The Argentina Slums Map maps, sizes and details the precariousness of communities in various cities.

Private developers would do well to consider collaborating with TECHO or supporting its efforts with grants and volunteers. Especially for developers that have foundations, TECHO’s work to build social capital, agency and project ownership is the same that newly built social and affordable housing communities need to ensure they thrive.

Read more about the importance of community development and other human-centered housing innovation here.