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Fulcrum community highlight: Build Change

February 26, 2020

The foundation of any family is centered around the home. It’s the place we live, eat, sleep, and grow through many of life’s changes. Most of us make our home purchases based on neighborhood safety, convenience, education and economic opportunity.

For the average working class family in the U.S. this dream can be daunting at times, but our challenges hardly compare to the housing challenges in developing nations. Imagine living in a home with a tin roof, no electricity, and no plumbing (which means no running water or working toilets). This is a reality for many people around the globe.

What’s worse, many of these people also live in the direct path of some of the worst weather. They annually experience hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, which can turn a bad situation deadly.

We can’t control earthquakes, but we can lessen the number of people injured and killed by helping them to make their homes safer. That’s what our friends at Build Change do: They are improving housing and family security, one home at a time.

Since 2004, Build Change has educated and supported families needing to make improvements to their homes. They often serve as intermediaries between local, state and federal governments, helping to negotiate funding support and policy changes. Here’s their story.

What is the mission of Build Change?

Build Change Saves Lives in Earthquakes and Windstorms.

Build Change works with homeowners, governments, development banks, and the private sector to build safe housing, retrofit vulnerable buildings, and tear down financial, cultural, and technological barriers to safe construction at scale. We aim to overcome three challenges to safe housing: money, technology, and people/political will. Our tailored, systems-change approach demolishes these barriers, while keeping people at the heart of the process.

‍What challenges do you face in working toward your mission?

Lack of access to safe, disaster-resistant housing and schools for low-income populations has always been an issue in developing nations, and it is only getting worse.

A few facts:

  • According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 875 million school children are living in areas that are highly susceptible to seismic risk, and attending schools likely to collapse in the next earthquake.
  • According to the Brookings Institution, 200 million people are affected annually by natural disasters worldwide.

The main drivers of substandard housing include:

  1. Poverty. Lack of access to the funds, financing, services, materials, and tools required to build a safe building.
  2. Exposure and vulnerability to disasters. It is well-established that disasters disproportionately affect the poor — those with the least resilience and resources available to cope. Studies show that women and children are 14 times more negatively affected by disasters than men, because they die in larger numbers and are more exposed to violence and trafficking as a result of becoming homeless.
  3. Technology. Lack of access to affordable, culturally appropriate, easy-to-implement solutions for building safe new buildings and retrofitting existing buildings.
  4. Political will and demand. Corruption, lack of building-code enforcement, lack of leadership and policy implementation promoting safe building, and lack of will on the part of the people to build safely or retrofit their home.

What is your plan to resolve those issues?

Financial incentives, locally appropriate affordable technology, and political will are all prerequisites for change to happen at scale. Build Change’s focus on technical innovation (engineering) and technology allow us to adapt our model to a pre-disaster setting, working with the public and private sectors to retrofit (structurally strengthen) housesbeforethe next earthquake or windstorm strikes.

‍How does Fulcrum help you resolve those issues?

Build Change uses Fulcrum to capture, process, and track field data, from the first contact with a homeowner, to the needs assessment, through the solution proposition and quality monitoring during construction.

Fulcrum apps provide us with reliable, georeferenced information that we can make available to our implementing partners. The reliable data management, offline capacity, and ease of use that we have with Fulcrum are essential to our partners as we scale up and work with multiple stakeholders.

With Fulcrum we can track every project, and access its details from anywhere, which increases our capacity to provide technical assistance, as well as the capacity of our implementing partners to reduce cost and increase efficiency. The Build Change Technical Assistance Platform relies on leveraging technology to increase our impact and benefit large populations, and Fulcrum is a very important piece of this puzzle.

 What do you like about working with Fulcrum?

Fulcrum offers Build Change and our partners a robust data management platform. We securely upload, process, and share information with ease. Our staff values the platform’s extensive capabilities. They constantly find new, beneficial uses and functionalities for our work.

The platform has enhanced our field operations in Latin America. It also allows partners to bridge technological gaps more effectively. In Colombia, we support a national 600,000 home improvement program. This project requires merging data from various systems. It involves coordinating different projects across cities in a clear, organized manner.

Fulcrum is a versatile low-code/no-code platform. It helps organizations reduce costs and access real-time, critical data. Organizations can improve decision-making at every level with Fulcrum. Users can create custom apps through a simple drag-and-drop builder. This turns paper documents into digital forms. Field teams can quickly complete these forms on mobile devices.